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MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — U.S. servicemembers in Japan will start the new year with a smaller paycheck due to a slight decline in the cost of living allowance.

At most U.S. military bases on mainland Japan and Okinawa, COLA shrank by two points, according to the latest figures released this week by the Per Diem, Travel and Transportation Allowance Committee at the Pentagon.

For the average E-6 with 10 years of service and three dependents, that’s a difference of about $50 a month.

A few locations took bigger hits, such as Misawa and Shariki in northern Japan, and Tokyo and Yokohama, where COLA dropped by four points.

COLA remained the same at U.S. installations in South Korea. Rates there have been constant since Nov. 1.

In early December, COLA at many military installations in Japan rose by four points.

“Right now, the dollar’s getting stronger against the yen,” said Lt. Col. Loren Darmofal, a financial management officer and country allowance coordinator for U.S. Forces Japan.

“That’s why the COLA has gone down in January compared to December.”

On Dec. 1, the per diem committee adjusted COLA based on an average 105.84 dollar-to-yen exchange rate. On Jan. 1 the new rate was 109.19, according to Darmofal.

COLA is paid to U.S. servicemembers stationed overseas to equalize their buying power with that of their stateside counterparts. It varies according to location and a military member’s rank, length of service and number of dependents.

What a difference those points makeHere’s a snapshot of what the latest military cost of living allowance change means for an E-5 with six years of service and two dependents at two locations in Japan:

At Naval Air Facility Atsugi near Tokyo, COLA for that member for the Jan. 1-15 pay period is $23.47 per day — or about $727 a month. Last month, his or her COLA was $24.93 per day — or about $773.

At Misawa Air Base in northern Japan, that member is earning $19.07 per day in COLA, or $591 a month, compared to $22 a day or $682 a month in December.

To calculate your COLA for the current pay period, go to http://perdiem.hqda.pentagon.mil/perdiem/ocform. html, and enter your location, pay grade, years of service and number of dependents.

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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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