PCS Expenses: How DLA Stacks Up

PCS Expenses

Will Dislocation Allowance (DLA) cover your entire Permanent Change of Station (PCS) move? It’s not likely.

That’s because DLA is only intended to partially reimburse relocation expenses associated with moving your military household from one duty station to another. DLA amounts vary based on your service member’s pay grade and dependent status. For example, an E-6 would be entitled to $2399.34 if they’re traveling with dependents, or $1633.58 without dependents.

While there are a host of other entitlements available to offset the cost of moving every few years, the majority of these are reimbursed after your PCS, so be prepared to pay up-front costs out of your own pocket. Some families choose to request advanced DLA, which is around 80% of the full amount, but it doesn’t always cover everything. Many have had to use advanced DLA to cover expenses unrelated to the household, such as rental cars or lodging. It’s important to note that advanced DLA funds won’t be released until 10 days prior to your family’s departure.

Most military branches have moved to using Government Travel Credit Cards for PCS expenses. This can help families with the burden of up-front costs, and the card can be reimbursed directly for PCS related expenses. Each service has a different process for this method and feedback has been mixed—ranging from seamless to confusing reimbursement experiences.

It’s important to note that if your family is separating or retiring from the military, you won’t be eligible to receive DLA for your final PCS. But depending on your specific situation, you may be eligible for other PCS entitlements, such as:

  • Temporary Lodging Expense (TLE) - This entitlement is used to partially offset the lodging costs before and/or after relocating (like after moving out of your old house, or while waiting for housing once you arrive at your new duty station). It’s limited to a maximum of 10 days while your family resides in temporary housing, and is calculated based on the number of dependents traveling.

  • Per Diem Allowance- Per diem is designed to partially reimburse lodging and meal expenses while traveling to the new duty station. Many often confuse per diem with TLE. Per Diem is rated while you’re enroute. TLE is rated prior to departure and upon arrival at your new duty station.

  • Temporary Lodging Assistance (TLA) - TLA is the overseas equivalent of TLE and is designed to help cover lodging and meal expenses. If your family is moving to an overseas duty station, you may be authorized up to 10 days of TLA before you move, and up to 60 days while awaiting housing assignments once you arrive. 

  • Monetary Allowance in Lieu of Transportation (MALT) – MALT is mileage reimbursement when your family drives to your new duty station. The current rate of reimbursement is $.17 per mile and can be reimbursed for up to two vehicles.

The purpose of DLA is intended to act as a buffer for expenses that aren’t otherwise reimbursed by the above entitlements, but most likely won’t cover everything. Some service members opt to request Advance Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) as a security deposit or first month’s rent. Your service member can request up to three months of BAH and will typically have 12 months to repay it. Advance BAH cannot be used for anything other than renting a home.

The best way to prepare for PCS expenses is to plan ahead and save a little money on the side each month—especially if you have pets, move to an area with high security deposits, or need a rental car while waiting for yours to ship from overseas.

The Defense Travel Management Office and Move.mil have more in-depth information that may be specific to your unique situation. You could also take a look at this PCS Calculator to find the entitlements your family might be eligible for the next time you PCS.

Did your military family PCS this summer? How did your budget fair?

Posted August 24, 2017

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