Roughly 175 junior sailors were forced to go without their Navy-provided rent money this fall due to a system hiccup that emerged as the service continues to transform its pay and benefits systems.
The issue arose in September and impacted petty officers 3rd class who were attending the Navy’s nuclear power training school in Goose Creek, South Carolina, officials confirmed this week.
Students in that pipeline are required to live off base when they attend the portion of their education known as the Naval Nuclear Power Training Unit, also known as “Prototype.”
But when those junior sailors began Prototype, they did not receive the $1,455 in basic allowance for housing, or BAH, that they are entitled to. Instead, the sailors had to reach into their own pockets to make rent.
Officials say the problem has since been fixed for all affected sailors, but multiple community members alerted Navy Times to the issue and reported that some junior sailors burned through savings, got help from family or took out loans to pay the rent.
The problem arose as the Navy continues to shut down its legacy personnel support detachments, or PSDs, which were brick-and-mortar locations at most bases where sailors could take any pay and paperwork issues, Navy Personnel Command spokesman Cmdr. Rick Chernitzer said.
Under the new model, a “transaction support center,” or TSC, at Naval Station Great Lakes, Illinois, handles all sailors in a student status, he said.
But during the shift to the new model, it emerged that the personnel support detachment in nearby Charleston “had incorrectly taken on some work the schoolhouse should have been doing” when it came to student sailor BAH, Chernitzer said.
Big Navy has framed the closure of PSDs and consolidation to TSCs as a move that will provide greater efficiency and customer service for sailors, but the PSD loss has caused headaches and disruptions across the fleet in recent years.
While TSC Great Lakes is now the hub of all sailor student transactions, a TSC detachment in Charleston will now process transactions for nuclear pipeline students to prevent such BAH issues from happening again, Chernitzer said.
The training command will also start processing BAH for entire graduating classes of nuclear pipeline students all at once versus one sailor at a time.
The Navy is also initiating a “significant reduction” in the amount of supporting documents required to start BAH and has changed internal systems to better track cases, according to Chernitzer.
Geoff is a senior staff reporter for Military Times, focusing on the Navy. He covered Iraq and Afghanistan extensively and was most recently a reporter at the Chicago Tribune. He welcomes any and all kinds of tips at firstname.lastname@example.org.