Upcoming OCOLA Changes to Affect Lakenheath Families

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Delanie Brown
  • 48th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

Airmen stationed throughout the United Kingdom will see a change in their overseas cost-of-living allowance beginning with their end of November paychecks. This is the first of two changes in OCOLA expected to impact RAF Lakenheath and RAF Feltwell Airmen as well as their family members.

Overseas Cost-of-Living Allowance is a non-taxable allowance designed to ensure service members assigned to a permanent duty station outside of the United States maintain an equivalent level of purchasing power as their counterparts stationed in the U.S. OCOLA calculations are based on a comparison to prices in the U.S. as well as a myriad of factors to include rank, time in service and number of dependents. If U.S. prices rise at a rate greater than overseas prices, OCOLA may decrease. Additionally, OCOLA may increase if overseas prices rise at a rate greater than U.S. prices.

“One thing to remember about this change in COLA,” said Lt. Col. Jacob Roney, 48th Comptroller Squadron Commander. “Is that instead of fluctuating every month based on the foreign currency exchange rate, Congress mandated it will only decrease every six months, this change will at least make it easier to track your leave and earnings statement and it will be stable every month.”

The Department of Defense updates OCOLA rates based on an assessment of three data points: the triennial Living Pattern Survey, the annual Retail Price Schedule and for foreign locations, changes in currency exchange rates, better known as currency fluctuations.

The triennial LPS determines where service members shop along with the portion of shopping that occurs on a military installation. RPS measures the cost of a 150-item market basket of non-housing goods and services from the stores where service members shop, such as groceries or clothing. Utilities or housing costs are accounted for separately through the housing allowance. Currency fluctuations measure for purchases typically made in a foreign retail outlet along with the relative purchasing power in a foreign currency as compared to the U.S. dollar.

“COLA is not designed to be considered in your budget,” said Roney. “It’s only designed to help offset the cost of things you normally shop for like groceries or clothing. Things that are relatively fixed costs like bills or car loans aren’t a part of your COLA calculation to begin with so in turn should not be considered a part of your budget.”

While the UK will be significantly impacted by the change in OCOLA, Airmen shouldn’t rely on OCOLA as a stable source of finance towards things like rent or car payments.

“My last piece of advice is something I tell my kids” said Roney, “ I tell them pay yourself first. So always put some money into savings, then pay your bills, then figure out how much is remaining for your expendable income.”

The Overseas COLA rate calculator can be found at:

Additionally, Military OneSource provides resources for service members and families such as:

Financial Counseling

Service members and families can also call Military OneSource at 800-342-9647