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66

MAY 2016

|

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL

If it hasn’t happened to you

already, it might at some

point—the dreaded letter

announcing you’ve been

overpaid and the depart-

ment wants its money back.

Not a big deal when it’s

a small amount, but if it

reaches thousands of dol-

lars, it can impose a finan-

cial burden (and stress).

The good news? With

careful attention, you can

reduce the chance of being

hit with such a hefty sur-

prise.

The most common cause

of overpayment is when an

employee who is receiving

allowances and/or differ-

entials departs post for a

period of time that, in turn,

changes the basis for pay-

ment of the allowance or

differential.

If the employee does not

notify the human resources

or financial management

offices (HRO/FMO), or if

post delays reporting the

departure to the Bureau

of the Comptroller and

Global Financial Services in

Charleston, the employee

continues to receive the

higher rate of pay instead of

the reduced one.

For example, an employee

in a 25-percent hardship and

25-percent danger-pay post

travels to the United States

for three weeks of leave.

The employee’s supervisor

knows of the employee’s

absence, but the HRO/FMO

does not. Consequently,

Avoiding the Overpayment Hassle

STATE VP VOICE

| BY ANGIE BRYAN AFSA NEWS

Views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the AFSA State VP.

Contact:

BryanA@state.gov

| (202) 647-8160

the employee continues to

receive an extra 50 percent

in pay over what is permit-

ted for the three weeks.

Actively Manage

Your Paycheck

Arrival or departure of

family members can also

change post allowance

(cost-of-living or COLA) pay-

ments, so be sure to inform

the HRO/FMO of any such

changes.

Employees can mitigate

overpayments by taking an

active role in their pay:

Notify your HRO/FMO

each time you or your fam-

ily members arrive at or

depart post

and make sure

the HRO/FMO notifies CGFS

promptly. A minor delay may

occasionally occur, but pro-

active steps should prevent

large-scale overpayments.

Use Employee Express

(www.employeeexpress.

gov) to review your earn-

ings and leave statement’s

“earnings” section

, which

itemizes allowances and dif-

ferentials, to ensure your pay

is accurate.

If you believe you have

been over- or underpaid,

contact Payroll Customer

Support at PayHelp@ state.gov or 1 (877) 86

5-

0760 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30

p.m. EST, Monday through

Friday, except for American

holidays.

Mistakes or delays result-

ing from administrative

errors by the department

are not grounds to waive

repayment. The department

allows employees to repay

overpayments interest-

free by lump-sum payment

within 30 days of notifica-

tion or by installment salary

deductions.

Useful Details

With the caveat that the

Department of State Stan-

dardized Regulations are the

authoritative source, you

may find useful the following

details regarding the start-

ing and stopping of post

allowance, post differential

and danger pay.

Post Allowance (COLA):

Starts

the date you arrive

at post; the date your family

arrives at post, if your arrival

is delayed; or the effective

date of transfer, when you

are already at the post to

which you are transferred.

Stops

when you leave post

on transfer orders, when

you go on Home Leave, and

on the 31st day of any other

absence from post.

If you are away from post

for more than 30 days, your

family size will be reduced

by one member. An example

of the latter would be if

you go to an unaccompa-

nied post, and your family

remains behind. (DSSR

220)

Post Differential (Hard-

ship):

Starts

when you get

to post (if assigned); after 42

days (if on temporary duty

assignment or TDY), except

for Iraq and Afghanistan,

where it kicks in on the 43rd

day, but is backdated to your

first day at post.

Stops

when

you leave post on transfer,

on an emergency evacuation

or on travel to the United

States for training.

It can continue for 42

days if you go to the United

States on detail or medevac

and an eligible family mem-

ber remains at post; it also

continues until you reach

the United States if you take

R&R in a foreign country en

route to the United States;

it continues if you are on

family visitation travel from a

hostile area; and it continues

if you are absent from Iraq

or Afghanistan for up to 30

days. (DSSR 500)

Danger Pay:

Starts

on

arrival at post (must have

been at post for four cumu-

lative hours in one day).

Danger pay is paid only for

hours for which basic com-

pensation is paid, so if an

employee arrives at a post

on TDY on a Friday evening,

danger pay will not start until

Monday morning.

Stops

on

departure from post for any

reason. (DSSR 654)

n

Employees can mitigate overpayments by

taking an active role in their pay