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If you’re a U.S. servicemember living in Germany, Italy or the Benelux, a visit to the Internet could put more money in your bank account.

The annual Overseas Housing Allowance Utility Survey, used to determine the rate those living off base receive for utility expenses, is going to be conducted only online this year.

“We used to distribute them to all the units and they’d hand them out,” said Steve Bridges, director of finance operations for the 266th Finance Command. “But it’s always been voluntary.”

Why volunteer?

“Energy prices have risen,” said Lt. Col. Dennis Yancheski, the command’s deputy rear detachment commander. “I think it’s important to get as many people as we can to take this.”

The surveys will be available from Wednesday to March 2 at: https://www.perdiem.osd.mil/oha/ohasurvey. Trying to access the site before that date probably won’t work.

Servicemembers should have copies of all their various bills in hand while taking the survey, Yancheski said. That includes as many as 16 fees they might be paying. The largest are usually fees for electricity, heating fuels, water, trash and sewer. There’s also a section on the survey for move-in expenses.

The Per Diem, Travel and Transportation Allowance Committee at the Pentagon is conducting the survey and will evaluate the results.

Yancheski said unlike housing allowances, servicemembers receive the same rate for utilities, regardless of rank. There are adjustments made for married couples and amounts sometimes vary by location. So those stationed in Mannheim, Germany, for instance, might get a different rate than those in Vicenza, Italy, or even different from those stationed in nearby Heidelberg. Responses are needed from each area to determine if servicemembers in a particular place are paying more and should be compensated accordingly.

The utility rate is generally not broken down in servicemembers’ paychecks, but included in the amount they receive for housing.

Utility payments for most DOD civilians in Europe are based on individual bills.

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Kent has filled numerous roles at Stars and Stripes including: copy editor, news editor, desk editor, reporter/photographer, web editor and overseas sports editor. Based at Aviano Air Base, Italy, he’s been TDY to countries such as Afghanistan Iraq, Kosovo and Bosnia. Born in California, he’s a 1988 graduate of Humboldt State University and has been a journalist for almost 38 years.

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