KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — Thousands of airmen in Europe have been overpaid, in some cases hundreds of dollars apiece, because of an accounting mistake.

They might not have to pay the money back.

The Defense Finance and Accounting Service identified 8,650 people at bases across Europe who were overpaid in their Basic Housing Allowance between Oct. 1, 2005 and July 31 of this year, according to an e-mail from U.S. Air Forces in Europe. A total of $3.3 million was overpaid.

An average of $340 to $400 was overpaid per person, according to an e-mail by Staff Sgt. Chad Padgett, a spokesman for U.S. Air Forces in Europe.

One spouse of an airmen assigned to Ramstein Air Base told Stars and Stripes in an e-mail that they were overpaid around $70 in their last paycheck.

Airmen received a note with their leave and earnings statement last month that mentioned the error.

USAFE’s finance officials, in coordination with the Air Force Accounting and Finance Office, have submitted a waiver requesting the airmen not pay the money back, the command said in an e-mail.

“While final adjudication has not been made to date, based on each member acting in good faith and not knowing they were receiving an erroneous allowance, a favorable response is highly probable,” USAFE wrote in a statement to Stars and Stripes on Thursday.

If the airmen do have to pay the money back, it won’t have to be all at once.

According to a new regulation that is part of the 2007 Defense Authorization bill, the amount deducted from the pay of the member for a month to recover the overpayment may not exceed 20 percent of the member’s pay for that month.

The problem with the overpayment stemmed from a change due to a revision in the way housing allowance is paid to members overseas.

New rules that went into effect Oct. 1, 2005, meant servicemembers overseas could no longer collect the flat-rate housing stipend, known as the Basic Allowance for Housing-II.

Previously, members stationed overseas who live off base could collect the flat-rate allowance and the Overseas Housing Allowance if their expenses were more than the flat rate.

Under the current rule, servicemembers receive only the Overseas Housing Allowance.

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