Travel Entitlement Appeals Start at DFAS

Defense Department travelers who are denied travel entitlements by their local finance office have a right to appeal the decision to the Defense Finance and Accounting Service.

Ultimately, either the Defense Office of Hearings and Appeals or the Civilian Board of Contract Appeals have final authority to settle claims, said Christine Boggs, a financial systems specialist within the Enterprise Solutions and Standards’ travel functional area at DFAS.

However, travelers must first seek a decision through DFAS, according to the Department of Defense Financial Management Regulation. If travelers do not accept the DFAS decision, they may appeal their case to the higher authority.

“We have input on all DoD civilian and military travel cases that enter the appellate process,” said Tom Spahr, the area’s director. “We essentially act as the court of appeals.”

What to Include in a Claim

Appeal cases consist of the claim’s documentation, the traveler’s written explanation of circumstances, the agency’s written endorsement, and the finance office’s letter of position to support the decision to deny payment, Boggs said.

“Once cases are received, an analyst must review the case documentation and research the pertinent travel regulations, as well as any existing case precedents from previous appeal rulings,” she said. “This review can often be time consuming. One recent case had over 600 pages of documentation submitted by the appellant.”

John St Myers, a senior analyst, has been performing this type of review since the 1990s when stationed in San Diego.

“It’s definitely more art than science,” St Myers said. “Regulations change. Something that might have been allowable last year might not be allowable now.”

One example is flat rate per diem for extended temporary duty, he said. Since November 2014, even if a trip ends early, travelers are only entitled to 75 percent of the per diem rate if their orders have them staying at one location for 31-180 days, and it drops to 55 percent for longer stays. Before the joint travel regulations change, they were entitled to the full per diem regardless of the length.

“It’s not just the regulation; it’s the intent of the regulation that comes into play,” he said.

The travel regulations themselves can be daunting.

The joint travel regulations are nearly 2,000 pages long with appendices. Add to that the applicable portions of other regulations and policy guidance, and it’s a lot to digest, Spahr said.

"Each appeal case is unique,” Boggs said. “It’s interesting to see how the board judge will rule, whether they will find in favor of the agency or the appellant. Sometimes the board finds in favor of the appellant, and it sets a case precedent that changes the way DFAS processes similar types of claims from that point on."

Page updated August 21, 2015