LES: Don’t pass the buck

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Michelle Vickers
  • 1st Special Operations Wing Public Affairs

A trip to the finance customer service counter can seem like a frustrating burden. For most people such trips can be filled with waiting, only to often leave feeling questions went unanswered or additional paperwork needs to be turned in. In many cases, that frustration can be avoided by checking the Leave and Earnings Statement.

The LES is like a civilian pay stub, but with additional important information. Besides illustrating how much you are paid, there's also a breakdown of leave, Thrift Savings Plan and retirement, as well as any extra duty pay or subsidies such as Basic Allowance for Housing.

It's every individual's duty to verify that their LES is correct every month, as the responsibility for accuracy of pay is ultimately charged to you.

"You're going to have changes monthly, especially being a special ops base with the deployment tempo," said Senior Airman Angie Polo, military pay technician from 1st SOCPTS. "Your pay is changing constantly with hazard pays and family separation."

When looking at the LES, all the boxes and acronyms may be overwhelming or hard to decipher, but after mastering a few key pieces it is easier to comprehend.

The entitlements section of the LES contains the items that increase your pay. Base pay, based on rank and time in service, should be displayed for all individuals. Basic Allowance for Subsistence is an allowance to offset the cost of a service member's meals. Both enlisted and officers receive a set amount of BAS every pay period.

Basic Allowance for Housing also falls in the entitlements category. The rate is based on rank, geographical location and dependency status. Rates are adjusted each year in accordance with local civilian housing costs.

With the new year and changing BAH rates, it's necessary to know service members will be grandfathered in with your current rates if they are higher than the new rates, Polo said. Also for service members married to another service member, only one can claim the with-dependent rate of BAH if they have children or adult dependents.

Any other special pays such as family separation allowance, flight pay, hostile fire pay and hardship duty pay are also in the entitlements column. These are particularly important to scrutinize if you are deployed or on a temporary duty assignment.

"One thing they should be watching is making sure (within one month of return) that their deployed entitlements have stopped," Soto said. "There are a lot of debts caused by overpayment of hostile fire pay or payment of tax exemptions."

In the deductions section of the LES, service members should watch for any advance debt. Advance debt occurs when you owe the government money. When debts are posted, there will also be additional notes under the remarks section of the LES.

While the primary responsibility for understanding pay is vested in the service member, supervisors also play a key role, according to Soto.

"Front-line supervisors need to play a more important role in teaching their Airmen about LES," he said. "The first sergeants and the frontline supervisors should have a class with just the first termers right when they're coming out of (technical) school."

To avoid any financial speed bumps, keeping service members' spouses in the loop is also essential. If the service member created a myPay PIN, they can pass that information on to their spouse.

"They can go in and do the transactions because when you come up to the counter you have to have a specific power of attorney," Soto said.

There are options available to service members when questions about LES are raised such as going to the finance customer service counter, calling finance with your query, emailing your question or request to make an appointment to speak with a finance representative.

"The only time we really know is when the customer comes in and says they notice something was changed," Polo said.

When you request an appointment in advance, finance has the opportunity to research the specific issue of concern.

The 1st SOCPTS recommends that service members should not pass the buck regarding their pay; instead, take an active approach to ensuring LES accurately reflects what has been earned.

For more information, e-mail Finance at milpay.questions@hurlburt.af.mil  or call (850) 884-7190

To access your LES log in at https://mypay.dfas.mil/mypay.aspx