How to read an LES, ASAP!

LES 101: What it tells you and why you should examine it every payday

By: Claire Shackelford

When my husband first joined the military I had so many new names, acronyms, and forms thrown my way that I was sent into information overload. I had a very hard time prioritizing what item of business should be taken care of before another. Fortunately, I had a very wise and experienced Army wife who shared a sage piece of advice with me. I want to pass that along to you.

She said that as soon as the essentials were taken care of (such as making sure all of the information in DEERS is correct and housing is nailed down) to be sure to comb over my husband’s LES every single payday.

If an error is made and the military overpays your spouse, did you know they can and will take it back out of a future paycheck once the error is found? I have talked to a few wives who had not kept up with their husband’s LES and then the find out that there has been an error and the military will be taking a chunk of an upcoming paycheck. It has happened to some families, and much to their own financial chagrin.

Here are some pointers and basic information that will help you use the LES to keep yourself informed:

  1. Always know your spouse’s base pay and your BAH pay. The only time this should fluctuate is during training, after a PCS (adjustments for cost of living), and other normal raises and allowances. Always investigate any unexpected increase or decrease in pay. Be sure it is not an error. If you are not sure about an increase, never spend the money. Always set it aside until you are certain. Two things to remember: 1. If the Army owes you money they will pay it back in small increments. 2. If you owe the military money they normally take it out in one huge chunk! It’s better to have that extra money sitting in savings so that when it’s time to pay the military piper you are not left flat!
  2. If you are missing money on your LES report it immediately. Be sure to take the name of each person you may have to talk with, and be sure to get specific information such as when you can expect to see the money you are owed reflected on your LES.
  3. Know what information is on your LES and what it tells you. Following the LE displayed below is a key to help you understand what each line means (image from wikipedia) Continue reading beyond the picture for a detailed description of each item on the LES:

(The following information was found on www.dfas.mil)
Field 1 NAME. The member’s name in last, first, middle initial format.
Field 2 SOC. SEC. NO. The member’s Social Security Number.
Field 3 GRADE (or rank). The member’s current pay grade.
Field 4 PAY DATE. The date the member entered active duty for pay purposes in
YYMMDD format. This is synonymous with the Pay Entry Base Date (PEBD).
Field 5 YRS SVC. In two digits, the actual years of creditable service.
Field 6 ETS. The Expiration Term of Service in YYMMDD format. This is synonymous with the Expiration of Active Obligated Service (EAOS).
Field 7 BRANCH. The branch of service, i.e., Navy.
Field 8 ADSN/DSSN. The Disbursing Station Symbol Number used to identify each disbursing office.
Field 9 PERIOD COVERED. This is the period covered by the individual LES. Normally it will be for one calendar month. If this is a separation LES, the separation date will appear in this field.
Field 10 ENTITLEMENTS. In columnar style the names of the entitlements and allowances being paid. Space is allocated for fifteen entitlements and/or allowances. If more than fifteen are present the overflow will be printed in the remarks block. Any retroactive entitlements and/or allowances will be added to like entitlements and/or allowances.
Field 11 DEDUCTIONS. The description of the deductions are listed in columnar style. This includes items such as taxes, SGLI, Mid-month pay and dependent dental plan. Space is allocated for fifteen deductions. If more than fifteen are present the overflow will be printed in the remarks block. Any retroactive deductions will be added to like deductions.
Field 12 ALLOTMENTS. In columnar style the type of the actual allotments being deducted. This includes discretionary and non-discretionary allotments for savings and/or checking accounts, insurance, bonds, etc. Space is allocated for fifteen allotments. If a member has more than one of the same type of allotment, the only differentiation may be that of the dollar amount.
Field 13 +AMT FWD. The amount of all unpaid pay and allowances due from the prior LES.
Field 14 + TOT ENT. The figure from Field 20 that is the total of all entitlements and/or allowances listed.
Field 15 - TOT DED. The figure from Field 21 that is the total of all deductions.
Field 16 - TOT ALMT. The figure from Field 22 that is the total of all allotments.
Field 17 = NET AMT. The dollar value of all unpaid pay and allowances, plus total entitlements and/or allowances, minus deductions and allotments due on the current LES.
Field 18 - CR FWD. The dollar value of all unpaid pay and allowances due to reflect on the next LES as the +AMT FWD.
Field 19 = EOM PAY. The actual amount of the payment to be paid to the member on payday.
Fields 20 - 22 TOTAL. The total amounts for the entitlements and/or allowances, deductions and allotments respectively.
Fields 23 through 30 contain leave information.
Fields 31 through 36 contain Federal Tax withholding information.
Fields 37 through 41 contain Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) information.
Fields 42 through 47 contain State Tax information.

Field 48 BAQ TYPE. The type of Basic Allowance for Quarters being paid.
Field 49 BAQ DEPN. A code that indicates the type of dependent.

  • I - Member married to member/own right
  • R - Own right
  • A - Spouse
  • C - Child
  • W - Member married to member, child under 21
  • G - Grandfathered
  • D - Parent
  • K - Ward of the court
  • L - Parents in Law
  • S - Student (age 21-22)
  • T - Handicapped child over age 21

Field 50 VHA ZIP. The zip code used in the computation of Variable Housing Allowance (VHA) if entitlement exists.
Field 51 RENT AMT. The amount of rent paid for housing if applicable.
Field 52 SHARE. The number of people with which the member shares housing costs.
Field 53 STAT. The VHA status; i.e., accompanied or unaccompanied.
Field 54 JFTR. The Joint Federal Travel Regulation (JFTR) code based on the location of the member for Cost of Living Allowance (COLA) purposes.
Field 55 DEPNS. The number of dependents the member has for VHA purposes.
Field 56 2D JFTR. The JFTR code based on the location of the member’s dependents for COLA purposes.
Field 57 BAS TYPE. An alpha code that indicates the type of Basic Allowance for Subsistence (BAS) the member is receiving, if applicable. This field will be blankfor officers.

  • B - Separate Rations
  • C - TDY/PCS/Proceed Time
  • H - Rations-in-kind not available
  • K - Rations under emergency conditions

Field 58 CHARITY YTD. The cumulative amount of charitable contributions for the
calendar year.
Field 59 TPC. This field is used by reserves.
Field 60 PACIDN. The activity Unit Identification Code (UIC)

***********************************

If you experience any problems with your LES address them immediately. Be sure to take the name of the individual you talk with. This helps if there is any conflict in information shared.

35 Responses to “How to read an LES, ASAP!”

  1. John H Says:

    Very timely and useful information for all. Been a little over 16 years since I received one of these, I can understand each entry. Changed a little but not much.

    As always Claire, outstanding.

  2. Claire Says:

    Thanks John! I simply think back to when Bryan first joined… and then I say “What would have been helpful!?”

  3. Jill Says:

    Excellent information! When I was newly married, it was all gibberish to me. But since I’m very much a “need to know” type of gal, I marched my butt straight down to finance and asked them to explain the entire thing to me. They referred me to the AFTB classes on post, and those classes were my saving grace (and my husband’s, since he no longer had to answer a million questions a day from me. lol)
    I know the link to this blog is listed in the family section, but do you mind if I post the link in a forum post? I think it would be really, really helpful for a lot of the new spouses.

  4. Claire Says:

    Anytime you think a post here will help out in the forums, Jill, please feel free to share it!!

  5. Reading an LES - Knee Deep in the Hooah! Says:

    [...] LES 101: What it tells you and why you should examine it every payday [...]

  6. Lena Says:

    What does OWN RIGHT mean?

  7. Claire Says:

    Lena I think that “own right” is a legal term describing a dependent’s legal status. I don’t quite understand when it is used and when it’s not.

  8. MYLO Says:

    WHEN DO I GET MY +AMT FWD ITS BEEN ON THEIR FOR ABOUT 2 MTNS NOW

  9. Claire Says:

    MYLO since there are a lot of influencing factors on your pay that I can’t address, I can’t even guess when that will be released or why it’s on your LES. The only thing I can advise you to do is go to talk to the people at your military pay office on your base. If you are Reserves, call your personnel office.

  10. Nicole Says:

    Can you tell me more about what the TPC is for Reservists?

  11. Claire Says:

    Sure! Here’s what I found Nicole!

    Field 61 - TPC. This field is not used by the Active Component.
    Army Reserves and National Guard use this field to identify Training Program Codes.
    o A - Normal pay status code for a regular service member on regular duty.
    o C - Funeral Honors Duty.
    o M - Annual training tours over 30 days.
    o N - Death.
    o O - Training for HPSP, ROTC, and Special ADT over 30 days.
    o T - ADT over 29 days. (School)
    o U - Undergraduate pilot training, in-grade pilot, navigator, and advance flying training officers.
    o X - Stipend Tour of HPIP participants or subsistence for ROTC participants.
    o Z - Administrative and support training (exclusive of recruiting).

  12. cindy kennedy Says:

    My husband retained the state of Missouri, as his state of residence. During his deployment in Iraq. Also he did not change his VHA Zip, Which was his ex-wifes zip. While reporting to the State of Missouri, upon receiving child support checks, she also informed them that the only other thing she was getting from him was an allotment from his military pay. I find no allotments taken on his pay stubs. What could she have been getting?

  13. Military Forums Says:

    Great information. Thanks men. It’s been so long since I don’t get what really these means.

  14. Barney Laudermilk Says:

    Every day I get up and look through the Forbes list of the richest people in America. If I’m not there, I go to work. -Robert Orben

  15. Paul Says:

    I have a question. I recently separated from the Navy. My last LES says I have X amount in the CR FWD block. and my EOM is $0. When will I receive the money in the CR Fwd??? Thank you to any one can help.

  16. Nikki Says:

    Hello I am a navy PS and I just wanted to let you know that box 55 isn’t the amount of dependents a member has but a code used for bas and cola in this case the 0 stands for no bas is deducted from the persons pay. BAS deductions occur when the member has a galley meal plan and it is automatically deducted from pay. The code in that box determines deductions.

  17. Ruth Says:

    I still don’t get it my husbands pay goes up and down sometime we get more on the 1st and less on the 15th. Or we get very little the first and almost all of his check on the 15th. We have both talked to dispersing and they tell us everything is fine and we are getting paid the correct amounts. I just don’t know how they do the math because it never adds up.

  18. Shana Says:

    Hi, My husbands LES says SAVE PAY on line D under entitlements; does any one know what that means?

  19. mathews Says:

    hey,
    on my les it has pay releasd 341.09, support/comm debt 341.09 and prior spt/comm -341.09. what does these mean. please help me!

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