FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. – It only takes a few moments for Soldiers to keep their Basic Allowance for Housing, or BAH, documentation up to date, but letting changes slip through the cracks could cost them their Army career.
In addition to the yearly BAH recertification requirements, Soldiers are required to recertify BAH eligibility following events like divorce, marriage or childbirth to ensure they are being paid correctly.
“In the span of a Soldier’s time in a battalion, they can be married and divorced up to two or three times – any every life change is a significant event that you’re supposed to communicate with your human resources professionals,” said Capt. Joshua Miller, human resources officer, 101st Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault).
If a Soldier fails to relay that information to their command team or an S-1 administrative officer, he or she could end up receiving a larger BAH allowance than he or she qualifies for.
Whether or not that Soldier means to collect extra money, the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Division can investigate him or her if there is suspicion of fraud and potentially title them, putting their security clearance at risk and blocking them from further promotions or assignments.
Titling is the decision to place the name of a person in the ‘subject’ block of a U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Division report of investigation.
“Our goal is to avoid a situation where Soldiers get to that point of being titled, because once they are it’s very hard to undo,” said Capt. Zachary Larson, Fort Campbell Staff Judge Advocate Client Services office. “We’re more on the back end where we try to undo something that’s already occurred; we can offer legal analysis and can help them with drafting up a rebuttal form, but it’s an uphill climb.”
Miller said it can take up to a year to receive a response to rebuttal forms, with immediate and long-term impacts on a Soldier’s career in the meantime. Those with jobs that rely on security clearance may also effectively be forced to leave the Army.
“You’ll lack evaluations during that timeframe, and you won’t be able to go before promotion boards,” Miller said. “If you do get back in the swing of things, you’re basically trying to navigate going to a board because you’re going to have a lapse of evaluations from that period. It’s a ripple effect most of the time with any disciplinary action or investigation, and you could end up in a deep hole very quickly.”
Commanders can be a force for good in preventing their Soldiers from being titled, which in turn increases their unit’s mission readiness.
“[An S-1] can provide the analysis and tell you what’s wrong, but the commander has the authority to change it,” Miller said. “There’s a report on a monthly basis that a company commander signs off on called a Unit Commander Finance Report, or UCFR, that actually gives a commander access to look at pay and entitlements. You can’t really see how they spend their money, but you can make sure they’re getting paid correctly by the government.”
Leaders who know their Soldiers well can spot discrepancies in the UCFR and work with their Soldiers to make any necessary changes.
“Any Soldier receiving BAH-with dependent without properly uploading documentation through their S-1 will receive a notification through email stating that they have 60 days to correct the deficiency,” Larson said. “Failure to upload the appropriate documents within the 60-day window will result in an automatic reversion to the BAH-without dependent rate.”
From there the Soldier has 90 days to upload the proper documentation or they could be referred to Army CID under suspicion of BAH fraud. Larson said most junior enlisted Soldiers do not check their emails daily, so commanders are encouraged to help them stay informed.
“We understand that commanders have all kinds of pushing, pulling and different task requirements,” Larson said. “Unfortunately, the administrative side often gets pushed aside until it becomes a real problem. We want this to be on the forefront of people’s thoughts and encourage even the Soldiers to take responsibility because it’s a really quick and easy task to do, but it has potentially massive implications for their career.”
For more information or to speak with a legal assistance attorney, Soldiers can make an appointment at the Fort Campbell Client Services Office, 2765 Tennessee Ave.