Leaving The Service? You Need To Know…

Well, you need to know lots of stuff, much more than I could ever write about here.  If you are leaving the service or retiring, I hope that you are taking advantage of the pre-separation counseling and educational services that your branch offers.  However, there is a small, simple thing that many people seem to miss in their briefings, and it is important to know:

Your last active duty paycheck may be held up to 60 days pending the clearing of any debts to the military.

What this means is that on the day you are expecting your last active duty pay to hit your account, it probably won’t be there.  If you look on the LES, it will probably say HELD PAY.  Once your account has been cleared, your last pay will come via Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) into the account that your pay is regularly deposited.

You will still be paid everything that is owed to you, but it will mostly likely be delayed.  If you don’t know, and  you haven’t planned for it, that can be a serious problem.  But now you know, so you can plan and be prepared.

Congratulations to all of you who are moving on to the next chapter of your life.

About the Author

Kate Horrell
Kate Horrell is a military financial coach, mom of four teens, and Navy spouse. She has a background in taxes and mortgage banking, and a trove of experience helping other military families with their money. Follow her on twitter @realKateHorrell.
  • Charolette

    Wow that would be great because our spouses risk their lives for this country and like in my case the home gets neglected because my husband is away and I as a female and other health issues did not allow me to do some home improvement while he was away. This makes it easier!

  • Lui

    This is Ridiculous!! My husband gave 20 years and it’s nice to know the government can just hold his pay. It’s not like they haven’t know these service men/women are getting out well in advance notice; they should have everything taken care of before they take terminal leave and see they don’t owe any monies.

    Thank you Government for all you have done for the “Home-front”

    • guest

      I hope you are joking. This is something that is spelled out to all retirees…several times…before their final day. If they started paying immediately how would they recoup money for lost equipment, rats that weren’t turned in, loans you owe etc. If you failed to plan and save money for the TEMPORARY gap in pay, that is your own fault, not the militarys. If you don’t owe anything you get that 60 days in pay in a lump sum so no need to get all up in arms

      • Paul

        First of all everybody’s situation is different, so don’t stand in judgement of anyone, and how dare you pass judgement. This is not briefed id GPS class and it should be. When you go through divorce 60 days prior to retirement and your spouse takes more then 50% of your check, plus $7500.00 in attorney’s fees….then you can comment, until then try to so a little compassion for those people who have extreme circumstances. otherwise just keep you mouth shut and your comments to yourself.

      • Scott

        you have to clear finance before you can “final out” and they create a worksheet that shows any payments and debts. Missing equipment is handled at CIF and is paid for before you can clear anyway. If something gets missed the government should just bend over and take it in the same place they like to stick it to service members and their families.

        Yes I’m late to the party but your comment was too ridiculous to pass

    • Susan

      Okay, I attended retirement briefs with my husband and one separately. I also met with the POC at retirement services at Fort Leavenworth and they did not tell us how our last pay would be handled. The paperwork given was not clear. NOT ONCE did they mention your last pay would be held. Of course, we are fine, but that is not the point. At your last meeting with Finance, they need to simply tell you that your last pay is held to ensure you are free and clear of all debts. Then you will get paid. The entire retirement process is complicated and should NOT be for each service member who has gave so much. In the end, KISS!

  • Steve

    I just recieved notification I am getting a check on the 15th of Nov. MY last day in the Navy was Oct 31, 2012, so Nov 1 was my last check, correct? Well, I am not going to spend it, and will hold on to it, unless I am supposed to get a check the 15th of Nov, 2012.

  • guest5x

    this was NEVER briefed in my TAP class I was in for a week long. Nor any finance briefing either! I’m glad I had some $ set aside. And each service does things differently when people retire.

    • Heywood Johnson

      I attended two TAP classes and the finance brief, and there was NO MENTION of the last check(s) being delayed. And then to find out that it can be up to 60 days…absurd. Looks like this is another way for the govt to hold on to money that is not theirs. I’ve been waiting a long time to retire for reasons similar to this one. It may be a good job for some, but I’m glad I’m finally retired (E8 for the past nine years, and I’m prepared, but many may not be). Here’s another one for you: my “FREE” medical and dental costs me about $140 per month and my 55% retirement is really 39% (before taxes).

  • Frustrated

    I saved all of my out-processing paper work and handouts. Not a single one mentions they hold your last two weeks of pay. I retired after 24 years. I did plan because I’m experienced in Air Force delays, surprises, errors, etc. and the simple fact if you fail to plan you plan to fail. None the less, the Air Force owes me some money and August is a dry month. I just started my new job but won’t get paid until the end of the month. Also, my retirement pay doesn’t start until the next month according to DFAS (I called them). Thank god I had some money put away but its still bad timing as I have three teenagers with one starting college this month. I must pay for college and the bills. Would be nice to have July’s pay before September. Frustrating that isn’t briefed at Eglin like it should be, and, that a different process isn’t in place to avoid this type of thing. You should get your pay like normal.

    • Susan

      I agree with you completely. My husband just retired and in reviewing the last LES, we discovered that he did not get his last pay. He was not told, nor was I at any retirement briefing how the last pay would be handled. He was not told at his last meeting with Finance and when he signed his DD 214. Amazing that the military can not get their act together. You should have ALL DEBTS paid prior to signing your DD214, that is where the teeth should be. We should not have to wait for final pay on the last day of retirement, and then have to wait another 30 days to start collecting retirement pay.

      • Karen

        After 26 years in the military, my husband does not “miss” information. We were never notified of this and when everything is on autopay, we checked to see and no pay yet, mortgage came out and everything is in the red. I found this feed today after trying to figure out why. Good point, the DD214 is signed, there are no DEBTS so get your act together and follow your own information feed and be run efficiently. Unbelievable!

  • guest

    This is also mentioned on Dfas as well under Q&A. I was seperated recently for medical reasons and was told I might miss a check as it will be held for atleast 20 days in order to make sure that you dont own any money and all your entitlements are in order….. so even if you take terminal leave, this hold will still take place after your Ets date. How ever in a case like mine when a severance pay is being given, a large portion ( about 80%) will be paid about a week after your ets.
    I have been seperated from the Army 20 days now and still looking out for my final pay check. It was posted in Mypay but clearly showed that everything was being with held due to seperation of service but did not show a lift date yet. Im staying flexable for the 15th in hopes it will hit by then, other wise Ill start contacting people.
    This is prob due to SOPs as many people may take terminal leave and/or permisive tdy before seperation, others my cash in there leave and take there time to clear out till there ETS date.

  • Jeff

    It would have been nice if the so called finance “specialist” would have mentioned that my last pay check would be withheld to ensure any monies owed is paid. Nor did they mention this in TAPS. Luckily I built my savings account up, although I don’t want to dip into this to pay my bills and take care of my family. Now its a waiting game to figure out when I will get paid my last check. I don’t owe anything to the gov’t, will finance be able to tell me when I will be paid?

  • Pete

    I have recently retired from the Air Force and was afforded the opportunity to have an excellent out processing brief at RAF Mildenhall. I was informed the final pay check would be delayed but not that it could be up to 60 days. I expected that maybe a week or so but not over a month. I thin it is very unprofessional of the military to hold someone’s pay for that long a period of time. We are supposedly the strongest Air Force in the world and yet we cannot seem to get the financial process down enough to pay the member money due to them for service they performed. How would this work in the civilian sector if you hired someone to work for you, they perform the task and then you tell them that they will get paid for their work….eventually? There is absolutely no reason the military couldn’t get their act together and be able to foresee whether or not the member was going to owe them money or not. Even if a member is separated on short notice, there is still a 2-4 week prior notice prior to their departure from the military.

  • Myself

    I was told there would a 5 to 6 day hold on the final pay, that was over a month ago…? Also the First retirement check was due a few days ago, nothing on that front either, more of the same old same old. I have money set aside because the military has always been the military and at the root of things is always an end user who wanted to leave early or wanted to take a short cut, or decided to wait until later to process something or not do it all until a manage comes in to check on it.

  • Gabe

    I am separating from the navy on the 14 May 14 and am not even getting that check for the 15th.. Is this right? or will I still get that check.

    • Kate

      I would imagine that it will be delayed, but I can’t tell you for sure. Check with your finance office, or your transition assistance folks. Good luck!

  • Transcendimus

    I forewent COTT leave for work — over two tours. Paid for my wife’s ticket because we could not trust the morons to get our animals on the same flight — which we also pay out of pocket. We are paying for the car rentals and the hotels ourselves too because we would rather spend the money than the endless amount of time dealing with worker drones who find every excuse to delay or complicate only to be nickel and dimed by the bottom feeders driven to a frenzy by the smell of that good old gummit money chum swirling in the water. To top it off, Forest City has a handy checklist of all the things you have to pay for when you leave. Down to a fine for grass over an inch?! Saved 6 months’ worth of salary to separate and right now I will be happy if the powers that be let me keep $300 of my money. And then, there’s status det. A deplorable practice that would not fly in any non-gummit organization. What a travesty and a joke! All the more reason to be fiercely proud of that sense of independence left over from the days BEFORE I joined.

  • James

    I just sat through retirement briefings…..nothing mentioned. Unsat to say the least. Disbursing settles all debts out of your last paycheck but it doesn’t take that long. If you have no debts there should be no issues.

    • Mel

      we had no debt and its been almost 30 days. Finance says they are waiting for a code change to the account, and can only put in a work order. really? you cant even call the person at DFAS?

      • jeff

        even if you have military debts it doesnt take long

  • chonny

    Kudos to whom ever put this information out to begin with, we need to help other service members in what we learn. As we have learned in 24 years, you must educate yourself, know matter how angry it makes us, it is fact.

  • perkins

    I just finished my terminal leave on july 11th, i still havent recieved my last check is this normal or should i be worried? i do not owe anything as far as debts nor do i have any charges any help would be useful! and is there a number i can contact

    • Kate

      Yes, this is normal. You check your LES via the MyPay system, or call DFAS (get a cup of coffee and a book.)

      • guest

        i finished on 20 jun 14 and still haven’t been paid…

  • Scott

    Same retired 1 July 2014 from the Navy. Got the retirement check on August 1st, but still no last paycheck.

    –I just want to say to all those above who got a good out brief and knew this was coming, good for you. But try to be understanding of the many people who did not receive that notification. It was not covered in my GPS(TAPS) and it was not in the separation paperwork I received. When I spoke with DFAS over the phone they told me it could take up to 120 days for them to complete their audit and release the funds, so for all the sea lawyers out there shoving numbers in peoples faces and scolding them for poor planning, get a grip on reality. You would have great grounds for suing an employer for not paying you within a reasonable amount of time. It is the government so we shouldn’t expect stellar service, buts lets not be rude to each other.

  • jeff

    information is wrong . that max time they are allowed to hold you last paycheck is 20 days after release from service . this is stated on dfas website

  • jeff

    Air Force/Navy: Regular pay is suspended pending separation processing. The separating command will release pay due within 20 days via Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT). If this fails to occur, the final payment will be made by the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) when a final audit is completed on the member’s account. DFAS will issue any regular pay due, as well as any other unpaid balance on the account. The DFAS payment will be made via check to the separation address that was provided during separation processing, unless EFT is specifically requested and a valid Routing Transit Number/Account Number is furnished.

    Army: Regular pay is suspended during the month of separation to ensure that no overpayment exists. On the member’s Date of Separation (DOS), the servicing finance office will have a payment sent to the member’s bank account using the EFT process. From DOS through the next 20 days, the member’s pay account will be monitored and additional pay action will be made for the final pay computation as required. Post separation pay audits are conducted regularly and may identify residual payments that are due to the member. If this occurs, DFAS (or in limited instances, the member’s servicing finance officer) will pay the residual payments via paper check to the address that the service member provided during separation processing.

    Marine Corps: Pay is suspended prior to the Marine’s end of current contract (ECC). The Marine’s administrative unit is required to submit the request for his/her final pay (NAVMC 11060: Separation/Travel Pay Certificate) to Disbursing no later than 10 workings days prior to the member’s ECC. If the Marine has been approved for permissive TAD (TDY) and/or terminal leave, the NAVMC 11060 is then required to be submitted no later than 10 days prior to beginning of the approved status. Once the NAVMC 11060 is received by Disbursing, the Disbursing Office is required to settle the account and issue any monies due to the Marine on the Marine’s ECC. If the NAVMC 11060 is not received by Disbursing within the required timeline, the settlement is required to be completed and monies issued within 10 working days of when the request was received. The time it takes to receive final payment varies, based on when the Marine’s 11060 is received by Disbursing. All final settlement pay will be issued by EFT. Marines are instructed during their pre-separations brief to keep their current direct deposit bank account open for a minimum of 6 months after separation. This guidance is given in the event that a late pay adjustment is required on the Marine’s account that results in the issuance of a supplemental payment to the Marine. If final pay is not received within 2-3 days after discharge, the Marine should contact their servicing administrative unit for inquiries regarding the status of his/her final pay.

    • Scott


      You are correct that the services release the info and maybe some of the money(in my case Navy 20 days, and they gave me my final travel funds)), but DFAS has 120 days to complete their audit(and will not be releasing my final pay until they are done), just spoke with them again today about it. 55 days and counting….

      • jeff

        dfas doesnt do the audit the local psd does it . if local command doesnt complete it(dirt bags) then dfas transmitts the money . The separating command will release pay due within 20 days via Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT). If this fails to occur, the final payment will be made by the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) when a final audit is completed on the member’s account. DFAS will issue any regular pay due, as well as any other unpaid balance on the account. The DFAS payment will be made via check to the separation address that was provided during separation processing, unless EFT is specifically requested and a valid Routing Transit Number/Account Number is furnished.

  • Emily

    it is definitely not 20 days for the navy! I have been out since July 6 and I am still waiting, which from what some of these comments say is 60 days so that’s next week, so we will see! was NEVER informed that there would be a delay. I was actually told when I signed my DD214 that I would get my final paycheck in my account at midnight my last day (July 5)… nope. But with my experience in the Navy none of this surprises me. They have never done what they were supposed to.

  • guest

    Marine Corps here. EAS was August 20, have been on terminal since July 17. I was in voluntarily separated, so I am getting severance. I am not getting a check this payday, and hope that it comes in soon, as I start my new job on the 8th. No debts, not a single one, and still waiting. Hopefully something comes soon!

  • Confused

    Retired Navy sparky…was paid my final Active Duty pay, but on the final LES, there is still an indebtedness at the bottom for almost $500. I called the clerk, and he pointed the finger at DFAS, saying “they don’t like talking to people.” Now, DFAS tells me that they didn’t even receive the information to process my account for retirement until 13AUG2014. So I may not see a check until the middle of September, and August was already a dry month. It’s easy for these people to say “just be patient”, but their phones aren’t ringing off the hook for bills that have always been paid on time or early.