Hope and jubilation were tempered by skepticism Friday after a wary work force scrutinized news of an Air Force policy change that could put thousands of dollars more a year in the pockets of some.

By the afternoon, Air Force officials still hadn’t announced the decision to affected civilian personnel, according to employees interviewed for this story. On Thursday, an Air Force spokesman at the Pentagon acknowledged a policy change that would greatly expand the service’s characterization of full-time employment, opening the door for hundreds of American civilians overseas to draw post allowance — a cost-of-living allowance given to some American civilians stationed overseas.

Late Thursday evening, the spokesman also acknowledged that those who qualify for the allowance will also qualify for back payments, which were ordered by an earlier Defense Department ruling.

“The back pay procedures are still under development,” Capt. Michael R. Andrews, an Air Force spokesman, wrote in an e-mail response. “However, the Air Force intends to use the same eligibility criteria that is applicable to current employees. That is, regular employees who have worked a regularly scheduled 40 hour work week over a prescribed time period will be eligible for Post Allowance.”

The service probably won’t know exactly who will qualify as full-time under the broadened definition until sometime next week, according to a U.S. Air Forces in Europe spokeswoman. The Air Force has given its overseas commands until May 16 to make that determination.

While some celebrated the Air Force’s acknowledged policy change, others wondered whether the service was trying to find a loophole to avoid paying post allowance, which could cost millions of dollars a year.

Gerald L. Weir Jr., a housekeeping supervisor at Spangdahlem Air Base’s Eifel Arms Inn, said he was happy as could be when he heard of the change.

But then a co-worker pointed out that employees who took leave or were out sick over the past 11 months might not qualify if the service sticks to the text of a draft that describes the new policy.

“I’m pretty skeptical now,” he said. “Honestly, I’ll be 100 percent honest with you, I’ll believe it when I have it in my paycheck.”

A USAFE spokesperson could not confirm by deadline if the draft’s rules were final. The draft makes no mention of leave or sick time but does say that employees must have averaged 40 hours per week over certain time frames in order to qualify for post allowance.

“And you know how these people were thinking in previous situations,” Weir said, referring to the Air Force’s prior ruling on what constituted full-time employment, which he guessed excluded hundreds who regularly work 40-hour weeks.

After that decision, announced April 18, Weir contacted a lawyer.

He’d also gotten e-mails and donations from scores of American, nonappropriated fund employees across the continent who planned to file a class action suit with Weir had the Air Force not changed course.

“Most of them are saying, ‘Keep the $10 until everybody has their money, because we all have a feeling that we’re gonna need it,’ ” he said.

Others were less dubious.

“I’m extremely happy,” said an NAF worker at Ramstein Air Base who didn’t want to be identified because she feared she might get into trouble at work. She said she hadn’t heard anything from management or her human resources office about the new policy.

Over the past month or so, as news about the allowance appeared in the newspaper, “We were all talking about it, saying what can we do to get this to go through, because we all work 40 hours, even though we’re only guaranteed 20,” she said, “and nobody thought that was right.”

See Friday’s story on policy change here.

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