Some overseas hires in the Pacific region knew about the discrepancy.

They just thought there was nothing they could do about it and never figured it was an entitlement.

“I’m thinking you’re fighting ‘the man,’” said a U.S. civilian employee on Okinawa, who asked to remain anonymous.

According to the Defense Department, the Air Force and some other military organizations with nonappropriated fund employees have not been following DOD guidance on paying post allowance to U.S. citizens hired abroad.

DOD officials said it’s an inconsistency that the department only recently discovered, and a review is under way of the various services’ and military organizations’ administration of its post allowance policies.

Air Force civilians on Okinawa and mainland Japan said this week they have family and friends — who also are so-called “local hires” — who work full time for the Marines and Army and receive the benefit.

The civilians didn’t know a DOD policy also entitles them to a cost-of-living supplement until they read about it in Stars and Stripes earlier this week.

“It raised a lot of eyebrows,” said Todd More, 39, an Air Force civilian on Okinawa. “A lot of people I talked to are upset. It’s crazy how the Air Force in general could even set a policy like that.”

More, who’s worked a total of six years as an NAF employee for the Air Force, said “people always talked about it — ‘Why doesn’t the Air Force pay it?’ But when you’re overseas and like what you’re doing, you really can’t afford to cause waves.”

He welcomed the news of the review: “You don’t know how many people this is going to affect.”

A DOD policy implemented in 1995 “requires payment of overseas allowances and differentials to NAF employees,” according to Lt. Col. Les’ A. Melnyk, a Defense Department spokesman. With few exceptions, all full-time U.S. civilians — whether they are paid with nonappropriated or appropriated funds — are automatically entitled to the allowance, according to the policy.

Some military organizations in the Pacific already pay it. All full-time Army NAF employees in Japan receive post allowance, whether they are local hires or not, according to U.S. Army Japan officials.

At Navy bases in Japan, some of the service’s 300 local hires get post allowance, officials said.

But it appears that most don’t.

“It depends on where they work,” said Chief Petty Officer Laura James, a Commander, Naval Forces Japan spokeswoman.

Navy Morale, Welfare and Recreation does not pay local hires post allowance, she said, but the New Sanno hotel in downtown Tokyo does, James said. The hotel has only two NAF local hires.

The Navy Exchange pays its NAF employees a 5 percent “retention allowance” in lieu of post allowance, according to James.

Whether the Navy will extend post allowance to all eligible NAF workers is “under discussion,” James added. “A final decision hasn’t been made yet.”

All civilian stateside recruits receive post allowance, she said.

The Army and Air Force Exchange Service “is engaged in extensive legal and policy discussions to determine if locally hired associates who are U.S. citizens are eligible for post allowances,” AAFES spokesman Judd Anstey said in an e-mail to Stars and Stripes.

Worldwide, about 3 percent of AAFES associates who are U.S. citizens are “local hires,” Anstey said. AAFES employs more than 45,000 associates, according to its Web site.

Marine Corps officials on Okinawa said more than 650 nonappropriated-fund local hires are employed between Marine bases on Okinawa and at Iwakuni Marine Corps Air Station in southern Japan. Some are self-sponsored, others are military or civilian dependents. Officials did not say whether those workers are paid post allowance.

Air Force officials in Japan and South Korea and Army officials in South Korea did not provide information on their post allowance policies and numbers of local hires by Stripes’ deadline Thursday. Air Force officials in Japan and South Korea said Stripes’ query had been forwarded to higher headquarters.

Air Force NAF civilians hired on Okinawa said they don’t receive post allowance.

More said he received post allowance only when working at Kadena Air Base five years as a U.S. civil service employee. He was a local hire then, too, but now as an NAF employee, he does not receive the benefit.

The money to pay NAF civilians’ salaries comes mostly from the sale of goods and services to DOD military and civilian personnel and their family members. The money for appropriated fund salaries is appropriated by Congress.

The DOD review, which also is examining whether employees are owed back pay for years of unpaid allowance, is expected to last for several months, according to Melnyk.

Jerry Carroll, 34, an NAF employee at Misawa Air Base for seven years, said “it should be fair across the board.”

As a computer technician, he said he gets paid pretty well, but he needs “something to offset the costs of local living.”

“I get paid the same here as I would stateside for the same company, and it’s very expensive to live in Japan.”

With the yen so strong and the high costs of gasoline and kerosene, “it makes my check feel like I got demoted,” he said.

Post allowance “would help out a lot,” he said. “I don’t even care about the back pay. What’s done is done. If they can make changes for future paychecks that would be great.”

Stars and Stripes reporter Matt Millham contributed to this story.

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Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.

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