Last Active Duty Paycheck?

Money in a stack.

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.

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.
  • milmom

    All I can say is my son in law separated Nov. 11th from the Marines and STILL has not got paid his last check. They are young with not much savings and they had to go through holidays with little food and not being able to keep up with their bills. When a former service member has to reach out for help and still is owed money by our government I think it is a travesty. He was NEVER informed of this during his week in TAPS class and from what I have read on here and elsewhere it seems many also weren’t told. Shameful. If they are good enough to fight your wars, protect us and go to foreign countries then the damn well ought to get the respect they deserve. As a civilian this makes me very angry. Our govt is a shameless bunch. If we cant take care of our Vets than who can we take care of? Oh yeah, Congress, that’s who. I am trying to get someone to do a story on this. I think this is something tour nation needs to know. It’s a dirty little secret.

    • NotsoFadt

      I’m pretty sure he was briefed on this issue regarding his pay. The issue that we have all the time is when it’s time for someone to ETS out the military they need to save money. He probably had a debt with the marines when he got out, and he has a family he should have thought about them before he got out. We are so quick to jump on our government but what have you done to better let them both know about there financial future. No one is going to write a story about this because every service member knows that it will be a delay when it comes to getting there last paycheck. Tell him to man up and she should have had a job when he got out. From your response sounds like he was already living pay check to pay check. Take care

    • CW3

      How are you sure that the military ‘owes’ him money and that it is not the other way around? That is the reason there is a delay in that final payment – to audit his pay account.

  • GSG

    NotsoFadt has this happened to you? You seem quick to judge other people automatically think you know what their situation may be. If you don’t know them personally then don’t assume that they live paycheck to paycheck. Maybe they have had a hardship (medical etc.) that has caused them to use their savings. The bottom line is this…when it comes to a service members last paycheck they should NEVER have to wait to receive it. They have sacrificed already for their country and so have their families. It’s not like the government wasn’t informed in a timely manner that someone is retiring or separating so there is ample time to figure out if the service member owes money back to the government. My guess, in the usual government fashion, is someone is sitting on paperwork and not doing their job.

    • NotsoFadt

      I understand where you are going but they pay you when you get out on a Medical. The lady clearly says that he got out and was hurting for me. I have gotten out the Military and came back in. Trust me I know everything he is going through I saved so that when the time came that ONE pay check would not determine what I wanted to do. Tell him to use his GI Bill, Unemployment etc it’s a lot of things that can be done don’t blame know one but the person not the system. But don’t get me wrong sometimes the system does have it’s issue but we can’t let that get to use. I was just speaking from experience not shooting from the hip. I hope this young man and his family can get through this time.

  • SteveB

    That’s why you save some leave, and take terminal leave when ETSing or retiring. You can get settled in, and usually find a job before that last paycheck. I know when I retired, I was already working long before my terminal leave was ever up. Months before.

    • Pro23

      You have to remember that there are people out there that are unable to take that amount of terminal leave that you were allowed. I was still fighting in Afghanistan three weeks before my DOS. And yes I had leave “saved up” but I had to sell the maximum amount of leave (60 days) back. I do have a job lined up and have money in saving but I still am wondering where that last paycheck is at. Especially the payment for my leave days that I was unable to take due to my 15 deployments in 15 1/2 years that as you put it I had “saved up.” Don’t assume that everyone is in the same situation as you my friend. Thank you for your service but remember that not everyone’s service was equal.

  • scott miller

    I am a Sergeant First Class with 22 years Army, now Retired as of March 1, 2015. I did not receive my last pay check on March 1, 2015 for Feb 15-30 2015.

    Fact(s):
    1. It is mandatory to clear CIF and at that time “IF” there is missing equipment or “IF” you owe the military, you can NOT get cleared (a requirement to final out).
    2. It is mandatory to clear FINANCE for debt and pay purpose (or you can not get your DD214) nor “clear” and Final out! hence the word FINAL OUT.
    3. It is mandatory that you get your DD214 (signed) or you can not “clear/final out” the military and go on transition leave.

    Point:
    * So I am baffled that the United States Army (military) the largest organization of its kind, and longest in US Existence, which has out processed and retired Soldiers Since that time, has yet to not only “reproduce” a process causing these complaints, but with the knowledge of who is, and who is not separating, (in my case) a year out, manages to drag their feet on a critical issue such as PAY!
    ” can you say/” “Pat you on the back, and knee you in the balls?” IF there is a way to make it hard, the US Army will radically, and passionately, seek it out, and make it SOP!

    • Kate

      Mr. Miller, congratulations on your retirement. I hear your frustration, and it makes sense. Unfortunately, it is not likely to change, and that’s why everyone recommends that those leaving the military build up significant savings for the transition.

      You may not be aware that the Army’s pay systems and the DFAS pay systems are not the same. While you have to clear through the Army in order to retire, you do not have to clear through DFAS in order to retire. DFAS is permitted this auditing period in which to ensure that your pay account is completely accurate before processing final pay. I don’t know about your experience, but most people I know have had some sort of pay snafu through the years. It would be unfortunate if those problems, either overpayments or underpayments, were discovered after the distribution of final pay.

  • Sean Peterson

    I just retired on 1 Mar as well an I am in complete agreement with you, my issue with Kates reply is that if DFAS screws up and over pays you can bet n a no pay due quickly. so I don’t understand why the delay. I think scott was right and big Army is afraid of change even if it is for the better

  • scott miller

    Sean:
    Congrads as well on your retirement. I agree with you. Sounds like a problem is between DFAS and Big Army, and should not cause the Combat Veteran x 4 to be punished or neglected. If DFAS needs to supervise Big Army’s pay system for negligence, perhaps a new system is needed! NEW scares the heck out of BIG ARMY..Identify the problem, make a plan, test the plan, put into action (is this not what we were trained for 22 years? (in my case) isn’t this in a FM leadership manual? rhetorical question I know.

  • Scott

    (letter sent to my Congressman)

    First, I want to thank you for your willingness to look into the following three issues listed below. You indeed seem to be the public servant that I elected and hoped for.
    I have demonstrated in this letter, an example of a continual problem that other War Veterans, like myself, are facing. I have found an alarming number of complaints online by stressed Veterans, needing their deserved retirement benefits.
    I have just retired as a Sergeant First Class with 22 years of service in the US Army and am currently dealing with these three issues.
    1. My VA Disability Claim status
    2. I have not received my last paycheck due to a redundant audit
    3. My TSP Code has not been sent to the Thrift Savings Program for retirement savings release.

    I. Status of VA Claim
    Background:
    The first step in clearing the military is a review of your military medical records. This was completed at Tripler Hospital over six months prior to my terminal leave, which was December 6, 2014.
    The second step was to schedule and receive another medical review from a VA sponsored medical civilian doctor, which took place in August 2014. She found that I needed another set of MRI’s given my condition (lower back, shoulder and knee damage. The results were both sent to the VA and I uploaded the data for VA review approximately October, 2014.
    The third step is to monitor your Ebenefits website for disability status. It is in this forum where most complaints are aired. I have heard horror stories of taking over a year to get disability coverage and its back pay. This is the limbo in which I have now been in for over five months.
    I was deployed four times in combat. My first tour was to Bosnia, then Afghanistan twice, and once to Iraq, where I was awarded the prestigious Bronze Star for my performance.
    In conclusion, I began my journey into retirement back in April 2014. A year has now passed and I have absolutely no clue of my disability status. My reward after 22 years of service only allows for $1,750 a month after taxes (which I am to forfeit half to my ex-spouse). I am now forced at 54 years of age to seek employment. Every application requests my disability status. The VA is responsible for relaying my disability percentage. This is an important advantage when it comes to the government/civilian hiring point system. The VA is issuing this information 6 months to a year after the Veteran has been retired. So, this is a hindrance to the hiring process.

    II. Final Pay
    Background:
    It is mandatory to clear Central Issue Facility prior to terminal leave. If you are missing equipment or have a military debt, you get a Statement of Charges and you cannot get “cleared”. This is a mandatory process to “clear” the military.
    It is also mandatory to “clear” Finance for debt as well. If you do not “clear” finance, you will not be issued your DD214 (proof of military service) and will not be able to “clear” The United States Army.

    My Point:
    This clearly shows how a post-retirement audit is unnecessary and redundant. The monies of the retired Veterans are being withheld unjustly. There has obviously been a proper financial check of the Soldiers’ entitlements.

    III. TSP Code
    Due to not knowing when my monies owed to me will be disbursed, I was forced to contact the Thrift Savings Program for a withdrawal of my retirement savings. I will be penalized a 20% tax withholding, but due to the circumstances, I have no other choice. To add to the problem, the TSP has told me that they cannot release my retirement pay until they get a TSP CODE from DFAS, which usually can take up to 60 days. DFAS has informed me that it is the responsibility of the Human Resource Center to release the code to TSP before they can release my retirement funds. This again, seems to be a runaround.

    My Point:
    HRC is the organization responsible for issuing my retirement orders. HRC issued my retirement orders in April of 2014. My retirement date is clearly stated upon these orders. Is it the responsibility of the Soldier to follow up with HRC or DFAS and insure that a TSP Code is sent at least 60 days prior to my retirement of March 1, 2015, so my savings are available at my retirement?

    In Conclusion
    I am baffled that the United States Military, the largest organization of its kind, and longest in US existence, cannot find an efficient and fair out processing system. Veterans are being forced into an unfair and unnecessary hardship. There is no pre-planning or guidance by ACAP, which informs us of this delay in disability benefits, pay benefits, and TSP administrative assistance. Our meager retirement pay forces men and women in our Armed Forces into a poverty level status while civilian employment is sought. The VA has complicated this process by not expediting veteran’s disability preference. I appreciate you taking the time to read this letter, and I hope you look into this critical matter on the behalf of myself and all other Armed Forces Veterans.

    Sincerely and Respectfully,

    SFC Scott R Miller
    US Army, Retired