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Service Members Get New Meal Rates

By Gerry Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 23, 1996 – Service members on temporary duty orders will receive a more flexible and simplified per diem meal rate.

Defense officials said a new per diem rate for meals, combining the average of onbase and locality offbase rates plus incidental costs is in place. Lodging isn't affected.

Lt. Col. Kay Moore, a compensation and entitlements officer with Army's deputy chief of staff for personnel, said the new system brings a different perspective to establishing per diem rates for meals.

The DoD comptroller has decided to simplify dining facility operations by charging one rate instead of several, Moore said. For TDY service members, the change reduces dining costs from $18.15 a day to $7 (breakfast, $1.50; lunch, $2.75, dinner, $2.75). Moore said commands approving temporary duty orders now decide on the appropriate rate based on availability and practicality of government meals.

The old system of adjustments based on availability or use of individual meals created extra recordkeeping and extra work in settling travel claims, according to personnel officials. Without the corresponding per diem reduction, travelers using the dining facility some of the time either were overpaid at the locality per diem rate or underpaid at the onbase rate.

"If the dining facility rate was changing, that meant that the per diem rate had to change as well," Moore s aid.

Officials issuing temporary duty orders and commanders of military school facilities will play key roles in determining an individual's per diem rate for meals. "They look at whether government meals are available where the individual is going," said Moore. She said they will also see if it's practical to use available government dining facilities based upon mission requirements.

The new "proportional meal rate" applies if:
  • The service member resides on base and has some access to a government dining facility, but the mission prevents the traveler from using the dining facility part of the time;
  • The government dining facility was thought to be available for all three meals, but that's not so;
  • The traveler has one or two meals on a given day included in a registration fee or otherwise provided free of charge. Meals on airlines and meals provided by friends and relatives aren't in this freeofcharge category.

Accounting agencies will also benefit from the new system, said Moore's coworker, Lt. Col. Susan Hardman. "Finance offices won't have to do a mealbymeal accounting deduction process anymore," she said. "The per diem rate is by the day; that's why it's simpler."

(Gilmore writes for the Army News Service in Washington.)

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