An Air Force policy change will put thousands of dollars more per year in the pockets of hundreds of Americans working for the service overseas.

The change, acknowledged Thursday, extends full-time status to U.S. citizens who regularly work at least 40 hours a week, and qualifies them for post allowance — a cost-of-living allowance meant to offset high overseas living costs. An earlier Air Force decision on post allowance left out many of those workers.

“After the Air Force issued its original guidance dated 15 April 2008, it was brought to their attention that there may be some locally-hired U.S. citizen (nonappropriated fund) Regular employees who have regularly worked 40 hours per week,” Capt. Michael R. Andrews, an Air Force spokesman, wrote in an e-mail response.

The new Air Force guidance directs its major commands in Europe and the Pacific to conduct a complete review of all Air Force NAF employees categorized as “regular” — anyone that is guaranteed at least 20 or more hours of work per week.

“If it is found that an employee has been regularly scheduled for 40 hours per week for the prescribed time period, then they will be paid Post Allowance,” Andrews wrote.

Those payments could be very costly for the service. An employee in Germany who makes between $28,000 and $29,999 and has three dependents could expect an additional $12,180 per year at current post allowance rates.

The new guidance came down May 5, and the review should be complete by May 16. The Air Force doesn’t know exactly how many employees will get the additional pay.

“If employees are found to be eligible for Post Allowance, their payments would be effective the same date as established for our other Air Force employees, 20 April 2008,” Andrews wrote.

Questions regarding back payments of post allowance were not answered by deadline.

Prior to the change, only employees whose paperwork guaranteed them 40 hours per week were eligible for the allowance.

On March 21, Michael L. Dominguez, the principal deputy secretary of Defense for personnel and readiness, directed all NAF employers to pay post allowance to all eligible employees not yet receiving it, and demanded that employers make retroactive post allowance payments back to Dec. 1, 2001.

At the time of Dominguez’s order, Air Force Morale, Welfare and Recreation; the Army and Air Force Exchange Service; the Navy Exchange Service Command; Commander, Navy Installations Command; and the U.S. Marine Corps weren’t paying the allowance to all eligible overseas employees, in violation of Defense Department policy. All of these agencies have started paying post allowance, according to DOD spokeswoman Eileen Lainez.

On April 18, U.S. Air Forces in Europe announced an additional 58 personnel in Europe would get the allowance — a tally that many wage earners believed fell short of the mark.

The guidance given at that time defined regular employees as U.S. citizens with a “guaranteed” workweek of 40 hours as listed on their personnel action form.

But many more had worked 40 or more hours a week — some for a decade or more — even though they were only guaranteed 20 hours a week according to their personnel forms.

Only managers and high-level personnel were guaranteed 40 hours previously. According to a draft of the Air Force guidance given to Stars and Stripes, that status will be extended to all employees who regularly work 40-hour weeks.

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive a daily email of today's top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign Up Now