HomeProjectsProject Management ToolsWhat is the USAID Voluntary Separate Maintenance Allowance (VSMA)?

What is the USAID Voluntary Separate Maintenance Allowance (VSMA)?

If you are posted overseas, but your family stays at home, you may be entitled to a Separate Maintenance Allowance (SMA).
"Separate maintenance allowance"(SMA) is an allowance to assist an employee to meet the additional expenses of maintaining members of family elsewhere than at the employee's foreign post of assignment. According to article 260, SEPARATE MAINTENANCE ALLOWANCE, Department of State Standardized Regulations (DSSR), three forms of SMA are available:

  • "Transitional separate maintenance allowance" (TSMA) may be granted to an employee whose family members temporarily occupy commercial quarters following termination of an evacuation or in connection with an unaccompanied assignment.  (See 262.3.) (2)
  • "Voluntary separate maintenance allowance" (VSMA) may be granted to an employee who personally requests such an allowance, based on special needs or hardship involving the employee or family member(s).  (See 262.2.) (1)
  • "Involuntary separate maintenance allowance" (ISMA) may be granted because of dangerous, notably unhealthful, or excessively adverse living conditions at the employee's post of assignment in a foreign area, or for the convenience of the Government.  (See 262.1.) a.  
Most common is the VSMA.

As with most regulations, there are a number of exceptions. For example, your are not entitled to Voluntary SMA when the member of family is residing within the same country or within 300 miles (one-way road mileage) from the employee. 

Overview of VSMA and ISMA:

Type of


1 Child


2 or More


1 Adult


1 Adult and

1 Additional



1 Adult and

2 or 3




1 Adult and

4 or More


















We check the new rates once a year. The table is last updated 5/17/2015

To benefit from this allowance, you should contact your Project Management Unit if you are a USAID implementer as you normally have to request the allowance. Fill out the form and ensure that you meet the criteria.

If you are legally separated, this allowance is not intended for you. It is always smart to avoid what happened in the following case:

"Former USAID Contracting Officer Indicted for Making False Claims

An OIG investigation was initiated based upon allegations that a Regional Contracting Officer (RCO) in the Philippines fraudulently collected Separate Maintenance Allowance (SMA) after being legally separated from his spouse.

The OIG investigation verified that the RCO signed various divorce-related documents which established his legal separation from his spouse while continuing to claim and receive over $14,000 in SMA payments from USAID.

The RCO pleaded guilty to making False Claims in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 287

A one-count criminal Information was filed at the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia charging the RCO with making False Claims in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 287. The offense carries a maximum sentence of five years of imprisonment, a fine of $250,000, and a three-year term of supervised release and an order of restitution."
Source: http://oig.usaid.gov/node/260

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