So you got a PCS in the military. (AKA “permanent change of station”.) Now how do you get reimbursed when moving for the military?
Anyone who has ever served in the military is quick to tell you the rewarding but challenging military lifestyle comes bundled with frequent relocation. Even service members with years of experience can often feel overwhelmed by the logistics of moving to a new duty station.
Luckily, the Department of Defense wants to ease the financial burden that comes with relocation as much as possible. This is where both Temporary Lodging Expense (TLE) and Temporary Lodging Allowance (TLA) come in, which helps military families afford incidentals throughout their move.
Does the military cover the cost of my move?
When relocating due to military orders, all military branches cover the costs of moving for military families.
Moving service members get a Dislocation Allowance (DLA) that affords them money towards their move. There are a few options to get from your current duty station to your new home, ranging from professional services, to loading up your own moving truck with the help of family and friends. (More on that below.)
No matter how you do it though, the military pays for moving expenses, though your Military Housing Option will decide your military move type for you.
What type of move does the military give me?
When you get to use a professional company already contracted by the military, the service member (or their authorized representative, such as a spouse or family member) only needs to schedule the move and be on-site during moving day. The moving professionals take care of the rest and the government picks up the bill.
For the do-it-yourself or Hybrid type, the military will reimburse the costs of moving equipment, mileage, and even some meals during the transit. As soon as you know a relocation is in your future, talk to your local installation’s Military Housing Office to discuss which option you’ll be given.
How do I get reimbursed for a military move?
That’s where filing for TLE and TLA come in. TLE and TLA (once again, Temporary Lodging Expense and Temporary Lodging Assistance) are non-taxable payments that are provided to reimburse military members for meals and lodging during a move.
- TLE is what is given to military personnel moving within the continental US
- TLA are for moves overseas, or anything outside of the US
The daily rates for TLE to be used inside the US are based on the location that you are moving from or moving to, paid out per diem. This literally means “per day”, and how much you get will be the amount that the government believes is reasonable to help you cover the move-related expenses each day during your relocation. This means there is no standard dollar amount, so talk with your military counselor.
For a military PCS overseas (including Alaska and Hawaii), military members can file for TLA for additional reimbursement. Because it can be difficult – if not impossible – to make a quick trip overseas while finding a home ahead of time, the Department of Defense allows those moving abroad to get additional lodging expenses reimbursed.
What documents do I need to receive TLE or TLA?
Anyone getting ready for a move should keep a handy file of important documents ready, but this is especially important if you plan to file for reimbursement for any of your expenses.
Important documents to keep when relocating in the military:
- TLE Form (DD1351-2): This intimidating looking form isn’t so bad; it simply lists your contact information, family members, travel itinerary, and expenses
- DFAS Form 9098: This is how you officially claim your Temporary Lodging Expenses. It will need to be completed as part of your overall travel claim through the Defense Finance and Accounting Service, the military’s pay system
- Official Permanent Change of Station (PCS) Orders: Anytime you move in the military, you should keep a hard copy (or two!) of your official orders showing your transfer from one area to another. You will need this document for everything, from getting free checked luggage on airlines to checking into a government hotel. You will also need this for filing for your TLE or TLA reimbursement!
- Lodging receipts: Since the TLE and TLA are for reimbursing you for lodging costs, the military wants to know that you actually needed to stay in a hotel (or other accommodations, like an AirBNB). At check-out, make sure to get a receipt that shows you paid your bill in full (lodging receipts are also sometimes called a “zero-balance receipt”, meaning you owe $0)
- Meal receipts: I have never been asked to provide meal receipts during a military move. However, it is a good idea to keep these receipts on hand, just in case. The cost of meals during a week-long move can add up if not reimbursed. Tucking some extra receipts into a file folder is worth the peace of mind for me
- Proof of actively seeking lodging: To continue receiving TLA during an overseas move, you have to show that you are actively seeking lodging. You will need to submit proof, such as copies of applications or appointments with property managers, to your new command every 15 days in order to continue receiving TLA
How exactly do I file for TLE or TLA?
Your first step in completing a PCS military move is to meet with a counselor at your local Military Housing Office that you’ve been assigned already, or complete the online pre-move counseling at https://move.mil/customer-service.
This important person is available to answer any questions and go over what assistance and reimbursements you are eligible to receive—including TLE and TLA.
After your move is complete, you will be able to submit all of your claim documents to the Housing Office at your new duty station.
The official regulations that provide information for travel expenses come from theJoint Travel Regulations. If you really want to dive into what is authorized for any type of military travel, this is the document for you. For example, if you plan to travel separate from your family or have temporary duty (e.g., military training, school, etc.) during your move, the Joint Travel Regulations can tell you exactly what reimbursements you are authorized to receive.
How much money will my dislocation allowance cover?
Understanding the process and what documents to keep is important, but everyone getting ready for a move really just wants to know how much extra they can expect to see coming into their paycheck.
To know how much, you’d multiply the rate per day with the amount of days eligible:
- TLE reimbursement is authorized for up to 10 days during a move within the continental United States. Look up the daily lodging rates for your area during your pre-move counseling as they can vary by location and time of year.
- TLE reimbursement is authorized for up to five days during a move to or from outside of the continental United States.
- TLA is authorized for up to 60 days when arriving outside of the continental US and for up to 10 days when departing.
Wondering what that amounts to? It just depends on where you’re staying. (For example, Norfolk, Virginia averages $94 a night, while San Diego averages $174 a night.) Your lodging rates do have a cap, based on location, so check with your local Housing Office to find out what it is before booking that ultra-swanky suite overlooking the beach.
Protip: Some hotels do offer a government rate that falls within the local TLE or TLA limit—it never hurts to ask!
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What about meals?
The per diem meal rate for both TLE and TLA is based on the location where you are staying and the number of family members that you have with you during that time.
Daily meal rate reimbursement through TLE or TLA:
- 1 person (military member or dependent): 65% of the daily meal rate
- 2 people (military member + dependent or 2 dependents): 100% of the daily meal rate
- For each additional dependent over the age of 12: add 35%
- For each additional dependent under the age of 12: add 25%
For example, a service member with a spouse and two children who move from that same Norfolk, Virginia to Naples, Italy will be eligible for reimbursement for up to 60 days of lodging TLA in Naples and 150% of the per diem meal rate each day. This can be a significant amount of money that will help with moving expenses!
Where can I stay using TLE/TLA? Can I stay in an AirBNB?
The name of the allowance says it all: “temporary lodging”. Yes, even an AirBNB!
To receive TLE or TLA, you must provide receipts that show you are staying in a temporary living quarters. This can be a standard hotel room, an extended stay hotel, or, yes, that cool AirBNB you’ve had your eye on!
If you are staying with family members or friends, you can still receive the per diem portion of TLE or TLA to help pay for additional meal expenses during your move. You will need to provide a written statement from your host that outlines the dates that you were without your own home.
What if my stay exceeds my allotted days?
Everyone going through a military relocation hopes to be back into their own home as soon as possible. Unfortunately, sometimes your move-in date is delayed. You are normally responsible for the additional expenses incurred. But if the additional time in temporary lodging is due to unavailability of military housing or a delay in your household goods arriving, you will most likely be able to file for additional reimbursement.
Moving is a part of military life. But it doesn’t need to be a financial strain. Temporary Lodging Expense and Temporary Lodging Allowance are there to help military members deal with the daily costs of relocation.
Get to know your local Housing Office to make sure that you are maximizing your benefits and focusing on the important things during your move instead of the costs.