Active duty military members and their families are no strangers to relocation. Permanent change of station (PCS) orders can be handed down every few years or more.
If you’ve been through the PCS relocation process, then you know moving costs can add up quickly.
Moving van rentals, boxes, tape, fuel costs, and even temporary housing expenses are common, which is why the DoD offers PCS entitlement allowances to help cover costs for military families on the move. In many cases, these benefits will cover a large part of the PCS moving expenses for you and your family.
But how does military PCS pay work? More to the point, what can you expect from PCS entitlements? Read on to learn more about this benefit.
To help ease the financial impact of moving from one station or assignment to the next, the military offers several types of PCS allowances to military members. The military pay for PCS and other entitlements include:
A dislocation allowance (DLA) is an allowance offered to partially reimburse a military member, with or without dependents, for expenses incurred in relocating the member's household during a PCS move. This type of PCS weight allowance covers incidentals and extra expenses and is paid in a flat sum based on your pay grade and dependent status.
DLA allowances are not issued automatically to military members on PCS, however. To take advantage of this type of military PCS pay, you’ll need to submit a claim as part of the PCS process. In addition to the primary DLA benefit, there is an additional benefit called a Secondary DLA that can be used by military members whose PCS or move orders have changed after relocation.
When traveling on official military business or temporary duty, you’re entitled to a daily payment, or per diem, to reimburse the cost of food, lodging, and other travel-related expenses that come up while away from your home station. Your travel per diem covers both you and your family or dependents. While this allowance is not limited to military members on PCS, you are entitled to per diem while on PCS, whether moving across the country or relocating to a nearby base.
The Department of Defense Per Diem, Travel and Transportation Committee sets the per diem allowance rates each year. As of 2022, the amount of your per diem can range from $155 per day for the standard Continental United States (CONUS) to more than $800 per day for Outside Continental United States (OCONUS).
In some cases, you may opt to drive yourself or your family to your new assignment while on PCS. If you do so, the cost of gas and wear and tear on your vehicle is covered. You are entitled to reimbursement from the military for the mileage you put on your vehicle while on travel orders.
It’s important to note that the mileage reimbursement rate changes each year. As of 2021, the Mileage Allowance In Lieu of Transportation (MALT) rate is $0.56 per mile. This rate also applies to mileage reimbursement for aircraft if you take a private plane or helicopter as part of your PCS relocation.
While on PCS, you have the option to utilize military movers to move your personal belongings from your prior home to your new assignment or station. This can be a useful option for some military members, but you also have the option of moving your own things — or hiring a moving crew to assist you.
In a personally procured move (PPM) or do-it-yourself (DITY) move, you cover the costs for the moving truck, moving crew, or other transportation needs. In turn, the military will reimburse the estimated cost of your move-in full.
It’s important to note that the cost for a PPM move is reimbursed at the amount of the estimate — not the actual cost of the move. Therefore, if your actual move costs less than the original estimate, you are allowed to keep the overage from the reimbursement, which is why this type of move is a popular option.
The above PCS entitlements are standard, but there are additional special allowances you may qualify for depending on your circumstances. The special PCS allowance scenarios include:
In some cases, your dependents will be authorized to travel separately while you are on PCS. For example, you may be deployed to a ship or unit, which would separate you temporarily from your family. In this case, your family could be allowed to delay their move to your new station or assignment until you return from your deployment.
In this scenario, your family is entitled to receive full travel allowances from the military including the full per diem rate for your spouse and any applicable rates for your children or dependents.
If you’re retiring from the military, the federal government will, in most cases, pay for a final military move for both you and your family. You can move up to six months after your final out date.
As such, you are eligible for travel expenses if you are moving anywhere in the U.S., your home of record outside of the U.S., or anywhere in the world, provided that the cost of your move does not exceed the cost of transportation to a CONUS location.
If you are voluntarily separating from active duty, you are entitled to the cost of your travel for both you and your family. Separation allowance will cover the costs of travel to anywhere within the U.S., your home of record outside of the U.S., or any other location, provided that the costs do not exceed the cost of travel from your prior permanent station to your home of record.
There may be cases in which your dependents living overseas are authorized to travel back to the U.S. alone due to a divorce, custody proceedings, legal situations, or dangerous conditions. In these cases, your dependents are eligible to receive full travel allowances from the military.
Being put on PCS every one to four years can be expensive, but you should always check with your local military transportation office to find out what’s available to you. The allowances and entitlements offered by the military can help cover the costs associated with your move — cutting down on the stress and burden moving can place on you and your family. In certain circumstances, your dependents and family may even qualify for their own allowances, which will help keep the expenses down.