Officials quiet on post allowance cuts for civilians in Korea
SEOUL — U.S. Forces Korea and the State Department are mum about what led to a sudden cut in post allowance for Korea-based government employees and what they are doing to address the issue, which USFK commander Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti has called a “priority.”
The post allowance rate dropped to zero percent of disposable income on May 4, after hovering at 15 percent to 20 percent this year. In a May 16 letter to the command’s civilian employees, Scaparrotti said only that the change was the result of a recent State Department-managed survey.
In an email Thursday to Stars and Stripes, a State Department spokesperson said the agency “is aware of the concerns of the military community regarding the impact of this latest survey and is looking into the issue.”
Neither the State Department nor USFK would address questions about whether the cut was an error, whether it was expected to be reinstated, and how many civilians are affected.
Post allowance — also known as COLA, or the Cost of Living Allowance — is given to U.S. government employees stationed overseas in a location where the cost of living is substantially higher than in Washington, D.C., allowing them to spend the same portion of their basic compensation for living expenses without seeing a reduction in their living standards.
The State Department said the index that determines COLA is “updated periodically to reflect changes in economic conditions both in the host country and at home.”
Korea-based civilians saw their first reduced paycheck for the May 4-17 pay period.
In his letter, Scaparrotti said he is “very concerned about the effect this will have on you and your families.”
“I feel very strongly about protecting your pay, so I will work this issue as a priority,” he added.