Paycheck Chronicles

Military Pay Mistakes: Have a Plan


A wise person once said to me, "With the Navy, your pay will be wrong more often than it will be right." Fortunately, that's not been completely true, but sometimes it feels like it.

While military pay is pretty simple, there are so many situations that result in changes, and sometimes those changes get messed up. Just ask my friend who did a Permanent Change of Station (PCS) move to Germany and didn't get paid for months because his finance office had somehow coded him as "separating from the military" instead of "changing duty stations," or the National Guard soldiers who were overpaid over their entire deployment.

Military pay mistakes are going to happen. Your preparation, with savings and a plan of action, will determine whether a pay mistake is a minor inconvenient or a serious emergency.

Getting It Right

Unfortunately, there's not a lot you can do to ensure your paycheck is right. Promptly submit any changes on your end, and keep copies of all paperwork that is done on actual paper. Regularly review your myPay account to ensure that all your information is correct there.

Be Prepared

Have a game plan for what you'll do if your pay amount seems wrong. It could be too much or too little. While it seems like more mistakes are underpayments, people do get overpaid all the time. My husband was once overpaid $2,000 a month in Basic Allowance for Housing for five months in a row.

For underpayments, you really want to be prepared with a solid emergency fund.

Related: Get the Pay Calculator today

Underpayments are a legitimate use of your emergency fund. I'd still recommend cutting back where you can, in case the mistake isn't fixed quickly, but don't feel guilty about using your emergency fund if your pay is wrong.

If you don't have enough savings to cover the shortage in your pay, you can reach out to the military relief societies (Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society, Army Emergency Relief, Air Force Aid Society, Coast Guard Mutual Assistance.) Command-verified pay problems are one of the areas for which these societies were created!

If you are overpaid, don't spend it. Even if you're not sure if it is an overpayment, don't touch it. Just let it sit there until you figure out what is happening. If you aren't sure you won't mess up, move it to a separate savings account.

What To Do When It Is Wrong

There are three basic steps if you think your pay is wrong.

  1. Pull up your Leave and Earnings Statement (LES) to investigate what you were paid.
  2. Go to your finance folks and ask for their help.
  3. Ask your supervisor for help, and ask him or her to escalate it up the chain of command, if necessary.

It's an unfortunate reality that the military's system of pay and allowances creates many opportunities for mistakes to happen. Be prepared for military pay mistakes with solid savings and a plan to help make the inevitable pay mistakes less stressful.

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