Air Force Could Cut Housing Benefits Over Outdated Dependent Info

Miniature house on a stack of dollar bills.

KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany -- Dozens of airmen in Germany, Spain and Belgium could lose at least part of their housing allowances in the coming weeks for failing to verify information about their dependents, and many more could be affected across the globe.

A spokesman for the 86th Airlift Wing based at Ramstein Air Base said the organization is making every effort to contact some 75 airmen under its supervision who haven't yet updated their dependent information.

The Air Force in April gave airmen until Dec. 31 to provide that data or risk losing hundreds of dollars a month in housing and utility benefits. The service has been trying to bring its massive housing allowance program into compliance with federal law.

The servicewide sweep will ensure the Air Force isn't paying too much or too little for off-base housing, a program that costs the service roughly $5.4 billion annually. The recertification is part of a requirement in a 2010 defense authorization bill that will make it possible to audit the Air Force's expenditures.

The dependent recertification targets personnel who are receiving higher rates for rent and utilities because of dependent information they previously provided to the Air Force.

Airmen receiving housing allowances at the higher, dependent rate will have their allowances knocked down to the lower, single rate if they don't recertify their dependent information. That could mean a reduction of more than $400 a month for a technical sergeant based at Ramstein and a loss of more than $300 a month for someone of the same rank stationed at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida.

Roughly 5,500 personnel under the 86th claim dependents and more than 98 percent have gone through the validation, according to Maj. Tony Wickman, a unit spokesman.

Of the small number who have yet to update their information, eight are based at Ramstein, Wickman said, while the rest are at other bases or stations, such as embassies. If any of the 75 are deployed, their allowances shouldn't be affected, he said.

Those who don't revalidate their information by the deadline, and don't have a good excuse, could face stiff penalties for their inaction. Two months after the deadline, the Air Force will cut offenders' housing allowances to the single rate at the location where they last validated their dependent information. That could mean reducing an overseas airman's housing allowance to a much less generous stateside rate, according to Wickman.

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