Expert's View

If you didn’t know it already, many federal civilian employees who are members of the reserve forces of the United States or the National Guard and are called to active duty are entitled to what is called a reservist differential. Agencies must pay this differential when an employee’s projected civilian pay for a pay period exceeds the actual military pay and allowances they would receive for that pay period. This requirement has been in effect since March 15, 2009.

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It should surprise no one that the implementation of this requirement has been spotty. Like so many laudable goals, it’s been a nightmare to achieve.

On April 14, OPM director John Berry sent a memo to all agencies of government urging them “to work diligently to identify employees with qualifying active duty service, and as appropriate, calculate and make reservist differential payments as soon as possible.”

In addition he has asked each agency to provide him with an estimate of the number of employees with active duty service between March 11, 2009, and the date of his memo that have qualifying service, regardless of whether they are eligible for the differential or are actually receiving it. Agencies that don’t have any such employees are asked to provide a negative report. Those who are unable to provide an estimate are asked to explain why.

Meanwhile, the Defense Finance and Accounting Service is working with the Office of the Secretary of Defense to provide detailed guidance, including a fact sheet, that will lead to the identification of eligible employees and assist DoD personnel offices to authorize payment, without waiting for its employees to submit paperwork.

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The National Business Center of the Department of the Interior began processing claims manually in February and the National Finance Center in April. GSA’s National Payroll Branch is now ready to accept reservist differential claims from its client agencies and automatically process those claims starting in May.

In time this will all be sorted out and the differentials paid. However, for the next few months, the results are likely to be spotty.