By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 8, 2013 - The Defense Department is extending housing allowances by one year for DOD civilians employed overseas by the U.S. European Command who were mistakenly granted the benefit, a Pentagon official said here yesterday.
Seth Shulman, director of compensation for civilian personnel policy, told reporters the issue resulted from a misinterpretation at Eucom of Department of State Standardized Regulations, or DSSR, which govern allowances and benefits available to U.S. government civilians assigned to foreign areas.
According to the regulations, a living quarters allowance can't be paid to an individual who is hired overseas after working for more than one employer. At Eucom, Shulman said, such employees were receiving living-quarters allowances, called LQAs.
"We're very sensitive to the fact that employees who have been erroneously receiving LQA through no fault of their own have made life choices based on [its] continued payment," Shulman said. "So we're going to do everything we can to help them work through this."
After some Office of Personnel Management claims decisions, Eucom officials brought the situation to DOD's attention and requested a one-year continuation of LQA payments and a waiver of indebtedness for affected employees.
Shulman said DOD policy doesn't allow blanket waivers, so each affected employee will have to file for a waiver of indebtedness. The department supports waiving the indebtedness, he added, but each case has to be weighed on its individual merits.
Shulman said the department has directed all components with employees in the Eucom area of responsibility to audit their employees' pay files to determine who is affected.
"And because this challenge may be a little bit broader than just Eucom," he added, "we've so directed components with employees in other combatant command areas of responsibility in the overseas environment to do the same."
Defense officials pointed out that civilian employees in areas beyond Eucom who fall under the same unusual circumstance have been authorized the same relief -- a one-year LQA extension and support of a waiver of indebtedness -- as long as there is no evidence of misrepresentation, fraud, or deception to acquire LQA in the first place.
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