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Air Force recertifying all Airmen receiving family-housing allowance

  • Published
  • By Capt. Erika Yepsen
  • Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs
By Dec. 31, every Airman will be required to provide their servicing finance office with documentation for all dependents as part of Air Force audit readiness efforts.

At Vance Air Force Base, there are 534 members receiving basic allowance for housing at the with-dependent rate that will need to recertify, or see their BAH reduce to the single rate, said Staff Sgt. Shelby Kimmel, the NCO in charge of customer support, 71st Comptroller Squadron.

This one-time, Air Force-wide recertification process will allow the Air Force to validate Airmen's basic allowance for housing entitlements, ensuring every dollar of the $5.4 billion the Air Force spends annually on BAH is fully auditable.

To keep the recertification manageable, Vance Airmen are notified by email which month they should come to Finance with the necessary paperwork to recertify. During March, those receiving with-dependent BAH with a Social Security number ending in 00 to 09 were recertified.

Once notified, Airmen will have 30 days to provide the required documents to their servicing finance office or have their housing allowance status reduced to single-rate. Deployed Airmen and those on extended leave or temporary duty will be given special consideration in meeting the 30-day deadline.

"Only six (Vance) Airmen have failed to show so far in March," said Kimmel. "Their BAH will be reduced to the single rate, effective April 3, until they provide the necessary documents for recertification."

"We've engaged leadership to help encourage those six to come into Finance to avoid losing their with-dependent BAH entitlement," said Maj. Dorinda Mazza, the 71st CPTS commander.

"When we say the Air Force is not audit compliant, that doesn't mean that money is missing or being misspent," said Doug Bennett, the deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force for financial operations. "Generally, it means that we lack the required documentation for our spending to be considered auditable. In the case of BAH, we need Airmen's marriage certificates, birth certificates for children and divorce decrees that require child support properly documented by our finance offices to ensure we can audit $5.4 billion in Air Force spending."

Beginning this month and continuing through December, Air Force finance offices will contact Airmen across the total force by email to notify them of their responsibility to provide dependent documentation. Their finance office will tell them exactly which documents are required.

During April, more than 100 Vance Airmen whose SSN ends in 10 to 29 will need to recertify their BAH rate.

Airmen who recently provided documentation may not be required to do so again. Airmen should wait to be notified by their finance offices rather than bringing in documentation unsolicited, Bennett said. Waiting to receive notification will eliminate unnecessary duplication of effort for some Airmen.

The push for revalidation of dependent documentation comes as the Air Force prepares to meet financial improvement and audit readiness requirements laid out in the 2010 National Defense Authorization Act. The Air Force currently retains dependent documentation for six years, which is insufficient to meet audit readiness requirements. This one-time revalidation will ensure Air Force compliance with audit requirements, Bennett said.

"America entrusts the Air Force not only to spend taxpayer dollars wisely and efficiently, but also to account and justify that expenditure," said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III in a recent memo. "Preparation for this important and legislatively-mandated effort rests in the hands of every Airman, not just the financial community."

Although revalidation of Airmen's dependents will be a one-time recertification, Airmen will continue to play a vital role in the Air Force's audit readiness. Starting in 2015, independent auditors will visit work stations for Airmen to review processes, procedures and transactions that directly impact the Air Force's financial statements.

"Ensuring we have the proper documentation to account for every expenditure in a very large budget is a difficult but essential effort," said Dr. Jamie Morin, the assistant secretary of the Air Force for Financial Management and Comptroller. "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."