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Payroll Based Journal (PBJ)

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) identified staffing as a vital component in a nursing home’s ability to provide quality care. CMS has revised its methods for collecting staffing data and is using it for a myriad of purposes in an effort to more accurately and effectively gauge its impact on quality of care in nursing homes. CMS now posts condensed staffing information on the CMS Nursing Home Compare website and it is used in the Nursing Home Five Star Quality Rating System to rate staffing levels based on resident's care needs.  

Section 6106 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires facilities to electronically submit direct care staffing information and hours (including agency and contract staff) based on payroll and other auditable data. CMS developed the Payroll-Based Journal (PBJ) for this purpose. This system allows staffing information to be collected on a quarterly basis. It is auditable to ensure accuracy.  

The data, when combined with census information, can be used to report on the level of staff in each nursing home, as well as employee turnover and tenure, which can impact the quality of care delivered. Public use data files are available on Data.CMS.gov

All nursing homes have access to this system and are now required to use it. There is no cost. Information on registration and training is available in the downloads section of this page below. 



Informational Guidance

CMS Information


Contact Info



 What's New in PBJ?

A revised version of the PBJ Data Specifications (Version 4.00.0) is available to Users.  The new release of the Data Specifications reconciles changes to the file layout, fileSpecVersion 4.00.0.  Census tags have been removed from the 4.00.0 version due to CMS no longer collecting Census data from PBJ as of April, 2018.  No immediate changes are needed when using the current PBJ Submission File fileSpecVersions (2.00.0 and 2.00.3), however, users are encouraged to begin using PBJ fileSpecVersion 4.00.0.  XML files submitted with versions other than 4.00.0 on or after June 2, 2020 will be rejected.  Please note this does not apply to the PBJ Administration Submission File format.  Users who use this file format for linking employees should continue to use fileSpecVersion 1.00.0.


On January 7, 2020, users will begin to receive a warning message on their PBJ Validation Reports stating that a file has been submitted with a fileSpecVersion that will be retired on June 1, 2020.  Although this is a warning message and the files are currently accepted, please note that this edit will be changed to a fatal error on June 2, 2020.  In preparation for this change, we encourage users to begin using the PBJ fileSpecVersion 4.00.0 as soon as possible.


The warning message that will appear on your PBJ Validation Report when using a PBJ Submission Spec versions 2.00.0 and 2.003 will be as follows:




Message: The XML file was submitted using a fileSpecVersion value that will be retired on June 1, 2020.  Refer to the CMS PBJ XML File Structure Standards described in the PBJ Data Submission Specifications Overview document.  Users are encouraged to begin using PBJ fileSpecVersion 4.00.0.  XML files submitted with versions other than 4.00.0 on or after June 2, 2020 will be rejected.


The new 4.00.0 fileSpecVersion and PBJ Data Specifications can be located in the Downloads section at:



For those that use the Excel template to generate XML files, a new template can be found in the Downloads section of the webpage above.


The QIES Technical Support Office (QTSO) Help Desk is available for technical support and may be contacted by phone at 800-339-9313 or by email to help@qtso.com.



How to Audit Your PBJ Staffing Reports: click here

Staffing Data Audits  Avoid a One-Star Rating  Staffing Measures and Ratings Methodology Requirements for RN Staffing  Rural RN Waiver Requirements


Informational Guidance

PBJ Staffing Hours Presentation

PBJ Data File Download Instructions

How To Obtain a CASPER Account


CMS Information

CASPER Reporting User's Guide

CMS - Payroll Based Journal (PBJ) page

Quality, Safety & Oversight (QSO) Memo, 2019-02-NH

CMS PBJ Policy Manual FAQs

CMS PBJ Webinar



42 CFR §483.35 Nursing Services


Contact Information 

QIES Help Desk
1000 NE 10th Street
Oklahoma City, OK 73117
Phone: 405.271.5278

E-mail: Click here to email


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