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Need more OCOLA? A 30-minute survey could make it happen

JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- From a single cart of groceries that can cost more than $500, to higher gas prices, living in the Last Frontier can quickly burn a hole in your wallet.

Uniformed service members in Alaska have the opportunity to influence their Overseas Cost of Living Allowance and keep more of their hard-earned dollars.

A web-based Living Pattern Survey, conducted every three years, will become available for one month to service members and their families across Alaska beginning Dec. 1.

“Each service member should complete the survey to give us accurate data that reflects economic reality,” said U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Ben Manalastas, Alaska COLA country coordinator. “The survey will be open for 30 days and everyone’s involvement is critical to ensuring service members across Alaska receive the appropriate allowance. We also encourage service members to gather input from their spouses, especially if they do most of the household shopping.”

OCOLA is a supplement designed to match the purchasing power of service members stationed at stateside locations. In other words, the supplement helps offset costs of goods and services which are typically higher in overseas locations compared to the Lower 48.

The purpose of the survey is to identify where service members and their families shop for necessities like groceries and clothing, along with where they spend their money dining out or on personal products and services, car repairs, entertainment, and so on.

The data collected from the LPS will establish the building blocks for the Retail Price Survey. The Retail Price Survey is conducted annually by select individuals who collect prices from the most frequent establishments (derived from the LPS) on and off the installation. Once all price collections are completed, the data is sent to the Defense Travel Management Office.

This data is then analyzed and used to compare prices from overseas to those in the Lower 48 to compute the Cost of Living Index, which is used to develop the country’s COLA rate.

For more information on this process, visit the DTMO website at www.defensetravel.dod.mil/site/cola.cfm.

To prepare for the Living Pattern Survey, Manalastas recommends service members make a list of where they purchase groceries, clothing, household furnishings, entertainment, communications and transportation prior to the survey opening.

The web-based questionnaire will take approximately 30 minutes to complete and can be done from any computer at www.defensetravel.dod.mil/site/colaSurvey.cfm?ID=alaska.

For more information, contact SSgt Nancy Osborne at 377-1628 or Master Sgt. Jennifer Britton at 377-4032.