Understanding what a PCS order is and the process can be helpful when preparing for a military move.
As soon as your PCS (permanent change of station) orders come through, you’ll need to start planning how to relocate. While this may sound stressful, it doesn’t have to be. Once you fully understand the PCS process, you can start to get excited about your move.
If you’re ready to take command of this new change, you’re in the right place. This guide to PCSing will show you exactly what you need to do to make the process as smooth as possible.
If this is your first experience with a military move, you might have found yourself asking, “What does PCS mean?" Here’s a quick overview of the basics.
When the military issues move orders, they include your rank, where you’re assigned, and the length of time you’ll be working on the job or training. A Permanent Change of Station order means that you’ve been assigned to a location for at least 20 weeks. Your PCS orders will also include assistance to your full household move.
PCS orders are designed to take care of travel and transportation expenses, movement and storage of household goods, and certain other allowances to assist with overseas moves.
Typically, PCS orders rotate every two to four years, with peak season being between May 15 and September 30.
If you haven’t received your PCS orders yet, but you know they're coming soon, there are some things you can do to start preparing.
First, think about purging any household items you don’t need. The less you have to move, the easier it will be.
You can also begin taking an inventory of the items you decide to keep. This will help you know exactly what you have to move when your PCS orders arrive. The list will also come in handy if you have to file a loss or damage claim.
Once you’ve received your move orders, following a simple step-by-step guide will help ensure everything goes smoothly. Knowing that you won’t forget anything important will also help reduce the stress of your relocation. If you’re asking yourself, “How can I prepare for PCS?” start with these simple steps.
First, you’ll want to examine your PCS orders to determine what type of move you’ll be making. When you do, make sure you understand the following acronyms.
In the military, CONUS stands for “Continental United States.” These moves are the most common type of PCS moves.
HHG is short for “household goods for the government.” In this type of move, a transportation service packs and moves all of your belongings to your new location for you.
PPM is a “personally procured move.” This means you’ll be responsible for packing up your belongings and moving them to your new home. In this case, the U.S. government will pay 95% of the cost of hiring a mover. There’s also a possibility you could save some of this money by taking care of some of the work yourself.
Receiving your move orders gives you the green light to officially start planning your move.
You’ll need to:
To make sure you won’t lose track of anything important during your move, it’s a great idea to follow a checklist.
No matter how careful you are, there’s always a chance that your items could get lost or damaged during your move. Protect yourself by taking the time to inventory valuable items. Take photos or make videos so you can document their pre-move condition, and be sure these are readily accessible.
For expensive items, consider getting professional appraisals as well. This can help avoid disputes over the value of the items if something happens.
To ease the expense of moving, the DOD provides military members with allowances for both moving and housing.
Remember, that for a CONUS PCS, you’re entitled to reimbursements for toll expenses and mileage if you drive your vehicle to your new home. To claim this, be sure to hold on to all your receipts.
One of the reasons why your PCS move orders include your rank is that this also determines the amount of moving weight allowance you'll receive. You’ll want to find this out before you move so you don’t end up having to pay additional charges after your items are delivered.
If you have questions or aren’t sure about your PCS weight allowance, contact your local transportation office for more information. They can also help you divide up your belongings into separately weighted PCS shipments.
In addition, your transportation office can help you with:
Many people consider their pets part of the family, so you’ll be glad to know that PCS orders typically accommodate up to two of them. However, it is your responsibility to move them, and you will not be reimbursed for any pet-related expenses.
If your home or duty station isn’t available right away, you may need to stay in a hotel while you wait. The good news is, most hotels located near military bases are pet-friendly, so this shouldn’t be an issue.
It’s also important to note that you'll need a health certificate from your veterinarian if you’re traveling with your pet in some areas of the United States, or overseas. Some areas may also have breed-specific legislation that prohibits keeping certain breeds of dogs within the municipality. Even if your base allows the breed, you might not be able to legally take your dog off base. Additionally, when moving overseas, you may also need to quarantine your pet and ensure that it has all of the required vaccinations.
If you’re moving into on-base housing, it’s important to note that there’s generally a two-pet limit. Single soldiers are often assigned a room in barracks on base, and pets are not allowed there. Again, your best bet is to work with the transportation office to discuss your needs and make sure your pets are accounted for during your PCS.
Once you’ve successfully navigated the PCS process, it’s time to settle into your new home. Start unpacking one box at a time, checking for broken items and documenting any issues right away. After you’ve gone through every box, you can file any claims. Just make sure you do it within the nine-month time limit.
You’ll also want to arrange to get your gas, electricity, and phone connected and update your address as soon as possible. If you’ve moved to a new state, it’s also important to get your new driver’s license and register your car. In addition, plan to register your children in school and find new medical services, such as a doctor, dentist, and veterinarian (if you have a pet).
Understanding the PCS process will help make your move go smoothly, and you can rest assured that things will get easier after your first PCS move. Remember that each move is an opportunity to explore new places and enjoy the excitement of a new adventure!
If you’re a military member planning to purchase or refinance a home, VA Mortgage Center can help.