I’ve written about this topic before, here and here, but they seem to be hard to find. I think maybe it is because the titles don’t really reflect the topic clearly. I don’t like the title of this post, but maybe it will solve the problem. Plus, I found (thanks to a commenter) some more specific information!
When preparing to leave the military, it is very important to know that final pay checks will usually be held, pending audit of the service member’s accounts. Here’s the official policy:
“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.”
Now, we all know that what the policy says and what actually happens are sometimes different. My previous posts said that it could be “up to 60 days,” based upon the information I had at the time. Despite the policies listed above, I am going to stick with 60 days but warn that I have heard of situations where the wait is longer. Most people seem to be their last paycheck within a month, but there doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to when someone’s pay is held for a signficantly longer period of time.
Reports suggest that some people are getting this information in their outprocessing briefs or transition assistance workshops, while others are not. While I agree that the services should be doing a better job of communicating this important, I also hope that you fulfilled your responsibility to have adequate savings to cover the transition out of the service. If you don’t have savings, and are in a true financial bind, your service’s relief society should be able to help you bridge the gap.