On March 1, the U.S. Air Force began its one-time recertification process to validate Airmen’s basic allowance for housing entitlements. The goal is to ensure that every cent of the $5.4 billion annually spent on BAH is fully auditable under the Financial Improvement Audit Readiness efforts.
What this means for Airmen is that every member receiving the With Dependent rate BAH will be required to complete a new Air Force Form 594, verifying their marital and dependency status. Just over 1,520 people on Edwards fit into that category.
“Any time you’re getting With Dependent BAH we need to know why. So this is to re-certify why you’re receiving With Dependent rate BAH,” said Staff Sgt. Tiffany Holliday, 412th Comptroller Squadron, Financial Services supervisor.
For some, this will mean providing marriage certificates, divorce decrees or birth certificates. For others, additional documents may be required. For example, a notarized document may be required as proof of child support that was not court-ordered.
According to Wende Wagner, Financial Management analyst, things are “going very well” and they are about a third of the way through. Geographically Separated Units can submit their documents by encrypted email.
“We’ve already gone through our system and marked them out. They will not get the email saying they owe us documents because we already have them,” said Holliday.
“The big ‘A’ Air Force has mandated completion by 31 December, but Edwards has a deadline of 31 August because we know we have deployers; and know we have people TDY, we want to make sure we get the bulk of everyone that is here and then get everyone else. This way we have a little bit of a buffer,” said Holliday.
Once the documents are received by the finance office, the forms have to be processed and loaded into the system. The August deadline will provide adequate time for corrections before the Dec. 31 deadline if necessary.
“It’s a detailed process for us and a time-consuming process,” said Monika Zuccaro, Financial Services officer. “It’s a big stirring pot here.”
Each Airman that needs to provide documents will receive an email notification. If the proper papers are not supplied, those receiving a With-Dependent Rate BAH will be reduced to single rate until they complete the process.
“For a lot of people though, that will affect their pay because if they have been here more than a few years, they are grandfathered into the old rate,” said Holliday. “If it was a higher rate, they’re grandfathered into that. If they don’t [re-certify] and their BAH gets shut-off, we are not allowed to re-grandfather them into it.”
Though the recertification is important, it’s not difficult. In order to better facilitate the process, Financial Management representatives are going to each unit on multiple days at varying times to save Airmen a trip to the Finance Office. Airmen may, however, choose to make a special trip to finance to complete their re-certification process.
“We’ve gotten a lot of feedback that this was so easy, so quick and painless,” said Holliday. “We’re a few minutes, two minutes at the most with each person, so it’s not a long process.”
She added that they have already visited Wing Staff agencies, AFRL and 412th Security Forces Squadron.
According to Holliday, BAH accounts for 5% of the Air Force’s budget set by Congress. Part of being audit-ready means verifying that “the money that we’re paying out, is applicable to the entitlement and is correct.”
For instance, if an Airman with no children were receiving a With-Dependent rate BAH for their spouse, but failed to notify the finance office of a divorce, that Airmen would be in debt for the excess allowance from the date of divorce.
Holliday noted that any time an Airman with or without children has a change in marital status, they are responsible to notify the Finance Office.
“A lot of people go to DEERs and think that interfaces with our system and it doesn’t,” said Holliday. She added that if an individual is unsure whether their financial status has changed, “Like anything else in the military, if in doubt, ask.”
Wagner noted that while most cases are “cut and dry.” Some family circumstances may require more complex answers. The most common question she receives is, “If they’re married with children do they need marriage and birth certificates?”
In that instance, the answer is no, only the marriage certificate is required because there is a flat With-Dependent Rate and the Airman’s spouse is the primary dependent. However, for military married to military members, children’s birth certificates may be required because only one military spouse will receive the with-dependent rate.
For those who have misplaced or lost their documents, they are encouraged to order a new copy and notify finance that the new copy is on its way. For select circumstances, finance may be able to grant a limited extension to the deadline.
Once the finance office schedules a unit, the members will receive an email from Wende Wagner notifying them of the recertification date, time and location. Not all units are scheduled yet so if you haven’t received an email don’t worry. If in doubt you can always call the customer service line at (661) 277-4550. For questions or concerns regarding the BAH recertification call the Financial Services Office at (661) 277-4599.