An Open Letter to DFAS and Anyone Who Works With Military Pay

Dear DFAS and everyone else who is associated with my husband’s military pay:

My husband is a sergeant in the U.S. Army. He is currently not getting paid because there have been a number of massive screw-ups. I don’t care who did it. I’m not interested in blaming anyone.

I just want it fixed.


Here’s what happened, because I want the people who have the power to fix it to get it corrected so it doesn’t happen to others.

First, there was a delay of several days in getting my husband his new orders. Because you all delayed in getting that simple thing done, it meant he was off active duty for one day. This screwed up DFAS’s pay system. My husband got paid for October 1st, and that was it. If you had written the orders in time, we wouldn’t have had the gap, and this pay problem wouldn’t have happened in the first place.

Second, whoever wrote his orders neglected to put the correct accounting code on some line that tells the system which accounting center his pay should come from. Without this magic code, DFAS can’t do anything to process the pay. We’ve gone from being told my husband’s pay will be delayed to the 22nd to the 30th to ‘not getting paid at all because you’re not in the system’.

Well, my husband has printed active duty orders. He’s working for the Army, he needs to get paid for it.

You, the pay and order-creating people, may see us as nothing but letters and numbers on your computer screen. Let me tell you who we are. We are a family of four. We have 2 kids, a dog, and a cat. We live in a home that has a mortgage. We have to pay student loans. It’s Wisconsin and it’s getting cold. We have to pay our heating and electric bills or we’ll get our utilities cut off. Our phone is going to get cut off. I have to have surgery in 6 days, so I can’t pick up extra work days to help cover the deficit caused by the lack of attention given to my husband’s orders and pay status.

Our account is now empty. Our reserves are gone.

I just got a notice that our kids’ lunch money account for school is running low. I have to buy medical protein drinks for after surgery, and I don’t know how I’m going to afford it with no money. I don’t know where the money is coming from for the co-pays for the medications I’ll need after surgery. I have enough pet food to last a couple weeks, and that’s it. I have enough groceries to feed my family, if I’m creative, for a few weeks, but the milk and bread will run out in a few days. I have no idea where I’ll get more. I have no idea where I’m going to get the gas money to get us all to work and school the next few weeks. Do you understand that you not working on these things properly has put us way behind in bills, and has left us without even the means to feed my family or to get my and my family’s prescription medications? I want you to think about that when you pick up your pay check in a week and take your family out to dinner.

Please, someone explain to me why we need FIVE, count them, FIVE digits for cost-center pay codes. Are you telling me we have over 10,000 accounting centers from which pay is determined? Isn’t that just a little excessive? Is there some reason we NEED all those accounting codes? It all comes out my taxes and the federal government–you’d think one code for “US Army” would be sufficient. Someone please explain to me the sanity in this kind of pay structure.

Please also explain when one department says ‘we don’t have the right code’ why you think ‘yes, that code is indeed correct’ is an acceptable answer, when clearly it’s not. If DFAS says the code is wrong, find the right code instead of passing the buck back. DFAS, how about you help the unit out and help them FIND THE CORRECT CODE? How about you tell the unit when you dump a soldier out of your system, too, so we know what’s going on and can plan ahead, or at least get working on it sooner? You knew this was a problem on October 2nd, and it’s just now getting seriously addressed on the 21st? Why won’t you even pick up your messages and return our calls, or even answer the phone in the first place? If I provided this kind of bad customer service to my patients, I’d be thrown out of the business in a heartbeat.

If you all were in The Real World, you’d have lawyers breathing down your necks for violation of federal pay laws. You get a pass because the government can’t be sued, but that doesn’t mean you should allow yourself to stop caring for the people who are behind the letters and numbers on the screen. Please think of the lives you are affecting when you don’t do a good job. Please take more pride in your work. Lives may literally be depending on you caring about the work you’re doing for soldiers, sailors, and their families.

8 comments on “An Open Letter to DFAS and Anyone Who Works With Military Pay

  1. Wow, your situation is downright chilling to me, I feel frightened just reading. It's horrible to see a whole family dropped into freezing financial storm waters over some relatively minor bureaucratic screw-up. I'll be thinking about you and your family, Jae. I really hope you come to a solution as soon as possible. ~TiE23

  2. Thank you–prayers and kind thoughts are much appreciated. I'm taking it day by day and doing what I can. My extended family may be able to help us out a bit, at least with groceries, and we're contacting our mortgage lender and utility companies to explain the situation to them to see if they can give us a break until the pay situation gets cleared up.

  3. I had a similar problem with DFAS when I was in the Army, way back in 89-92. I never got the problem fixed, but I know people who were able to work around it. When their pay was screwed up by DFAS they went to their finance office and made an allotment to themselves in the amount of their base monthly pay, minus a few bucks so DFAS had something to take away from them. DFAS back then wasn't allowed to seize allotments. I don't know if it still works the same way, but back then that worked. That won't fix the credit problem (and you may never get that fixed, DFAS is impossible to deal with) but at least you can handle your monthly expenses.

  4. Please disregard my previous comment, I just saw that your problem was fixed. Congratulations, apparently your representatives are much more involved than mine were.

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