For more than a dozen years, five nonappropriated fund employers — the Air Force, the Marine Corps, the Navy, the Army and Air Force Exchange Service and the Navy Exchange Service Command — had been in at least partial violation of a Defense Department rule requiring that the cost-of-living allowance be paid to all American citizens working regular full-time jobs overseas.
A DOD ruling on the issue changed that, and beginning April 25, all NAF personnel began receiving the post allowance, said Biagio Galeota, president of Local 3712, Chapter 14 of the American Federation of Government Employees. Full-time NAF employees of the Navy’s Morale Welfare and Recreation and Navy Exchange in Europe also were able to file for back pay for the unpaid allowance.
Sixty MWR workers in Europe received that back pay, which is tax free, in one lump sum in October.
The payout for MWR employees averages $37,000, with the highest payout being $73,700 and the lowest $3,300, said Galeota, who is based in Naples.
"This was a tremendous victory for American Federation of Government Employees, for which I had been fighting for over two years," he said.
His campaign started after he learned that three MWR managers in Naples received the supplement while other full-time staffers did not.
Feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, he said.
"Naturally, they’re pretty happy. You get an unexpected check for $50,000, what do you think their reaction will be?"
In August, the Defense Department announced its plan to compensate overseas employees who were not paid post allowance and methods in which they could begin staking their claims. The retroactive pay dates to Dec. 1, 2001, because back pay cannot exceed a six-year statute of limitations on claims against the government, Galeota said.
Worldwide, roughly 2,850 current NAF employees, and an unknown number of former workers, are expected to be eligible for at least some compensation. DOD estimates the back pay could cost employers $68 million.
As of the end of September, five DOD organizations had paid more than $8.4 million in restitution to overseas workers who weren’t paid allowances they were eligible for, according to DOD. The Air Force has been slow to compensate eligible workers, having paid only one claim in September, according to DOD. But several Air Force employees at Spangdahlem Air Base in Germany said this week they received back pay owed to them.
There is no way of tracking retirees and former workers, but Galeota said he is willing to help them file claims. He can be reached vie e-mail at: [email protected]