By U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii Public AffairsAugust 17, 2011
WHEELER ARMY AIRFIELD, Hawaii -- Results from the Hawaii Cost of Living Allowance, or COLA, surveys, which were conducted March-May, are in and became effective Aug. 1.
On Oahu, the index increased by two points; the increase equates to about $50 each month for a staff sergeant in pay grade E-6, with two dependents and 12 years of service.
COLA is a nontaxable allowance paid to military service members to partially offset their high costs when stationed overseas. The allowance helps them purchase about the same level of goods as in the continental U.S.
COLA affects approximately 260,000 service members at 600 locations overseas, including Alaska and Hawaii, according to the Defense Travel Management Office, or DTMO, website.
The Living Pattern Survey, or LPS, and the Retail Price Schedule, or RPS, determined Hawaii's COLA rates, according to Capt. Allison Morse, personnel officer; Morale, Welfare and Recreation and Well-Being Programs; U.S. Army-Pacific.
Uniformed service members with at least three months of duty in Hawaii, who did not reside in the barracks, completed the LPS throughout March. They were encouraged to complete the survey with their families to ensure that their input actually reflected household shopping. The LPS evaluated their shopping patterns at retail outlets for goods and services off post.
Once the LPS was tabulated, U.S. Pacific Command then selected two service members from every military branch here on Oahu, from the Navy on Kauai and from the PACOM Quality of Life team, to collect prices for the RPS, according to Kathy Wooldridge, from PACOM's Quality of Life team.
PACOM trained all participants, and then had them collect the price of 120 pre-determined items, from April through May, at stores identified by participants on the LPS survey, including local retail establishments, commissaries and exchanges.
Afterwards, PACOM packaged the RPS data and submitted it to DTMO.
COLA rates were determined by comparing prices of the 120 goods and services on each island with the average continental U.S. prices of these same items.
The DTMO's Military Advisory Panel voted to recommend the following COLA index increases:
•Oahu, COLA index increase by two points, from 130 to 132.
•Maui, increase by four points, from 138 to 142.
•Big Island, increase by two points, from 134 to 136.
•Kauai, increase by six points, from 134 to 140 points.