Military Finance Report: August 2016

Monday, August 8, 2016

Maximizing Deployment Entitlements

Dealing with deployment entitlements as a finance officer was stressful; even with the ability to significantly influence the process.  I can't imagine how the rest of the military manages it.  Through my travels, I created a small checklist to help you maximize your deployed entitlements.  By implementing these changes, you can ensure you get the most out of your entitlements during your time of sacrifice and duty.
  • Review your deployment orders prior to deploying.  After talking to many people at my Joint deployed location, it seems like all the services struggle with getting Contingency, Exercise, and Deployment (CED) orders completed in a timely manner. Many of us receive our deployment orders within 3 days of flying/shipping out. It is imperative that you fully review your deployment orders and ensure they are correct. Talk to your deployed sponsor and review your reporting instructions.  Ensure the per diem, rental car, lodging, passport, etc. information is all correct and applicable. Getting timely and accurate reach back support is difficult. I strongly believe in treating every day like an interview...and many of these Air Force Finance shops are not doing well. Your orders determine what you're authorized, so make sure they're correct before you depart.
  • Get your deployment entitlements started as soon as possible. I'm the J8 Director at my deployed location, and it took nearly 60 days for my deployed entitlements to start; for the other Air Force, it took over 60 days.  We're in our 4th month and one Air Force member's entitlements still haven't started yet.  That is unacceptable.  Find out who at your deployed location processes your deployed entitlements and then complete whatever actions you need to.  The quicker you start earning those entitlements, the quicker you can start saving, investing, or paying down debt.  Over the course of your 4-12 month deployment, having the money sooner can provide more money by gaining more interest, dividends, or paying down your debt balances.
  • Increase/start your ROTH TSP while deployed.  If you're at a deployed location, you will earn income TAX FREE, then it will be placed and grow in your ROTH TSP TAX FREE, and then when you withdrawal the money, it will be TAX FREE.  This is probably the best thing about a Combat Tax Zone Exclusion (CTZE).
  • Start the Savings Deposit Program (SDP).  I found out that the different services manage this program differently as well.  In the Navy, you can deposit the whole $10K with a cashier's check to begin earning maximum interest (10% APR).  Other services only allow a certain amount each month from your paycheck.  This is probably the best rate of return you can find given that it's theoretically risk free.
  • Review your DTS accrual vouchers (SPPs) and amend them monthly.  Thoroughly review your deployed orders in DTS (or whatever system is used) and amend them monthly to add any expenses you've incurred not originally in the main orders.  Some deployments require almost no amendments and others require monthly to add actual rental car expenses or forward-deployed expenses.  Also, check to ensure you've accurately disbursed enough to your Government Travel Card (GTC) to pay it off, but the rest to your personal account.  It took 5 business days to move the additional funding from my GTC to my personal bank account.  By correctly splitting the disbursement, you can minimize the way from transferring from your GTC.
  • If you have the cash to accommodate, consider using your personal credit cards instead of the GTC.  The GTC charges foreign currency conversion fees.  IAW the Joint Travel Regulation, Appendix G, these foreign currency conversion fees are reimbursable; however, many finance offices will want you to individually list the fees.  This would require frequent amendments and copies of your GTC statements.  I have a Chase credit card and a USAA debit card and neither charge a foreign currency conversion fee.  USAA allows you to temporarily increase your ATM Withdrawal limit.  I have to pay rent on my deployment, so I get it all out at once without having to pay any foreign currency conversion fees.  If your accruals aren't paid promptly, then you can be building up a balance on your GTC.  Again, the quicker you can get your money and put it in use, the better.
Please let me know if you have any other suggestions so I can frequently update this "living" list.