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RAMSTEIN, Germany — If you filled out one of those utility surveys a few months back, put down your coffee and pat yourself on the back.

If you didn’t fill it out but are a troop in Germany who lives off base and receives a housing allowance, thank those who did because they saved you a bunch of money.

Soon troops of all services living off base in Germany who receive a housing allowance will have more money to pay for heating oil, water, electricity, garbage collection, etc.

The utility portion of the overseas housing allowance is increasing by nearly 31 percent on May 1 for troops in Germany who live off base and receive an overseas housing allowance, said Maj. Brian Kehl, acting chief of the financial services division at headquarters U.S. Air Forces in Europe financial management.

Troops will see the increase in their May 15 paychecks, he said.

Prior to the change, accompanied troops received the U.S. dollar equivalent of 415 euros a month to cover off-base utilities, while unaccompanied service members got the equivalent of 311 euros a month.

The new rate will give accompanied servicemembers the equivalent of 543 euros a month, while unaccompanied will get 407 euros. That works out to between $125 and $175, using the servicemembers’ current exchange rate.

The last update of the utility portion of the overseas housing allowance occurred in June 2004. Since that time, utility costs have risen, particularly for heating oil, which is used in older German homes.

Every year, troops living off installation and receiving a housing allowance are asked to fill out a survey and provide what they pay for utilities.

“We did not have enough participation in ’05 or ’06 to actually get an increase or to see any kind of change — increase or decrease,” Kehl said.

“This year we pushed really hard — the Air Force did as well as the Army out of Heidelberg — to try and get the participation rates up.”

In 2006, only 15 percent of those living off base and receiving a housing allowance in Germany completed surveys. This year 49 percent did.

“Thank you to commanders, first sergeants and members who filled this questionnaire out, because they’re the real heroes in this,” Kehl said.

“They’re the ones who made the difference and provided the data we need to make sure troops get paid what they’re deserving when it comes to utility expenses.”

The Department of Defense Per Diem Committee is still evaluating the data for Italy, Belgium and the Netherlands.


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