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“Paying” attention

Tech. Sgt. Andria Allmond, a 111th Attack Wing photojournalist, poses with faux receipts at Horsham Air Guard Station, Pa., Sept. 1, 2016.

Tech. Sgt. Andria Allmond, a 111th Attack Wing photojournalist, poses with faux receipts at Horsham Air Guard Station, Pa., Sept. 1, 2016. The military pay team at Headquarters Readiness and Integration Organization has been looking closely at incoming documents for signs of fraud, waste and abuse. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Christopher Botzum)

BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colorado --

The military pay team at Headquarters Readiness and Integration Organization has been taking a closer look at incoming documents for fraud, waste and abuse. Although most Airmen file their vouchers accurately and do their best to account for their expenses, HQ RIO has found a few who try to take advantage of the system.

“It’s a problem that not only affects the AFRC budget, but also affects all the other IRs who are following the rules,” said Lt. Col. Freddie J. McMillan, Jr., HQ RIO military pay division chief. “We are keeping an eye out for anything out of the ordinary.”

What the team is watching out for is anything that may be deceitful. The term FWA covers the intentional deception to deprive the Air Force of resources and funds, he said, referencing Air Force Instruction 90-301. In the case of military pay, a few members have claimed money from travel that isn’t rightfully theirs for reimbursement.

“Air Force integrity has always been essential,” said Col. Amy Boehle, HQ RIO commander. “HQ RIO staff and I are responsible to ensure all of our IRs are taken care of. Those few who attempt to deceive and take advantage of the system will be held accountable so we can correctly reimburse the vast majority of our members who do things the right way.”

The HQ RIO military pay team handles ticket responses and voucher payments for nearly 8,000 Individual Reservists world-wide and has been meeting their required turn-around time, which HQ RIO calls “service level agreements”. McMillan explained how members who produce the proper documentation and receipts, supporting the time frame and allowable expenses, walk through the voucher process in record speed.

McMillan said his team processes the same documents on a day-to-day basis, so they know what authentic receipts look like. The technicians know the difference between government rental cars, free upgrades and member requested upgrades. So falsified documents typically stand out from the rest.

Their trained eyes and focus help maintain at least 95 percent accuracy on vouchers paid to members and have caught discrepancies ranging from a few dollars to thousands.

In a recent case, a member submitted a receipt for a high-priced apartment the member claimed to stay at while on short-term orders, but the receipt did not look right and was flagged for further review.

“Our team researched the address and location and discovered the receipt was fraudulent,” McMillan said.

The team then audited the entire claim, researched the other requested entitlements and referred to the Judge Advocate office for guidance on an investigation.

More commonly, McMillan’s team sees unusual claims for purchases of under the $75 threshold, likely because they don’t require a receipt (per DoDI 5154.31, Vol. 3). “We’ll see claims of fuel charges for $74.99 a day, for each day of their trip,” he said.

Those, and even lesser dollar amounts, may bring up red flags and require an audit. If a member simply made a mistake and can provide documentation (such as a receipt), the error can be corrected and processed easily. But intentionally claiming money for the member’s financial gain can cost much more than the amount on the voucher.

“Because these are serious crimes, a member can be subject to the UCMJ [Uniform Code of Military Justice],” McMillan said.

“Our Individual Reservists do amazing things every day to protect and serve the American people, and that includes protecting their taxpayer dollars,” said Boehle.  “It’s our responsibility to ensure that happens, and the RIO travel reimbursement office is doing a great job keeping an eye out for things that don’t add up.”