Thousands of Defense Department civilian employees could be on the hook to reimburse the department for housing allowances they received by mistake, according to a news report in Stars and Stripes.
The Oct. 16 report cited a memo the news organization obtained from the U.S. European Command that estimated up to 2,000 civilian employees working there could be ineligible for living quarters allowances they received because the department misread regulations. Because of the error, affected employees might have to pay Defense back for the benefit, which could amount to a significant amount of money depending how much they’ve received, according to the story.
A spokesman for EUCOM told Stars and Stripes that the command is seeking a waiver from Defense to forgive any debt owed by affected personnel and also to grant a grace period for those receiving allowances to continue to do so for up to one year while they look for other housing or work.
“The immediate cessation of LQA [living quarters allowance] and the resulting indebtedness will create serious hardship for affected employees as well as our DoD organizations faced with the loss of valuable members of their workforce who possess critical expertise,” wrote EUCOM deputy commander Vice Adm. Charles Martoglio in the May 9 memo Stars and Stripes obtained. Defense has not made a decision yet on a possible waiver.
The issue came to light when a DoD civilian worker in Stuttgart, Germany, filed a claim for a housing allowance and the Office of Personnel Management cited State Department rules which said the benefit applies only to U.S. citizens hired overseas who have worked for just one non-government entity before entering government service. Employees who worked for more than one non-government employer abroad are ineligible for the benefit.
EUCOM has not notified those employees who might be impacted by the mistake, according to the story.