Answers to Frequently Asked Questions About
Post Hardship Differential
1. Q – What is a post hardship differential?
It is additional compensation of 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30 or 35 percent over basic compensation for service at places in foreign areas where conditions of environment differ substantially from conditions of environment in the United States.
2. Q – Why do posts that look just like my post have higher differential rates?
A – The posts most likely have hardship factors that are more severe than your post’s or hardship factors that your post does not have. For example, some of the medical facilities may be worse than conditions at your post or they could have a high crime rating and/or political violence when your post has low or no crime and political violence rating.
3. Q – Can we get a higher differential to compensate for the poor working conditions caused by the embassy building renovation and construction?
A – No. The hardships encountered due to the work environment are not applicable for the post hardship differential.
4. Q – I am traveling from my post to another country but unfortunately must transit the United States en route to my destination. Does my post hardship differential stop even though I am only transiting the U.S.
A – No, your post hardship differential will not stop when you enter the United States, as long as you are only transiting the U.S. and you take the earliest possible onward flight to your final destination. Even if you are forced to overnight in the U.S., your post hardship differential can continue as long as the sole purpose of your stay in the U.S. is to catch the next onward flight and you board the earliest possible flight the next day. If, however, you stay for more than a day (24 hours) to catch an onward plane, then the post hardship differential must terminate upon entry to the U.S.
5. Q – How do you determine the post hardship differential?
A – A numeric score is developed by evaluating the information included in post’s Form DS-267 against the post hardship differential standards. Form DS-267 provides detailed information on all facets of environmental conditions at post.
6. Q – Where did you get the post hardship differential evaluation standards?
A – The interagency committee on allowances (State Department and other agencies) developed the standards by comparing environmental conditions that make life difficult for employees living overseas to environmental conditions in the U.S. and assigning numeric weights based on the severity of the hardship.
7. Q – What is the purpose of the Post Hardship Differential Questionnaire (DS-267)?
A - The post hardship differential questionnaire is used to determine if a post qualifies for a post hardship differential and the appropriate level.
Post Hardship Differential Payment
8. Q – Is the post hardship differential a percentage of our basic compensation?
A – Yes it is a percentage of basic compensation (DSSR 040k) and is included in gross income for Federal income tax purposes (DSSR 054.2).
9. Q – Where can I find the post hardship differential rate for my post?
A – The latest rate for your post can be found on the Office of Allowances' intranet or internet web site under the link to Allowance Rates (Sec. 920). Changes in allowance/differential rates are transmitted in the form of a biweekly telegram and are also published as part of the full Table of Allowances in Section 920 of the DSSR.
10. Q – Is there a ceiling on payment?
A – There is no separate ceiling on payment of Post Hardship Differential. However, the aggregate pay cap of EX-I may impact payments received in a calendar year (DSSR 552).
11. Q – When is the post hardship differential allowed for temporary duty (TDY) assignments?
A – After 42 days in one or more hardship differential posts an employee on TDY may begin to receive the post hardship differential. See DSSR 541 as well as FAQ 14 below for limited continuation of eligibility when traveling to the US.
12. Q – I am TDY. Do I have to restart the eligibility period if I spend a week in Paris between hardship posts?
A – No, the time spent in a non-differential foreign post such as Paris will not count toward the 42 day eligibility period but it will not cause it to restart unless Paris is your post of assignment. See DSSR 541 as well as FAQ 14 below for limited continuation of eligibility when traveling to the US.
13. Q – Since I am not assigned to a hardship post, do I claim the hardship differential on my travel claim?
A – No, not on the travel claim, but on Standard Form 1190 (Rev. 07/2009). Complete the SF-1190 at the TDY location. If you are a Department of State employee, before leaving post have an authorized official there sign a memorandum stating that your TDY orders are to a hardship post. (Employees of other agencies need to check their agency’s implementing regulations on this point.)
14. Q - What happens to an employee's post hardship differential when the employee travels to the U.S. and then travels to a foreign country? Say you go to the U.S. for a few days then go to the Bahamas then return to post. Does the mode of transport make a difference? Say you went to the U.S. then went on a two-week cruise throughout the Caribbean.
A –There are a lot of "it depends" when answering differential commencement/termination questions. "Mode of transport" does not affect eligibility for differential. It is the employee's presence in the United States that is the main issue. Employees who are merely transiting the U.S. and are forced to stay for 24-hours or less due to circumstances beyond their control (i.e. required layover to change planes) are not considered ‘in the US’ for differential purposes. A stay of longer than 24 hours, however, could stop the differential; the differential would not restart until the employee again meets the eligibility criteria for "commencement" of differential.
The following may help you determine under what circumstances post differential commences and terminates.
1. Is the employee permanently assigned to a foreign post with a hardship differential? (Yes) (No) If yes, see below. If no, go to "2" below.
a) Differential begins the day the employee arrives at post under assignment orders.
2. The employee is on TDY to a hardship differential post from: another hardship differential post (see 1i); from a non-differential assignment - this could be a foreign post of assignment with zero hardship differential or U.S. post of assignment without hardship differential (see a –e below):
b) Differential continues while employee is at post.
c) For an employee without family remaining at post who leaves post under official travel orders to go to US (e.g. medical evacuation, training, consultations, etc.), differential stops the day he/she departs post. NOTE: An exception exists for footnote "n" posts: differential may continue for up to 30 days when the employee is in the United States.
d) For an employee with or without family members remaining at post who leaves post for "leave" (including R&R) in US, differential stops the day he/she leaves post for the US (unless s/he is assigned to a footnote "n" post; then the post hardship differential can continue for up to 30 days while employee is in the US (DSSR 532b)). But if the employee (not assigned to a footnote "n" post) spends some days in a foreign non-differential area en route to leave in the US, then the differential stops on the day of arrival in the US.
e) For an employee without family members who leaves post for "leave" (including R&R) or orders to a non-differential post in a foreign location, differential stops after 42 days.
f) When an employee returns to his/her foreign post of assignment, if differential was stopped, it restarts.
g) If an employee with family leaves post under official travel orders to go to US (e.g. medical evacuation, training, consultations, etc.) but leaves family members at the foreign post of assignment, differential continues for 42 days.
h) If an employee with family members remaining at the foreign post of assignment leaves post for "leave" (including R&R) in foreign location, differential stops after 42 days, whether family remains at post or not.
i) If an employee leaves foreign post of assignment on travel orders to another hardship differential post, the employee keeps his/her own post's differential rate for 42 days; on day 43 he/she begins to get the differential rate for the TDY post.
a) The employee is not eligible for differential until s/he has spent 42 cumulative days at one or more differential locations without returning to his/her non-differential permanent post of assignment. Differential is paid starting with day 43 (and not for the first 42 days qualifying period unless the 42 days were consecutive and all 42 days were at footnote "n" posts. Once the qualifying period of 42 consecutive days at footnote "n" posts is reached, at day 43 there is a look back to day one at a footnote "n" post(s) and hardship differential is paid for the first 42 consecutive days as well).
b) When the employee returns to his/her foreign post of assignment, TDY differential terminates and foreign post of assignment differential (of zero) restarts. If an employee is TDY from the U.S. and the employee returns to the U.S. for the convenience of the government and does not stay longer than 14 consecutive days (up to 30 days which can be for leave if TDY is to a footnote "n" post), the 42-day eligibility period is not considered interrupted and does not need to be restarted with a further TDY to a foreign differential or non-differential area.
c) If the employee has reached the 42 day eligibility for TDY differential and transits the US en route to another differential TDY location there are two scenarios. Scenario 1: Has not been TDY to a footnote "n" post; remains in the US 14 consecutive days or less; and the transit in the US is for the convenience of the government - differential ELIGIBILITY continues BUT no differential is paid during period in US. When the employee arrives at the next TDY differential post, there is no need to restart the 42-day eligibility period. Scenario 2: Has been TDY to a footnote "n" post for 42 consecutive days or longer; remains in the US for 30 days or less and may include leave - ELIGIBILITY continues AND differential is paid during period in US. When the employee arrives at the next TDY differential post, there is no need to restart the 42-day eligibility period.
d) If the employee remains in the U.S. more than 14 days (scenario 1 in 'c' above), or more than 30 days (scenario 2 in 'c' above), the employee on TDY will be required to meet the 42-day eligibility requirement on return to a hardship differential post.
e) Once eligibility stops, the employee must spend 42 cumulative days on TDY at one or more differential locations in order to become eligible again for post hardship differential on TDY. Note: days would need to be consecutive for the footnote "n" post qualifier described above at "2a".
15. Q - What is a "Footnote N" post?
A - Footnote N posts are ones where there are a significant number of U.S. military personnel in country who are or have been involved in hostilities, and a danger pay has been established for U.S.G. civilians. As of July 2013, there are two countries designated as Footnote N locations -- Afghanistan (effective 12/16/2001) and Iraq (effective 3/23/03).
Preparing the Post Hardship Differential Questionnaire
16. Q – When is my report due?
A – Look up your post in Section 920 of the DSSR. The due month is contained under “reporting schedule” for your post.
17. Q – Do I need my previous post hardship differential questionnaire to complete a new one?
A – Yes. When an interim report is due, you need to provide information on changes since the last submission, which is usually two years. If the full report is due, it is a good reference point, although you should not duplicate old information from the previous report.
18. Q – Can you give me some tips on preparing a quality report so my post can get the appropriate post hardship differential?
A – The Office of Allowances (A/OPR/ALS) has tips for completing the report on its intranet (not available on internet) web site under Tips/Forms. The first and most important step is to form a committee to include the experts for each hardship differential category (e.g., Regional Security Officer (RSO) for crime and political violence, Regional Medical Officer (RMO) and/or nursing staff for hospital and medical, regional psychiatrist for stress, etc.) to assist and advise on preparing the report.
Carefully read and fully respond to all questions. Give examples of how the situation impacts employees and family members at the post. For questions that require you to “check the box,” check the appropriate one and expound in writing. Review your “welcome to post” information, and your general information “Post Report” to ensure responses to questions in the post hardship differential questionnaire are consistent with the information in those publications. A/OPR/ALS must verify information reported in the post hardship differential questionnaire is consistent with that reported in the “Welcome To Post” kit and the “Post Report.”