Frequently Asked Questions
Post Hardship Differential
Q: What is a post hardship differential?
A: 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.
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.
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.
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: Effective 6/28/2021 the Undersecretary of State for Management (M)
approved changes to the DSSR which allow continuation of the employee’s post
hardship differential for up to 30 consecutive days of temporary absence from
the employee’s foreign post of assignment. Note, though, per DSSR 532c Post Hardship Differential terminates close of business on the day the employee departs post on Home Leave, Home Leave/Return to Post, or Renewal Agreement Travel. Please review the changes to DSSR 530 for an employee assigned to a foreign
post and DSSR 540 for an employee on detail from a US or non-foreign post of assignment.
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 in foreign areas to environmental
conditions in the U.S. and assigning numeric weights based on the severity of
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.
8. Q: Is the post hardship
differential a percentage of our basic compensation?
A: Yes it is a percentage of basic compensation (DSSR 040k), is
included in gross income for Federal income tax purposes (DSSR 054.2), and is
paid only on days when paid basic compensation.
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: Effective 6/28/2021 the Undersecretary of State
for Management (M) approved changes to DSSR Chapter 500 affecting the Post
detailed from a foreign post of assignment (DSSR 530) - If an employee assigned
to a foreign post is detailed to another differential (or non-differential)
post, his or her permanent post hardship differential rate will “carry” for the
first 30 consecutive days. After the
30th day, post hardship differential will be paid at the rate for each detail
hardship differential post, however, see DSSR 533b when detailed to a DSSR
Section 920 post with a “footnote n” designation. See DSSR 532b for continuation of the post hardship differential when an employee is away from the detailed post.
When detailed from a US or non-foreign
area post of assignment (DSSR 540) - To be eligible for post hardship differential
when on detail from a US or non-foreign area post of assignment, an employee
must accumulate 30 days at one or more posts with a post hardship differential rate
of 5% or higher. The differential is
paid starting from the 31st day and
not for the initial 30 days, however, see DSSR 541.3 if detailed to a DSSR Section
920 post with a “footnote n” designation. See DSSR 541.4 for continuation of the post hardship differential when an employee is away from the detailed post.
12. Q: I
am on detail from a US or non-foreign area post of assignment (DSSR 540).
Do I have to restart the eligibility period if I spend a week in Paris (a post
with zero differential) between posts with hardship differential rates of 5% or
A: No, the time spent in a non-differential foreign post such as Paris
does not cause the eligibility period to reset as long as you do not return to
your US or non-foreign area post of assignment.
The 30-day eligibility requirement is cumulative days at one or more posts
with a post hardship differential rate of 5% or higher. See DSSR 541.3 if detailed to a DSSR Section 920
post with a “footnote n” designation when your first 30 days are consecutive at
one of these locations (as of July 2021, these locations are Afghanistan, Iraq
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 for State Department employees,
on DS-4235 (Presence at Post) which should be completed at the TDY location. If
you are a State Department employee, before leaving post obtain the signature
of a certifying official on line 12 of the form. The official is a manager at
post who can verify that the traveler was at post on the dates listed, such as
the FMO, employee’s TDY supervisor, etc. If no post manager is available to
certify your supervisor may certify and sign upon return. Each agency is
responsible for establishing its own policies/procedures for processing
payments. Check with your agency human resources or payroll office on approval/processing
14a. 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.
Effective 6/28/2021 the Undersecretary of State
for Management (M) approved changes to the DSSR which allow continuation of the
employee’s post hardship differential for up to 30 consecutive days of
temporary absence from the employee’s foreign post of assignment. Note, though, per DSSR 532c Post Hardship Differential terminates close of business on the day the employee departs post on Home Leave, Home Leave/Return to Post, or Renewal Agreement Travel. Please review the changes to DSSR 530 for an
employee assigned to a foreign post and DSSR 540 for an employee on detail from
a US or non-foreign post of assignment.
14b. Q: Please explain when I am on detail from a US or
non-foreign area post of assignment to a DSSR 920 location with a post hardship
differential rate as well as a footnote ‘v’ danger pay designation (DSSR 652g
A: From the day you arrive at the DSSR 920 post with a footnote 'v' danger pay designation, you get the equivalent
of the Uniformed Services Imminent Danger Pay (IDP) under DSSR 652g. The amount as of July 2021 is $225 a month, however, is paid at a daily rate. You don't get post hardship
differential, though, until you've put in 30 cumulative or consecutive days of
service there. For day 31 of detail
onward, you get the post hardship differential at the post's rate, but your IDP
stops close of business on day 30 because the post hardship differential
includes political-violence credit that was previously the basis for your IDP.
15. Q: What
is a DSSR Section 920 "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 2021, there are three countries designated as Footnote N
locations -- Afghanistan (effective 12/16/2001), Iraq (effective 3/23/03) and
Syria (effective 2/4/2018).
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 and
odd/year year is contained under "reporting schedule" for your
post. The post is required to submit the questionnaire every four
years. The Office of Allowances does an interim review at the two-year
17. Q: Do
I need my previous post hardship differential questionnaire to complete a
A: Yes. It is a good reference point, although you should not
duplicate old information from the previous report.
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."
Q.19. Is a post hardship differential ever set for
temporary environmental conditions?
A. The Office of Allowances (ALS) normally does
not change the post hardship differential due to temporary environmental conditions.
Posts that are due for an interim review
are reviewed according to our Standard Operating Procedure and if there are
signs for a need to change the post hardship differential then we ask the post
to submit a new hardship survey. Points are assigned to that post based on the
survey information measured against established standards agreed to by an interagency
committee. Only a certain number of
points may be credited for each category and once a post has gotten the maximum
points for that category they cannot get more credit in that area.
Last updated 3/8/2022