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Financial Services Center prepares to process travel vouchers for Irma evacuees

Finance Hurricane Claims Assistance

628th Comptroller Squadron financial services technicians assist members of the 437th Maintenance Squadron with their travel vouchers, Sept. 20, 2017, at Joint Base Charleston, S.C., following their return from evacuation for Hurricane Irma. Technicians assigned to the Air Force Financial Services Center, one of six primary subordinate units assigned to the Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center, expect to process approximately 8,000 claims for Air Force evacuees assigned to bases in the evacuation zone. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. William O’Brien)

Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas (AFNS) -- Air Force Financial Services Center officials anticipate processing approximately 8,000 travel vouchers filed by Airmen who evacuated in advance of Hurricane Irma.

The hurricane, which hit Florida Sept. 10, 2017, and later moved across Georgia and the Carolinas, forced evacuations at Patrick and MacDill Air Force Bases in Florida and Joint Base Charleston in South Carolina. While evacuation orders were not issued at other bases, large contingents of Airmen assigned or temporarily assigned to other bases in the evacuation zone may have also been impacted.

“The AFFSC’s many responsibilities include coordinating travel entitlements and paying evacuation claims when those events occur,” said Gary Gualano, AFFSC director. The Center is one of six primary subordinate units assigned to the Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center.

Greg Hansel, AFFSC branch chief responsible for the team that will process the claims, said approximately 15 technicians will be assigned initially with others assisting, as needed, to get the job done.

“We provide our technicians specialized training and review the evacuation and travel orders because every evacuation is a little bit different,” said Hansel, who emphasized AFFSC’s involvement is a vital piece of the equation since the center makes the payments at the end of the process. They work closely with base-level finance offices, AFIMSC travel staff, AFIMSC detachments and the Air Force Accounting and Finance Office in Washington, D.C., to ensure Airmen who were displaced receive timely and accurate travel claim entitlements.

“We can’t do what we do without close coordination with our partners,” he said. “For example, staffs at the base finance offices are really on the front line assisting evacuees with all sorts of questions that arise.”

Gualano said the team’s careful coordination helps ensure Airmen and their families understand their entitlements, that travel orders are correct based on the evacuation order, and supporting base finance offices understand what is required for the center to pay an evacuation travel claim once an Airman files.

Hansel offered advice for evacuees who plan to file claims, beginning with the importance of reading the evacuation order from the wing commander and complying with his or her instructions.

“Evacuees must keep copies of all lodging receipts and receipts over $75,” he said, “as well as note the amount of mileage they drive.”

“When you have multiple bases and multiple major commands involved, lines of communication are challenged,” Hansel said. “We work closely with our partners so that we have a consistent voucher that is computable and payable quickly. Collaboration and communication are the keys to make this process successful.”

Evacuees who follow Hansel’s advice will help AFFSC technicians process the claims more quickly and, in doing so, help Airmen get back on their feet.

“The hurricane hit during a busy time of year for base finance offices,” Hansel said, with fiscal year closeout approaching. He complimented the incredible work being done at impacted finance offices, especially since they too were impacted by the storm.

Meantime, financial service technicians continue to work through a significant work queue of summer permanent change of station travel claims, and will now surge to take care of evacuees.

“We consider it a great honor and privilege to serve fellow Airmen in their time of displacement,” Hansel said. “Our desire is to pay the vouchers as quickly and accurately as we can to help reimburse costs incurred during the storm.