Salute to Spouses Blog

We're excited to be blogging about the latest topics in military life. We want to keep you informed on topics such as current events, education, career advice, etc. Feel free to post comments or questions to any of our entries.
Did you receive mysterious extra military pay? Let it be

Beware pay periods bearing gifts.

Occasionally, actually more than a lot, the gurus at the Defense Finance and Accounting Services, the guys who pay military members each month, make a mistake.

And those mistakes can land an extra $20 or even $200 in your paycheck.

What’s the best advice I’ve ever heard as a military spouse? Don’t touch this extra money. Ever. Don’t spend it. Don’t assume it’s yours. Don’t assume it is back pay from something your service member did way back when.

Because, if you are wrong, Uncle Sam is going to take it back. They won’t give you a payment plan. They won’t let you choose the date to give it back. They will take it.

And if you’ve accidentally borrowed several hundred, or several thousand dollars from DFAS, that repayment is going to hurt.

In 2009 members of Congress introduced a bill that would limit the repayments of accidental overpayment.

H.R. 2771 read: “To amend titles 10 and 37, United States Code, to provide a more equitable process by which the military departments may recover overpayments of military pay and allowances erroneously paid to a member of the Armed Forces when the overpayment is due to no fault of the member, to expand Department discretion regarding remission or cancellation of indebtedness, and for other purposes.”

Language in the bill limited repayment to 10 percent of a military member’s pay, allowed for the debt to be erased if the military member was now a veteran who was living off of disability payments and put in place a 5-year limitation on collections.

The bill died in committee and never made it to a full vote of Congress.

Which means, if the military overpaid you by no fault of your own, and you didn’t notice or thought that you were due the money, they eventually will come for you.

Case in point, a friend of mine’s husband retired in 2012. They are now living off his VA disability check since his injuries in Iraq left him with a 90 percent VA rating.  In January of this year they received notice that in 2004 the military had overpaid them a monthly allotment. That allotment, over time and which they didn’t realize they were not due, amounted to over $6,000.

And, the military was writing to let them know they’d be taking their money back. Now.

They were on notice that his monthly VA check would be withheld, in full, until the debt was repaid.

It was 14 years later, a debt that took two years to amass, which they didn’t even realize they had, the DOD wanted paid in full, immediately.

My friends are scrambling to get the DOD to agree to a payment plan and find a way to buy groceries and pay rent during the next year when the DOD takes every cent they live off of.

We can talk at length about how despicable this treatment is. How the DOD should be better at fixing their mistakes and more lenient when correcting mistakes they make.

But frankly, that conversation ended when the bill to protect military members against DOD errors died in Congress. No one is interested in making sure service members do not lose their homes or go hungry because of a DOD accounting mistake.

So the best thing you can do as a military family to protect against this? Be vigilant. Check your service members’ pay every single pay period. If there is extra money, find out way. Be persistent.

Take notes when you speak to DFAS. Keep email trails. Be prepared to prove what you were told.  

If there is extra pay you can’t account for, sock it away. Make sure it is ready and waiting when Uncle Sam breaks down your door to take it. Because, he absolutely will.

For Military Spouses
Apply for the Salute to Spouses scholarship today and begin your education! You’ll be on the way to your dream career.

Salute to Spouses Scholarship Recipients