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A Department of Defense plan to allow thousands of overseas employees to claim millions of dollars in unpaid post allowances is awaiting final approval and should be ready "within the next several weeks," according to Lt. Col. Les Melnyk, a department spokesman.

Roughly 2,850 nonappropriated fund employees — along with an unknown number of former workers — are expected to be eligible for back payments of post allowance, which is given to qualifying employees to offset some of the costs of living in expensive overseas locations.

Early estimates suggested back payments could cost upwards of $68 million.

In March, a Pentagon official found that five of the Defense Department’s six major nonappropriated fund employers hadn’t been paying post allowance, violating a 1995 regulation. All were ordered to pay it.

Employers affected by the ruling, along with the Office of the Secretary of Defense, have spent nearly four months hashing out a plan for the back pay.

The policy and procedures of the plan are undergoing a final review and approval before they will be carried out, Melnyk wrote in an e-mail. "DoD guidance and procedures for remedying NAF Post Allowance errors should be ready for Component implementation within the next several weeks."

Current and former employees will be able to file claims for unpaid post allowances going back to Dec. 1, 2001, in accordance with the six-year statute of limitations on claims against the government, according to the DOD.

Development of the back pay procedures was complicated by the need to address a number of issues, such as eligibility requirements, required documentation, filing deadlines, payment calculation instructions and appeals, as well as where the money for back payments would come from, according to Melnyk.

After the plan is approved, information and claims procedures will be posted on department Web sites and distributed directly to current employees.

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