Military families who left Japan can get thousands of dollars in monthly expenses
Military families from Japan arrive at Travis Air Force Base in California last week.
April 1st, 2011
07:45 AM ET

Military families who left Japan can get thousands of dollars in monthly expenses

Families of U.S. service members in Japan who voluntarily left the country after the March 11 quake are entitled to as much $21,225 in living expenses for their first month back in the United States, according to Defense Department documents and officials.

That amount, based on one adult, one teenager and one child under 12 who chose to evacuate to Honolulu, decreases to about $11,000 in months two through six the family spends in a "safe haven," the place the family has chosen to spend their time away from Japan. Military families were given their choice of destinations in the continental United States, according Eileen M. Lainez of the Defense Press Office in Washington, but evacuation to Hawaii and Alaska was considered on a case-by-case basis. Civilian dependents were given their choice of destinations in the 50 states.

The amount varies by location and cost of living and could be considerably less. While the family could get $21,225 the first month for staying in Oahu, Hawaii, and almost $15,675 if it went to Santa Barbara, California, it would be authorized $9,225 for North Dakota or rural areas of North Carolina, for example, according to Defense Department figures.

The cited amounts are maximum figures, and families only get the exact cost of their housing, according to the Stars and Stripes newspaper, which first reported on the available per diem. But families do get their full meal per diem, Stripes reported, $3,075 for the three-person family in North Dakota and $6,375 in Hawaii.

More than 5,200 family members have come back from Japan through three airports - Seattle-Tacoma International, Denver International and Travis Air Force Base outside Sacramento, California, said Army Lt. Col. Mike Humphreys at U.S. Northern Command in Colorado.

The per diem allotments are generating some controversy in the military community, according to the Stripes report.

“The part that frustrates me the most is that people are saying ‘This is a paid vacation,’ ” Stripes quotes Trina Jackson as saying at Yokota Air Base outside Tokyo. "I’ve heard people say, ‘I felt completely safe, but I left because it was a paid vacation.’ ”

Comments on the Stripes report included some questioning the government's fiscal responsibility for offering paid trips to volunteer evacuees.

"Enjoy the per diem - believe me I would be stoked if I found out I rated per diem for something like this," a commenter identified as Josh wrote. "I just think it is amazing that the government would fund all these trips and per diem during a time of cutbacks and constant talk of fiscal responsibility."

A commenter writing under "The Real Way It Is" said, "Who ever authorized this cost the taxpayers millions of dollars and a head needs to roll, we are still paying for full services at each base!"

But "A Navy Wife" writes that evacuees aren't taking advantage, but letting their service member spouses concentrate on their jobs. "I left to give him three less things to worry about," she says, referring to herself and their pets. "For you to sit there and tell me that that the reason I left was because I'm some gold digger is an insult to me, my husband and to yourself."

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Filed under: 2011 tsunami • California • Earthquake • Hawaii • Japan • Military • Natural Disasters • North Carolina • North Dakota • Tsunami • World
soundoff (291 Responses)
  1. R

    I am one of those out on a ship who flew my family home before the Voluntary Evacuation, because I was and am still on a ship helping the relief efforts. I pushed my wife to leave, because the unknown was not worth it, at that point I did not care how much it cost to get them to a safer location. Plane Tickets cost for 3 over $4000.00 , my wife and kids (9 and 5) spent the night at the Narita Airport waiting for their flight, because Hotels were booked or to far away due to traffic. So after arriving in the states, they had to then pay for a follow on flight to their desination to live with family! My wife and kids are living with her parents, sleeping on sofa beds and only two suitcases each. Did they have the option to stay in a hotel? Yes, but due to the earthquake, the Tsunami and the fear of radiation my family wanted to be with family! Not on Vacation!!. My kids were in school, within 5 days of arriving back in the states, and continue to have issues adjusting. I have rented a car for my wife to take them back and forth in the snow to school, the transportation repayment of $25 a day is not covering the cost of the rental. Since my family is staying with family there is no reimbursement for lodging. The only pier diem that we will receive is for food which comes out to $50 a day for my spouse and $25 per day for each child (under 12) due to the location and current pier diem rate. They might pay for part of my plane tickets, at the government cost, not the military discount price of $1350 per ticket last minute. So, I might get back $400 per ticket, so if this goes a total of 30 days based on all my estimated expenses and the pier diem, here is what I expect to receive. Just so you know, If this goes past 30 days you only receive 50% of the pier diem rate for the remaining timeframe. Here is the total amount my family could receive:
    Plane tickets My Cost Govt Reimbusrement
    4000 1200 (400 each ticket)
    Car Rental 1000 ($250 a week) 750 ($25 a day)

    Food/Clothes/Misc 1500 ($50 a day est.) 3000 ($50 spouse, $25 each child under 12 per day)
    Totals $6500 $4950

    As you can see, I am not making anything off this deal, and every family I know who left is staying with family or friends and because of that they are not able to receive any lodging compensation, even if they are paying rent to their family or friends. NO exceptions! So, please continue to complain about how our families are abusing the system.

    April 1, 2011 at 10:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Active Duty Comptroller

      R, alot of military personnel do use the loopholes in the system to "steal" money. As far as per diem for housing, all you have to do is have the family member charge you rent for staying there and give the bill to the disbursing office and it should be paid no questions asked.

      April 2, 2011 at 2:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jig101

      Actually, you will not be given money for housing if you are staying with a friend or relative, even if they write you A bill. It has to be a bona fide hotel or rental lease. IF you are renting from family, they cannot be living in the house too. Some people may try to exploit this, however we've been back 10 days and have been checked on twice already to verify info.

      April 3, 2011 at 1:30 am | Report abuse |
  2. Raymond Domminguez

    How about when the first lady went to Spain with her entourage.

    April 1, 2011 at 11:03 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Raymond Domminguez

    Thanks for trying to explain it to these people who are ready to jump to conclusions.How about when the first lady and her entourage went to Spain.

    April 1, 2011 at 11:11 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Guest

    This is what I want all you upset people to imagine: You are minding your own business at home (a foreign country you were sent to at the direction of the military, not by choice) and suddenly there are not one, not two but THREE major disasters unmatched in history. You not only experience the 9.0 quake but all 275 aftershocks over the following 3 days. Ace reporting from our friends here at CNN basically sensationalize the situation at the nuclear plant so you fear radiation exposure for yourself and children. Then your tap water has radiation and can't be given to your infant. Now the hospital is handing out potassium iodide tablets. Remember you are continually feeling aftershocks and new quakes. Now the State Dept issues a Voluntary Assisted Departure and DoD follows suit. So you have a day, maybe two to figure out where in the lower 48 (Hawaii and Alaska had to have a waiver signed to go there) you would like to spend an unknown amount of time. Go register and wait. Come to base and wait. Go to other base and wait. Get on plane, land, get on another plane. You have now arrived at your "safe haven" – maybe you have family there, maybe not. But you have no car. If you are lucky to stay with family. Otherwise you need to find a hotel for you, your children and your pets (because you would be in trouble if you abandoned them). Now you have to eat – maybe you found a place with a kitchenette maybe not. You have to enroll your children in a new school (somehow, remember you don't have a car). Oh, and don't forget that your spouse remains in the devastated area possibly receiving this major radiation exposure that CNN purports and hypes it to be (that is one of the reasons you decided to leave after all).

    Can anyone who has been on vacation or stayed in a hotel really say that the lack of kitchen facilities makes your cost of meals significantly increase? Per diem – the family only gets the meal portion given to them. They pay out of pocket up front and are reimbursed later (so make sure you have all that money stashed away to pay up front). On a PCS for military you pay up front for your hotel. In 10 days you can accrue upwards of $1000 (that is a $100/night room all taxes, fees included). And it can be 2 weeks before you see that reimbursement (after you submit the paperwork and receipts). By the time you see it you will have paid your 10 days at least twice. And a PCS you plan for in advance. Remember you only had a few days notice.

    WOW!! Not sure what you disgruntled people do on vacation but that sure isn't my idea of one. You don't even have the facts – not everyone was allowed to go to Hawaii. Initially you couldn't go there at all – then it was only with a waiver. So there aren't a lot of people drinking Mai Tai's on the beach as you all seem to believe. But, you believe CNN so that explains a lot!

    April 2, 2011 at 3:23 am | Report abuse |
    • Guest

      Oh and remember everyone was already evacuated and had chosen their "safe haven' BEFORE this was decided!!!!

      April 2, 2011 at 3:59 am | Report abuse |
  5. Elsie

    I am one of those military spouses that participated in the 'authorized departure'. Yes, I would like to know where I can collect that thousands of dollars the writer talks about. I would also like to know who thinks this authorized departure is a paid vacation because I'm not sure if the anxiety and stress I feel on a daily basis since I left the comforts of my own home, albeit in a sterilzed govt quarters but my own home nonetheless, is worth it. Yes it was voluntary, but the article failed to mention that if we chose to stay our kids' health, in my case my three and six year olds, might be affected due to nuclear radiation exposure. Not to mention the fact the earth had not stopped moving since the 9.0 earthquake happened might traumatize many families for a while, or that there were still rolling black outs, or transportation systems still not at 100%, or that our active duty spouses who were out there helping out with Operation Tomodachi unable to think clearly because they have not seen to see their own family months before or since the tsunami, earthquake and nuclear reactor failure, and so forth. So you know, we still had a choice. Maybe the article meant to say the military collected 'thousands' of military families and put them in airplanes to be dispersed in many different states and were not told how long they will be homeless, good luck living out of a couple of suitcases and dealing with their kids and finding families and friends that will take them in for however long.

    So, If anyone knows how to get this thousands of dollars CNN wrote about let me know! Because from my own experience all I've been told is to pack your valuables and clothes in one suitcase, if you have pets good luck taking them with you, find a 'safe haven' for you and your kids, here are your plane tickets and don't call us, we'll call you when your family can return to your home.

    April 2, 2011 at 3:28 am | Report abuse |
    • H

      I have been told the same thing.

      April 3, 2011 at 11:44 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Name*guest

    I got a friend who was one of the so suffering wives she is in California buying her self brand name bags at the san diego nex and just got her self an ipad now u tell me if she is suffering

    April 2, 2011 at 3:58 am | Report abuse |
    • AD

      she bought those with her own money because the per diem is reimbursed, not up front....

      April 2, 2011 at 5:43 am | Report abuse |
    • AD

      and if she is scamming... hopefully she is brought to justice. But, what does that say about you. You are friends with this person, and if we use the same logic the majority of these posters and the author of this article presented, because you are associated, you must be guilty of the same...birds of the same feather flock together.
      But, back to my original point. She wasnt given a check of $50,000 to evacuate. she has to send in paperwork o justify reimbursement, meaning receipts. The Navy will not pay her for buying purses and ipads. They will reimburse food and lodging if they are coming out of pocket. and she will get per diem. unless they got the advanced pay, if that is the case, she still has to show receipts. So the great part is...if she is scamming...and they find out they were "over paid" they will take the money back. so that should please you.

      April 2, 2011 at 6:04 am | Report abuse |
    • Another military spouse

      You have to provide receipts in order to receive per diem... It's just like any other PCS move. They will only reimburse what you paid out of pocket for.

      April 2, 2011 at 10:00 am | Report abuse |
    • Active Duty Comptroller

      Name*guest and repliers,

      April 2, 2011 at 2:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Active Duty Comptroller

      Name*guest and repliers,
      She will get away with it because yes you have to have receipts for transactions but the fidelity of those receipts are not checked. All she has to do is have someone she knows make a receipt;actual receipt not hand written, for her showing the money was spent on something else.

      April 2, 2011 at 2:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Another military spouse

      Not every knows to have another person write up the receipt, and for the most part, hotels don't do handwritten receipts. It's easier to be caught than you are letting on. And most people are not that dishonest. The expenses are not reimbursable. And if I were the original poster, *if* your *friend* is really doing that, then the responsible thing to do is report it to her husband's IG, as it's fraud, waste, and abuse. The only reason people get away with defrauding the government is that the "friends" let them get away with it.

      April 2, 2011 at 3:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • AD

      I wouldnt know to forge a receipt. sounds like you have some experience. Maybe if you didnt spend so much of your own time finding ways to get over, you wouldn't think so poorly of your fellow service member.

      April 3, 2011 at 7:00 am | Report abuse |
  7. Active Duty Comptroller

    I am in the USMC and my MOS is 3451; Financial Management Resource Analyst. Over here in MCAS Cherry Point,North Carolina we have been doing some figuring and it is ridiculous what these spouses are being paid to "evacuate." They shouldnt be paid any different than if they were just going home or "vacation" for normal reasons. I wish I could send my wife to Hawaii and be paid 20k a month. They'll be put in government housing and then pretty much will be pocketing most of the money.

    April 2, 2011 at 7:58 am | Report abuse |
    • Another military spouse

      I think it's sad that you have such a disdain towards military wives. I was active duty too, and I can assure you that I don't sit around eat bon-bons, spend my husband's money, and expect a nice little vacation out of a natural disaster. I can't speak for earthquakes, tsunami's, and nuclear melt downs, but I can speak for what a minor disaster does to someone psychologically. I was in a explosion near my home, that sent out a plume of toxic chemicals into the air. Let's just say, 9 years later I'm still recovering from that one psychologically. I was lucky, in that I had no children at the time (I do now). I can assure you that this is the farthest thing from a vacation that you can even imagine. From the stress alone, I was physically ill for months after the explosion. I'm sure they aren't living it up in Disney World or Hawaii or some other tropical destination.

      April 2, 2011 at 3:45 pm | Report abuse |
  8. YJ

    I disagree with anyone saying these military families are taken a free vacation. These military families have decided to place their dependents safety above all other concerns. If anyone is taken advantage of the system they will be caught and have to paid the money back. If they are not caught then that's an issue of integrity that they have to live with and things have a way of coming back. I don't think anyone has the right to stand in judgement of another person. Finally unless you have lived there and experience the horror they went through you can't say what you would do given the choice to leave or stay. By the way I am not one of the evacuee's just an concerned taxpayer.

    April 2, 2011 at 11:04 am | Report abuse |
  9. Denise

    This is an absurd amount of money that can be better spent elsewhere in our country.

    April 2, 2011 at 12:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • AD

      let me guess, something that benefits you directly? selfish.

      April 3, 2011 at 7:06 am | Report abuse |
    • Eiiva

      I evacuated with my eleven month old because the hospital called and told me it was in his best interest for us to leave. I had to say goodbye to my husband who will probably miss his first birthday, plus his first steps! We didn't want to leave, but felt we had to! I pay everything out of pocket, and miss my husband everyday! I'm not money hungry I'm just worried about my kid!

      April 4, 2011 at 12:24 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Ronni

    Hello everyone,
    Don't be so quick to believe CNN is reporting facts! I mean seriously, don't you know that the news is a business, they want your business! What better way to get it than half-truths, gossip and sensational stories! The supposed news in the US is no better than the gossip magazines at the supermarket check-out stands. If you want the actual truth you have to find it yourself, you can't trust the news.

    April 2, 2011 at 2:36 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Joel Raes

    Alot of stuff being said here. I think we need to find better lower cost solutions.

    Thanks,

    Joel Raes

    April 3, 2011 at 4:38 pm | Report abuse |
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