COLA drops on Okinawa, no change in South Korea
SASEBO NAVAL BASE, Japan — Cost-of-living allowances for servicemembers and civilians fell across mainland Japan and Okinawa this week as the dollar strengthened against the yen, according to pay tables released by the U.S. government.
Servicemembers will see a six- to eight-percentage point drop in COLA, which is calculated as a percentage of a military paycheck left over after housing, shopping, savings and health care costs, the Department of Defense Per Diem, Travel and Transportation Allowance Committee reported.
It was the third decrease in COLA since February. The change left most servicemembers in Japan receiving supplemental pay between 34 percent and 48 percent of their expendable income.
Federal civilian employees, except those at Yokosuka Naval Base and those living in Tokyo, will see their post allowances decrease to 42 percent of expendable income, down from 50 percent at the start of the month, the State Department Office of Allowances reported.
At Yokosuka, post allowances dropped from 42 percent to 35 percent. Tokyo allowances went from 70 percent to 60 percent, according to the department.
Neither agency reported changes in COLA or post allowance rates in South Korea, where the won has remained unusually weak for the past year.
The dollar faltered against the Japanese currency in recent months, falling to 87 yen over the holidays.
On Monday, the dollar was trading at 98 yen in Tokyo, according to various media reports.
The COLA and post allowances supplement paychecks and are meant to offset the cost of living overseas. As the dollar regains its buying power, the federal government is easing off cost-of-living supplements.
The adjustments usually level exchange rate advantages and disadvantages for servicemembers and federal employees, who are paid in U.S. dollars.
Shifts in living allowances can mean the difference of several dollars of pay per day, depending on the individual circumstances — number of dependents, years of service, rank and location — of each servicemember or employee.
COLA can be updated each pay period and civilian allowances are updated biweekly by the State Department.
Servicemembers can calculate their COLA rate at www.defensetravel.dod.mil/perdiem/ocform.html.
Post allowances tables for civilians can be found at the State Department Web site: http://aoprals.state.gov.