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Airmen must re-document dependents for BAH payments

Mar. 19, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
Airman must soon provide documentation for their dependents — part of an effort to ensure the $5.4 billion the Air Force spends each year on basic allowance for housing is auditable.
Airman must soon provide documentation for their dependents — part of an effort to ensure the $5.4 billion the Air Force spends each year on basic allowance for housing is auditable. (Sue Sapp/Air Force)
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Every airman must soon provide documentation for their dependents as part of an Air Force-wide audit readiness effort, the service announced Wednesday.

The documents, which include marriage certificates, children’s birth certificates and any child support requirements from divorce decrees, will ensure the $5.4 billion the Air Force spends each year on basic allowance for housing is auditable, said Doug Bennett, deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force for financial operations.

Base financing offices will begin emailing airmen this month, so there’s no need to bring the documentation until you’re asked, Bennett said. The notifications will continue through December, he said, and the offices will specify what documentation is required for each airman.

Once contacted, airmen must provide the documents within 30 days, or risk having their BAH reduced to a single rate, according to an Air Force news release. That deadline may be more flexible for airmen who are deployed or on extended leave or temporary duty, it said.

The one-time requirement for the documents stems from the 2010 National Defense Authorization Act’s financial improvement and audit readiness requirements, Bennett said.

The Air Force usually keeps an auditable record of marriage and birth certificates and other documents that affect the housing allowance for just more than six years, Bennett said in an Air Force Times interview.

“The issue we’re running into is that some of that documentation has been purged,” Bennett said. “If you’re a second lieutenant joining the Air Force and you’re married, by the time you get to colonel [those records are] purged but you’re still collecting.”

That doesn’t mean the service has been improperly paying out housing allowances, said Steve Herrera, associate deputy assistant secretary for financial operations.

“We have requirements to verify someone is entitled to BAH. We have good controls around that. Now we just have a more auditable process,” Herrera said.

“We’re on a marathon to becoming audit ready. The requirement by law is the ability for our financial statements to be audited,” he said.

“Ensuring we have the proper documentation to account for every expenditure in a very large budget is a difficult but essential effort,” Jamie Morin, assistant secretary of the Air Force for financial management and comptroller, said in an email statement. “Becoming audit ready will help us demonstrate to the American public that we are responsible stewards of taxpayer money at a time when we must make every dollar count.”

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