WASHINGTON — SmartVoucher is a wave of the future, putting money into the pockets of Soldiers and their families faster than ever before.
Across the Army and around the globe, the U.S. Army Financial Management Command’s Army Military Pay Offices are helping deploy the Defense Finance and Accounting Service’s SmartVoucher program to automate the Army’s permanent-change-of-station travel voucher claim process.
“The future is here with SmartVoucher, which is the new and improved way of completing a PCS travel claim,” said William French, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, Army Military Pay Office director. “Soldiers can complete their voucher on any device anywhere in the world by simply filling out their itinerary, uploading their documents, and submitting their claim for review.”
The SmartVoucher system can be accessed anywhere in the world with internet access and either a common access card or myPay login and password at the SmartVoucher website.
“With SmartVoucher’s easy three-step process, Soldiers can get paid in a handful of days instead of the 15 or 20 it used to take,” explained French.
“This was the first time I used SmartVoucher, and I am a big fan of it because it was extremely easy to use and took maybe ten minutes to complete,” said 1st Sgt. Elvis Puente Gonzalez, Mission Command Training Program senior battle staff observer, coach and trainer. “I got paid in three days, the fastest I’ve ever been paid for a PCS in eight moves.”
Not only does SmartVoucher pay up to 50 percent faster, it’s easier to use and eliminates many of the mistakes that plagued travel claim processes for years.
“It works just like commercial tax-filing software that many of us use to fill out our taxes each year,” said Butch Boris, Defense Finance Accounting Service Rome finance director. “It’s a multi-question, multi-decision-point program that walks you through the process of filling out your PCS travel claim using plain language and easy-to-understand questions.”
The electronically-submitted travel voucher is then automatically transferred either directly to DFAS Rome for processing or through an AMPO for review before heading to DFAS. With either route, information doesn’t have to be reentered from a scanned PDF by DFAS like it used to with the manual system.
“We’re eliminating up to 50 percent of the travel voucher claim returns through SmartVoucher,” Boris elaborated. “That means we aren’t touching things we don’t need to touch, speeding up the process and saving time and resources.”
The fully-automated SmartVoucher also provides another advantage to Soldiers – visibility. As claims go through the process, Soldiers can receive text and email alerts to follow them along the way.
Looking back, Boris said SmartVoucher’s beginnings can be traced back nearly eleven years as DFAS worked to improve and automate their temporary duty voucher process with automated form filing.
However, the initiative really gained steam almost five years ago at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.
“When the DFAS director was visiting Fort Sill, the deputy to the commanding general there at the time asked her what she could do to make the military PCS voucher process easier and faster,” recalled Susan Gillison, USAFMCOM Military Pay Operations director. “We talked about a bunch of different things, and we ended up modifying the tool DFAS had for TDY.”
From there, SmartVoucher was born.
“It’s a game changer. For decades, we used to have dozens or more Soldiers all in a single classroom with one or two Defense Military Pay Office employees, now AMPO employees, walking them through filling out their DD Form 1351-2, block by block,” said Gillison. “The Soldiers didn’t really have to know or understand a lot about the process or travel pay.”
“The old method of bringing in the masses and having the group go line by line was awful and painful,” recalled Puente Gonzalez, who just moved from Fort Rucker, Alabama, to Fort Leavenworth. “It always took more than an hour, depending on the number of service members in-processing.”
“Now we’re not only not spending all that time and coordination getting everyone in a classroom at the same time, but the Soldiers are also much more aware of their travel voucher claim process,” French added. “Before, a lot of that education and information was lost each time a Soldier PCSed, but now they understand it better and can help one another as Soldiers rotate through their units.”
While SmartVoucher allows Soldiers to file their own PCS travel vouchers on their own time thanks to ease of access and use, it becomes all the more important they file in a timely manner.
“While it’s easier on them, they sometimes push it off and don’t file their claim right away,” explained French. “That can cause the military pay system to pay wrong allowance amounts, create debts and even suspend a Soldier’s pay if it goes long enough. That’s why we tell in-processing Soldiers that it’s very important for them to file their claim using SmartVoucher as soon as possible.”
Despite the tremendous advantages SmartVoucher provides Soldier’s, Boris said SmartVoucher isn’t perfect yet, and there are some big upgrades in the near future that will make it even better.
“In August, DFAS is adding responsive design to SmartVoucher, which will make it easier to use on personal devices,” he explained. “You can definitely file on a tablet, but phones are still a bit clunky. And, later this fall, we have tons of recommendations from the field we’re planning on implementing.”
One of those changes will be increasing the character count from 250 to 1,000 in explanation blocks on returned vouchers so military pay technicians can better communicate what a Soldier needs to fix.
Gillison said the improvement process will continue throughout the life of SmartVoucher as DFAS and the U.S. Army Financial Management Command work together to provide better service.
“We’re embracing technology in order to serve our Soldiers and their families better, and we want their feedback on how we’re doing,” she explained. “If there’s something about it that they don’t like, we want them to tell us so we can try to fix it.”
While SmartVoucher will be optional for most PCSing Soldiers, it will be mandatory at certain locations.
“We went 100 percent SmartVoucher in Japan in December, and starting in June, we will fully mandate its use in Europe,” said Boris. “We mandated SmartVoucher in those locations because their unique situations meant that SmartVoucher was the best way for us to provide the best service to our Soldiers.”
“In the end, even though this is a Department of Defense-level program owned by DFAS, it’s really about the Army and taking care of our Soldiers and their families,” he concluded.
As one of the world’s largest finance and accounting operations, DFAS supports military and civilian customers. Its mission of delivering financial excellence and quality pay services to its customers emphasizes the importance of DFAS’ role as a primary contributor in standardizing and improving finance and accounting activities across the DoD.
As a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command, USAFMCOM conducts enterprise-level financial operations, provides technical coordination for finance and comptroller units and military pay support with commands across the Army in order to ensure the effective implementation of policies and programs to support optimally resourcing the Army and supporting Soldiers.