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MCIPAC Communication Strategy and Operations

Okinawa Marines in the Asia-Pacific region

Okinawa, Japan
Japan COLA Rates Changing Soon

By Gunnery Sgt. Roger Nelson, U.S. Forces Japan Public Affairs | Marine Corps Installations Pacific | October 24, 2018


The Military Advisory Panel has approved the latest Cost of Living Allowance (COLA) rates for U.S. Service members based in Japan.

Four locations in Japan will see an increase in COLA rates, four will see a decrease and two will see no change from current rates.

Bases seeing an increase in COLA are Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Misawa Air Base, Commander Fleet Activities Sasebo, and Yokota Air Base. Installations that will see a decrease are Naval Air Facility Atsugi, Combined Arms Training Center Mt. Fuji, Camp Zama, and all installations in Okinawa. Yokohama North Dock and Commander Fleet Activities Yokosuka will see no change in COLA rates.

The updates to COLA rates were approved as a result of data that was collected from the Living Pattern Survey conducted in April and May for uniformed members.

Service members projected to receive an increase in their COLA will see it on their Nov. 15 paychecks while those service members whose COLA is decreasing will see the change reflected in their Dec. 15 paychecks.

"I encourage all of our service members to check the defense travel website to get a better understanding of their pay," said Chief Master Sgt. Terrence A. Greene, United States Forces, Japan command chief. "If our folks are concerned about the financial impacts of these changes, I encourage them to talk with their chain of command and take advantage of the financial planning resources the military makes available."

For additional information on COLA and the updated allowance rates, visit the Defense Travel Management Website, https://www.defensetravel.dod.mil/site/colaCalc.cfm



  Current Index  New Index Change
MCS Iwakuni  122 128 +6
Misawa AB 124 128 +4
Sasebo (CFAS) 122 124 +2
Yokota AB 118 122 +4
Yokohama 118 118 NC
Yokosuka (CFAY) 112 112 NC
NAF Atsugi 124 122 -2
Camp Fuji 124 118 -6
Camp Zama 130 126 -4
All Okinawa Bases 120 118 -2


 Frequently Asked Questions

 1. How were the updated amounts calculated?

From April to May 2018, uniformed members had the opportunity to take the Living Pattern Survey. Data obtained from this survey directly influenced the changes in COLA. 


2. When can we take the Living Pattern Survey again?

The survey only comes around once every three years. We anticipate the next opportunity for uniformed members to take the Living Pattern Survey is 2021.


3. When will I see a change in my pay if my COLA has increased or decreased?

For those locations receiving an increase, the change will be effective 1 November 2018. The increase will be reflected in the mid-November pay. For those locations receiving a decrease, the change will be effective 1 December 2018. The decrease will be reflected in the mid-December pay. The change will vary according to rank, marital status, and number of dependents and the exchange rate.


4. What is Overseas COLA?

The Cost-of-Living Allowance, or COLA, is paid to Service Members to partially offset high costs when stationed overseas (including Alaska and Hawaii). COLA helps maintain purchasing power so you can purchase about the same goods and services overseas as in CONUS. It does not reimburse expenses, but is designed to offset higher overseas prices of goods and services. It does not compensate for remoteness, hardship, or non-availability of goods and services.


5. How often is COLA adjusted?

COLA is adjusted once a year based on data furnished by the Commands overseas. For currency fluctuations, DTMO's Allowances Branch can adjust COLA as often as every payday. Of course, just as it takes time to process an allotment change, it takes a while for a COLA change to show up in your pay.


6. Is COLA affected by changes in the foreign exchange rates?

Yes. DTMO's Allowances Branch monitors foreign exchange rates throughout the year. As the amount of foreign currency your dollar "buys" changes, the DTMO's Allowances Branch increases or decreases COLA to maintain your purchasing power.


7. What if spending patterns have changed because of changes in the exchange rate?

When such changes occur, the Living Pattern Survey will be updated. An event such as the opening/closing of a commissary/exchange also may prompt a survey update.


8. Does the type of housing I occupy or my number of dependents affect my COLA?

Yes. If you are a member without dependents living in government quarters such as the barracks or aboard ship, you will receive less COLA to reflect your lower living expenses. If you are a member with accompanying dependents living in either on-base family housing or off base housing, your COLA will not be affected.


9. Will my COLA be the same every month until the next LPS is available?

No. COLA rates will fluctuate daily, as it changes with the exchange rates in Japan.


10. I received a decrease in my COLA and now I cannot pay my bills, what can I do?

Contact your leadership and let them know your situation. There are a number of different organizations and programs at the installation level that are available for service members and their families to assist with budgeting and financial planning.