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CHIPS Articles: Streamline Pay Changes by Using Web Technology

Streamline Pay Changes by Using Web Technology
By Jim Pitt - April-June 2001
The Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) has introduced its new Employee/Member Self Service (E/MSS) system which allows Department of Defense (DoD) customers to access their pay record and update certain payroll information directly, without having to fill out any paper forms. Active and reserve military members, all DoD civilian employees, military retirees and annuitants can now use E/MSS.

Access to the system is available via the Internet using a personal computer (PC) or through an Interactive Voice Response System (IVRS) using a touch-tone phone. E/MSS provides the convenience of accessing the system either at home or the office nearly 24 hours a day, seven days a week, without the problems involved with paperwork.

E/MSS allows 5 million potential users to review or make changes to their Federal tax information, financial allotments (not available to annuitants), home or correspondence address and their direct deposit or electronic funds transfer (EFT) information. Initially, Army, Navy and Air Force military members will only be able to do Federal tax changes and direct deposit/EFT changes. Later this year, they will be able to process allotment and address changes. In addition, as part of phase two, E/MSS will allow all customers to make state tax changes; start, stop, or change savings bonds; and view and print their wage and tax statement (W-2).

Another benefit of E/MSS is the ability for civilian employees and Marine Corps active and reserve members to view and print their leave and earnings statement (LES) online. The remaining military members will have this capability later this year. E/MSS also gives the customer the option of turning off the mailed hardcopy LES, saving the Department funds that can be used to support other DoD Services and Agencies. The LES sent via E/MSS virtually mirrors the existing hardcopy LES and is transmitted using the same strong encryption protocol. And if you forget to print one, E/MSS will be able to display your current plus the prior two LESs. E/MSS also eliminates any mail delays in receiving the hardcopy LES. In most cases, the electronic LES will be available up to two days prior to the pay date.

Designed to be a user-friendly system, E/MSS has a help feature to ensure customers can view or make the desired changes with little or no difficulty. If a customer elects to make a change, the transaction is saved and sent to the payroll system the next day for update. Employees and members no longer have to wait until their leave and earnings statement is issued to see that an action was processed. Operating in a near real-time environment, E/MSS allows users to go back into the system a few days later and actually see that their payroll record has been updated. Active duty Army, Navy and Air Force members' transactions will be able to be viewed the following month after the action was submitted. Customers who prefer the existing method of doing business can still visit their Customer Service Representative (CSR) for civilian employees or Field Support Unit (FSU) for military members to submit a hardcopy form.

To use E/MSS, DoD employees and military members will receive a Personal Identification Number (PIN) letter. This letter provides the web address and IVRS phone number needed to access E/MSS. It also contains a temporary PIN. Individuals will need this temporary PIN, combined with their social security number to access and use E/MSS. The first time a user signs onto the system, they will be required to customize the temporary PIN for future use. E/MSS offers an online PIN change capability so an employee or member can change their PIN as often as they wish. E/MSS has also developed an online validation process in the event a customer forgets their PIN. This allows customers to obtain another PIN immediately, rather than having to wait while a new PIN is generated and mailed to them. Temporary PIN letters for military members were mailed in January 2001.

There are a number of security features built into the design of E/MSS. E/MSS will only allow access with browsers that support 128 bit encryption and secure socket layer technology. E/MSS also requires that JavaScript be enabled to ensure an employee or member's data is not compromised by another individual accessing their data. To ensure E/MSS has the most stringent security measures in place, DFAS has followed the guidelines established in the DoD Defense Information Technology Security Certification and Accreditation Process. E/MSS security was coordinated with the Office of the Secretary of Defense Command, Control, Communication and Intelligence.

DFAS has established an E/MSS customer support unit (CSU) at its Cleveland Center. The CSU is open Monday through Friday 7 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Eastern time at 1-800-390-2348. The CSU will answer any questions relating to E/MSS, including non-receipt of PIN numbers. E/MSS questions should not be directed to the employee's CSR or military member's FSU. Customers with specific pay related questions should contact their CSR or FSU.

Additional information about E/MSS can be found on the DFAS web site at www.dfas.mil.

Jim Pitt is a financial management analyst at the Defense Finance and Accounting Service in Arlington, Virginia. He is the Arlington coordinator for the E/MSS.

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