If you are stationed in Alaska, you should fill out the Living Pattern survey currently available at the Defense Travel Management Office website. This survey is part of the way that your Cost of Living Allowance (COLA) is calculated, so your input is vital!
The Department of Defense offers a COLA to military members stationed at locations Outside the Continental United States (OCONUS) to partially offset the higher costs of living. The COLA is calculated using information obtained through two different surveys: the Living Pattern survey and the Retail Price Schedule. The Living Pattern survey asks OCONUS active duty families about their shopping patterns to discover the average shopping behavior of families stationed in that area.
Within the same time frame, the local authorities will contract to have a Retail Price Schedule completed by a local contractor (often a military spouse.) The contractor is given a list of approximately 120 items and reports the local prices for each item.
The Living Pattern survey data is then used in conjunction with the Retail Price Schedule to determined the relative cost of living at a particular location. When the local cost of living exceeds the average for the Continental United States (CONUS), COLA will be paid. When the local cost of living is less than the CONUS average, COLA will not be paid.
OCONUS COLA is calculated using variables including rank, family size, and housing arrangements. For locations that do not use the US dollar, COLA is calculated on the local currency and will likely vary each month due to currency variations.
Living Patterns survey are conducted for each OCONUS location each year, or more frequently if a major change warrants a new survey. COLA rates will change as the result of the information received.
The Alaska Living Patterns survey is now open, so please share your family's shopping habits to help ensure that the information used to calculate COLA is thorough and accurate.