This is more of a rant than anything, but hopefully it contains enough useful information and clear points to be somewhat relevant.
In January 2014, I arrived in Germany for an accompanied, 3 year tour. The only thing missing was my family. Their travel had been deferred due to a lack of available housing. I was put on a waiting list, along with everyone else that had arrived sans family.
Fast forward to late March/early April... I finally hit the top of the list. I selected a house, and had to wait 30 more days until I could actually move in. On the day I selected the residence, I was issued a travel authorization to move my family. I officially signed for the house at the very end of April, and my family arrived in Germany on 1 May.
A couple of weeks later, I visited the local Finance office to apply for Family Separation Allowance (FSA), since we spent over 4 months apart due to the above mentioned circumstances. I was told by the finance chief that I wasn't authorized FSA because the Army didn't defer my family's travel... Housing did.
I was confused (because how can an Army agency not be "the Army"), but accepted the reason and moved on.
So here is the first instance of "Doing Your Due Diligence." This was obviously the wrong answer, but I figured "who knows finance better than Finance?" I should have done some research.
Fast forward to January of this year, 2016. I had recently attended SLC, so I went back to Finance to file for FSA for that. While I was there, I asked an employee about the FSA for my family's deferred travel, and I was told that I was indeed authorized! Huzzah! I filed the appropriate paperwork and sat back to wait for my windfall. However, it was denied by Finance's higher HQ. Why? Because according to them, FSA, for my situation, is only authorized when family cannot travel because of an EFMP issue.
That's it. That's all I was told. So I spoke to Finance again, because there are many other reasons that FSA is authorized. They resubmitted, with the same result and the same excuse except this time, they added that Germany was not a dependant-restricted tour. Time to do my due diligence again.
I pulled up Google, and started Googlin'. I found AR 55-46, Travel Overseas. In Paragraph 2-3, it states the following:
"When an eligible soldier is assigned to a PDS over- seas where-
The soldier is authorized deferred travel (up to 140 days) after application of concurrent
travel, the soldier is entitled to family separation allowance, if otherwise qualified. Upon approval for family members to enter the command, the family separation allowance will not exceed 60 days from date of approval, unless the delay was caused by the Government."
What do you know, that fits perfectly! I sent that to Finance, and asked them to again resubmit the claim. It was once again denied, with the following statement attached.
"Per our conversation. Could you contact the SM and explain for the third time why he is not authorized?"
This was followed up by a phone call from the Finance Chief, who tried to explain away the situation. I confronted him with the regulatory guidance I had found, which he had never heard of or seen. It didn't matter. According to Finance, I just wasn't authorized.
The turning point for me was the above statement from the Finance overlords. It was especially irritating because I specifically asked for regulatory guidance on why I wasn't authorized. Three times I was denied, and three times I got nothing more than a vague and seemingly inaccurate reason. Now frustrated, I asked my NCO what I should do. He immediately recommended that I contact the Inspector General.
I've never needed to use IG, and frankly the idea didn't really sound like fun. The fact is, IG guards the process. If a process isn't being followed, they can step in and be the "check and balance", if you will. So I made the call, and got the ball rolling.
After 2 months of back and forth between IG, Finance, and DFAS... after calling back to Fort Sill to find a correctly-worded set of amended orders... after getting memos from Housing saying that there was no available government houses when I arrived... and after 2 more denials without proper explanation from Finance, they were finally able to convince someone to look at the regulation and see for themselves. And the outcome?
SSG Smith- 1
I've always been a research guy. I spend a disgusting amount of time learning about things that I'll probably never need to know about. I've always stressed the benefit of this to my Soldiers. Do your due diligence. Find factual information to support your claims and points of view. Don't settle for inaccurate, unsupported information. On the flip side, be prepared to be wrong, and accept that responsibility. That is really what this was all about. 900 bucks is nice, but I don't need it. It truly wasn't about that, and I made sure that everyone knew that. All I wanted was someone to SHOW me why, not just tell me. And I know that there are at least 10 people in my current location, INCLUDING ONE OF THE FINANCE EMPLOYEES I SPOKE TO, in the same predicament and me, that experienced the same treatment I got, and took the same course of action I did at first. I just accepted it and moved on. I'm not saying that Finance in general, or any other Army agencies, doesn't know what they are doing. I'm not trying to bad-mouth them. I'm just saying that sometimes, the system is just a little bit flawed.
Use the resources that are available to you.
Dig into regs and other forms of guidance.
Ask where you can find the regulatory guidance for the things you are told.
Do Your Due Diligence.