I recently represented an NCO at a General Court-Martial who was accused of Larceny in violation of Article 121 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) and making False Official Statements in violation of Article 107 UCMJ, related to alleged BAH fraud. Despite being wrongfully accused, my client was in a fight to save his career and to avoid a conviction, jail time, and a DFAS recoupment action of over $250,000. The good news is that through hard work, investigation, the careful use of expert witnesses, and an in depth understanding of the Joint Travel Regulation (JTR), we were able to achieve a full acquittal.
Through this case and similar cases in the past I have learned a few things that military members should keep in mind when dealing with the finance office and finance issues. Here some things to keep in mind and hopefully avoid being the victim of a DFAS Audit or to be able to defend expenses, vouchers, or other entitlement payments that five plus years old if you do.
- DFAS audits are becoming increasingly common and there is no official audit policy or explanation for the logic behind a particular audit other than the whims of an individual auditor.
- As both experts in our case testified, it is not unusual to ask the same question of two people in the finance office or pay office and receive different answers; therefore, whenever you receive guidance or advise from anyone in the finance or pay office, ask them to put that guidance in writing.
- Single parents, especially male parents, can expect scrutiny if they claim a child as a dependent. Be prepared to provide documentation demonstrating the status of your custody of the child and proof that you are providing support.
- If you are stationed overseas with or without dependents the rules related to Overseas Housing Allowance (OHA), Family Separation Allowance (FSA), and Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) are complex and often misunderstood especially if you have dependents who do not accompany you on the overseas tour. You need to ask questions and document the guidance you receive.
- Your orders typically control your entitlements but there are other forms that complicate the process. Make sure that you seek clarification from an NCO in the finance or pay section if your dependents are moving or will be moving during any tour and document that conversation.
- Keep a personal file and record of your Leave and Earning Statements as well as voucher and other documents related to pay and entitlements.
- Under the “Tainted Claim” policy, DFAS will seek to recoup all money paid in cases of overpayment where they suspect a military member was at fault for the overpayment. This means they will seek to recoup not just the amount of overpayment but the entire entitlement.
Due to ongoing changes to the JTR as well as an increased emphasis on audits at DFAS, military members can expect to be the subject of more scrutiny with regard to entitlements and travel pay and allowances. Military members can face allegations of misconduct and even court-martial as the result of improper or incomplete guidance. In this environment it is critical to document everything and keep careful records. In the event you or someone close to you is the subject of a DFAS audit or is facing charges related to alleged fraud please call Crisp and Associates, LLC today and talk to one of our experienced attorneys.