Monday, August 6, 2012
Dear Rachel: One Of My Most Frequently Asked Questions (Part 1 - The LES)
Allow me to start off by saying that I purposefully got up early today (after a literally sleepless night thanks to Hubs sounding like he was going to croak from his stifled breathing and chainsaw-esque snoring AND Grizzly being particularly needing and meowing the remainder of the night/early morning that he didn't spend curled up on my head). My intentions were to dive right into school - I cranked out 5 or 6 reports last night (one of which was 8 minutes long, another was 5...yuck!) and felt like I was kind of on a roll. Until I heard an odd noise. It was a loud bang and my first conclusion was that it was gunshots. They just kept banging and I heard someone yell "Just stay inside!!!" Did I mention Hubs was out and about, meaning I was home alone? Sweet deal, right? I was freaking out to say the least. I immediately jumped up from my desk and shut off the lights. I crept around the house, peaking through blinds and hoping I could see something. Then I saw a flock of kids running around in the road by an empty lot behind our house...this couldn't be right. Gun shots, but kids are running around? Then I saw a reflection of a bright red explosion in a window of one of the neighbor's houses. Fireworks. Fricking fireworks. Thanks for the heart attack, kids - I'll be anxiously awaiting Halloween when I can pay you back with sweet revenge in the form of black licorice, candy corn, and Bits O' Honey nastiness...just you wait you little stinkers!
All of that to say that I woke up to a message on Facebook this morning from one of my friends whose husband is planning to join the Air Force within the next few months. I get a lot of questions about how to cope with the separation, to write or to not write letters, base locations, and what our ABs do at basic. I also receive a lot of questions regarding whether or not spouses are allowed to move to their SO's tech school location. But if I were to organize and sort each question that I have received, the number one question is in regards to pay. It seems kind of like a big black hole that everyone knows exists (I'd sure hope it does!), but no one truly knows what exactly goes on with Air Force pay - at least starting out. As a new military spouse, it's always pretty scary to enter into the waters of the unknown military pay. You can Google away hours of your life to find little to no help. So, without further adieu, I am going to give explaining this mess my best shot with these next few posts or series if you will.
THE FIRST THING YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT MILITARY PAY IS THAT EVERY AIRMAN BASIC MAKES THE SAME PAY AS EVERY OTHER AIRMAN BASIC! It doesn't matter if you have enlisted for a longer span of years or have a college education - every Airman starts as an Airman Basic and will receive the same pay while at basic! That having been said, I want to introduce you to the LES. LES stands for leave and earning statement. You'd best get at least familiar with this ol' form because you will need to provide it for just about everything: Applying for a property to rent, loan applications, etc. Your spouse will receive a username and password to a "MyPay" portal where he/she can access their LES online. I believe paper LES are only sent out quarterly or if there has been a change in your pay. So let's take a looksee at this wonderful form, shall we?
Let's bricka-bricky-break it down now, yo! I apologize, I couldn't help myself. My inner G-unit just had to make a guest appearance in this post.
Fields 1-9 are the identification portion of the LES.
Field 1: NAME. Service member's last, first, and middle initial.
Field 2: SEC NO. Service member's SSN.
Field 3: GRADE. Service member's current pay grade.
Field 4: PAY DATE. Date service member entered active duty - in YYMMDD format. Same date as Pay Entry Base Date (PEBD).
Field 5: YRS SVC. In two digits, the years of creditable service.
Field 6: ETS. The Expiration Term of Service in YYMMDD format. Same date as Expiration of Active Obligated Service (EAOS).
Field 7: BRANCH. The branch of service, i.e. Army, Marines, Navy, etc.
Field 8: ADSN/DSSN. The Disbursing Station Symbol Number used to identify each disbursing/finance office.
Field 9: PERIOD COVERED. This is the period covered by the individual LES. Normally it will be for one calendar month. If this is a separation LES, the separation date will appear in this field.
Fields 10-24 contain the entitlements, deductions, allotments, their respective totals, a mathematical summary portion, date initially entered military service, and retirement plan.
Field 10: ENTITLEMENTS. In columnar style, the names of the entitlements and allowances being paid. Space is allocated for 15 entitlements and/or allowances. If more than 15 are present, the overflow will be printed in the remarks block. Any retroactive entitlements and/or allowances will be added to like entitlements and/or allowances.
Field 11: DEDUCTIONS. The description of the deductions are listen in columnar style. This includes items such as taxes, SGLI, Mid-month pay, and dependent dental plan. Space is allocated for 15 deductions. If more than 15 are present, the overflow will be printed in the remarks block. Any retroactive deductions will be added to like deductions.
Field 12: ALLOTMENTS. In columnar style, the type of the actual allotments being deducted. This includes discretionary and non-discretionary allotments for savings and/or checking accounts, insurance, bonds, etc. Space is allocated for up to 15 differed allotments. If a member has more than 1 of the same type of allotment, the only differentiation listed may be that of the dollar amount.
Field 13: +AMT FWD. The amount of all unpaid pay and allowances due from the prior LES, i.e. owed due to over payment for a relocation move.
Field 14: +TOT ENT. The figure from Field 20 that is the total of all entitlements and/or allowances listed.
Field 15: -TOT DED. The figure from Field 21 that is the total of all deductions.
Field 16: -TOT ALMT. The figure from Field 22 that is the total of all allotments.
Field 17: =NET AMT. The dollar value of all unpaid pay and allowances, plus total entitlements and/or allowances, minus deductions and allotments due on the current LES.
Field 18: -CR FWD. The dollar value of all unpaid pay and allowances due to reflect on the next LES as the +AMT FWD.
Field 19: =EOM PAY. The actual amount of the payment to be paid to the member on the End-of-Month payday.
Fields 20-22: TOTAL. The total amounts for the entitlements and/or allowances, deductions, and allotments respectively.
Field 23: DIEMS. Date initially entered military service: This date is used SOLELY to indicate which retirement plan a member is under. For those members with a DIEMS date prior to September 8, 1980, they are under the FINAL PAY retirement plan. For those members with a DIEMS date of September 8, 1980 through July 31, 1986, they are under the HIGH-3 retirement plan. For those members with a DIEMS date of August 1, 1986 or later, they were initially under the REDUX retirement plan. This was changed by law in October 2000, when they were placed under the HIGH-3 plan, with the OPTION to return to the REDUX plan. In consideration of making this election, they become entitle to a $30,000 Career Service Bonus.
The data in this block comes from PERSCOM. DFAS is not responsible for the accuracy of this data. If a member feels that the DIEMS date shown in this block is erroneous, they must see their local servicing Personnel Office for corrective action.
Field 24: RET PLAN. Type of retirement plan, i.e. Final Pay, High 3, REDUX; or CHOICE (CHOICE reflects members who have less than 15 years service and have no elected to go with REDUX or stay with their current retirement plan).
Are you an LES master now? I know I'm not. Trying to read the LES is like trying to decipher a Chinese script for me...near impossible and after staring at it for a while, my eyes begin to cross. :)
>>>> Part 2: Calculating Pay