Navy sailors who earned increases in their housing allowances this year because they married or moved to a high-cost area are experiencing months-long delays to their pay boost – a situation that has forced some to take out loans to make ends meet.
Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society Vice President Gillian Gonzalez said her organization has seen an uptick in loan requests from sailors struggling to cover living expenses.
“This is happening a little bit of everywhere,” Gonzalez said in an interview with Military.com. “It doesn't seem to hit one geographic area more than another.”
Gonzalez couldn’t say exactly how many affected sailors have applied for loans, because the society counts them with all who made requests for help covering basic needs. Several sailors have taken to social media to describe delays and desperate efforts to obtain loans for living expenses.
According to Gonzalez, one sailor was not paid for three months as the result of an enlistment extension and pay error, and although the member’s command “worked daily to resolve the issue,” the sailor drained all savings.
Navy-Marine Corps Relief stepped in, delivering a $2,500 check to the sailor’s door because they were under COVID-19 quarantine, Gonzalez said.
Cmdr. Matt Knight, public affairs officer at Navy Personnel Command, said the Navy is required by the Department of Defense to process Basic Allowance for Housing change requests within 30 days, but delays do occur.
He declined to answer questions on how many sailors are affected by the current backlog or why it is happening.
“Navy Personnel Command and our subordinate commands take every measure to ensure the volume of transactions does not exceed our capacity, but occasionally backlogs do occur due to a variety of reasons. These backlogs are resolved as quickly as possible to limit the impacts to sailors,” Knight said.
One sailor took to Reddit to complain about her situation, saying she and her husband were married in July and still have not received their basic allowance for housing. Military.com corresponded with the sailor but was unable to confirm the details of her posts.
The couple, both petty officers third class living in the pricey Washington, D.C., area, have taken out commercial loans to cover expenses, according to the sailor’s Reddit post.
“My case has been open for over a month with NO action … I am just … Beyond frustrated,” the sailor wrote.
Other sailors on the social media site said it took more than a year to see their issues fixed.
A personnel specialist first class, who asked not to be identified because he is not authorized to speak with the press, said the root of the problem lies in the consolidation of personnel support and customer support detachments that began in 2017 and appears to be understaffed.
In September, MyNavy Career Center was established as a command -- an effort to improve services to sailors.
“Shutting down dozens of processing centers took that transaction load and dropped it in one building’s worth of people,” the petty officer wrote in a message to Military.com. “Our only means of communication with them is through [MyNavy Career Center, or MNCC], which isn’t always great because it’s [mostly] civilians with a knowledge database … all they can do is look up tickets and give a status.”
MNCC is the Navy’s human resources services center, often referred to as the MNCC call center or just MNCC.
The petty officer also called the 30-day timeline “laughable,” given that personnel specialists work on a sailor’s pay package and send it through a processing system that has 30 days to act on it.
That system usually takes another 30 days to process, followed by 30 to 45 days for review and release -- a course that can last three months or more.
“In a Hershey and Hallmark world, 30 days would be great,” he said.
Applications may be further delayed if there is an error in a sailor’s package. In the case of the sailor who posted her complaint on Reddit, her Record of Emergency Data and Dependency Application was hung up in the system for 75 days.
MNCC ended up canceling the application and resubmitting it – a change that usually restarts the clock.
“It essentially resets the first 30 days over and over until the personnel specialist or admin team gets it right,” the personnel petty officer told Military.com.
According to Knight, the consolidation effort of pay and personnel transactions has proven successful, having “increased standardization, reduced errors, improved pay accuracy and timeliness, and improved audit readiness.”
But the Navy is aware it has issues. In a Navy town hall in June, a petty officer first class asked Fleet Master Chief for Manpower, Personnel Training and Education Wes Koshoffer when the Navy planned to consolidate the differing personnel data websites – a move that would eliminate redundancy and reduce the opportunity for error.
Currently, when sailors undergo a change of status – marriage, birth, a move – they need to check in with the Navy Standard Integrated Personnel System, the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System, the Record of Emergency Data and Dependency Application and more.
“We built these 55 disparate systems over the last 50, 60 years to manage our HR, and they don’t’ talk to each other. They don’t translate well, and it gets dorked up,” Koshoffer admitted. But, he added, the “cavalry is coming.
“We’re dangerously close to launching this one system to rule them all that we call [Navy Personnel and Pay 2, or NP2, system] … we look to deliver early next year. It solves the vast majority of this,” Koshoffer said.
-- Patricia Kime can be reached at Patricia.Kime@Monster.com. Follow her on Twitter @patriciakime.