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PCS Entitlements: Types and How to Calculate Them


As a servicemember, you're well aware that relocations — Permanent Change of Station (PCS) orders — are a recurring aspect of your commitment to serving in the military. Because these transitions can be demanding, it’s important to gain a clear understanding of your PCS entitlements to help alleviate the challenges associated with each move.

What Are Entitlements for a PCS?

PCS entitlements are the benefits and allowances provided to military personnel when they’re required to relocate to a new duty station. These entitlements help ease the financial burden that frequent relocations place on military members and their families.

Fixed-Rate Entitlements

Fixed-rate entitlements in the military are determined through specific criteria. These include Dislocation Allowance, Temporary Lodging Expense, Temporary Lodging Allowance, Basic Allowance for Housing or Overseas Housing Allowance.

Variable Rate Entitlements

Travel allowance, per diem, mileage, and household goods transportation are considered variable rate entitlements as they will vary based on your circumstances.

Types of PCS Entitlements

The military will help you with almost every aspect of your PCS move, from housing allowances to actual moving costs. Here’s what these entitlements look like in more detail.

Dislocation Allowance (DLA)

The Dislocation Allowance is a fixed sum intended to offset the incidental and additional expenses associated with executing your PCS orders. The specific amount you receive as a DLA is contingent on your pay grade and your dependent status.

DLA serves to cover certain miscellaneous costs related to your move that may not be reimbursed through other means, such as utility or rent deposits. However, you should know that the DLA may only partially cover some of your relocation expenses.

Remember that you won't receive the DLA automatically — you’ll have to submit a claim to your base travel office.

In cases where your PCS orders change after you’ve already relocated, you may be eligible for the Secondary DLA benefit that provides additional support.

To learn more about how much you may be eligible for allowances related to an upcoming move, check out the DLA rates.

PCS Per Diem

Travel allowance, or PCS Per Diem, also plays a role in easing the financial burden of the move to your new station. The benefits of this allowance are structured primarily on the distance traveled and per diem rates.

Your travel allowance covers various expenses incurred during your relocation, including lodging, meals, and incidental expenses. The amount you receive is calculated to manage these costs comfortably as you transition to your new duty station. This travel allowance not only simplifies your financial planning but also ensures that you have the resources to focus on your duties without unnecessary financial stress.

Household Goods Transportation

When it comes to moving your household items during a PCS, you have two options: the government can arrange for professional movers through the Relocation Assistance Program, or you can opt for a Personally Procured Move (PPM), also known as a Do-It-Yourself (DITY) move.

With the government-arranged move, experienced movers handle the packing, transportation, and unpacking of your belongings. While convenient, this option may have limitations on the weight and extent of the items you can move.

A PPM or DITY move gives you more control of your relocation. You'll handle the logistics, packing, and transportation of your household goods. The government reimburses you for 100% of the estimated cost of the move based on the weight of your belongings, up to the military allowance. Importantly, if your DITY move costs less than the government's estimate, you get to keep the difference.

Additionally, the government provides you with peace of mind during your move in the form of moving insurance up to $25,000 to cover potential accidents. Moving insurance applies to whichever type of move you choose.

Temporary Lodging Expense (TLE)

During a PCS move, you may need to find temporary accommodations before moving into your new home. Temporary Lodging Expense helps offset the costs associated with your lodging and meal expenses during a stay in temporary lodging.

Your TLE entitlement accounts for various factors but, primarily is about the actual expenses you incur for lodging and meals during your temporary stay. The specific rates and guidelines for calculating TLE depends on factors such as location, family size, and military regulations.

Keep in mind that you cannot get both TLE and per diems. TLE is meant to cover the days that per diem doesn’t.

Temporary Lodging Allowance (TLA)

Specific to overseas military moves, the Temporary Lodging Allowance provides essential support during the transition to a new duty station. TLA is designed to assist you and your dependents by covering the expenses associated with temporary accommodations while you are in the process of house hunting at a new overseas destination, including waiting for the arrival of your household goods shipment. The TLA ensures you have a comfortable and secure place to stay during this period of settling into your new overseas assignment.

Mileage Reimbursement

Mileage reimbursement is the system through which you are compensated for travel expenses incurred when using your personal vehicle for work-related purposes. The mileage rate is typically based on the government mileage rate, which is established by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and is subject to periodic updates.

Note that there are different mileage rates for various purposes, including business, medical, moving, and charitable activities. These rates may vary from year to year.

In 2023, the government mileage rate was 65.5 cents per mile for business-related driving, and is designed to cover expenses such as fuel, maintenance, insurance, and depreciation.

Be sure to keep a record of the number of miles you traveled for business purposes and then multiply it by the applicable mileage rate to determine your reimbursement amount.

Housing Allowances (OHA/BAH)

Overseas Housing Allowance and Basic Allowance for Housing are financial allotments provided to servicemembers to assist with housing expenses overseas and stateside, respectively.

The OHA amount is determined by factors such as location, rank, and number of dependents. It aims to ensure that you and any family members living with you have suitable living accommodations while abroad.

The BAH serves a similar purpose but is for servicemembers stationed within the United States. It also considers factors such as location, rank, and number of dependents when calculating the allowance.

Understand Your PCS Entitlements with AAFMAA

Moving for PCS orders can be an overwhelming process. Knowing your entitlements allows you to avoid unnecessary expenses so you can maintain financial stability during your move and in years to come. Stay informed and up to date on all of your benefits and entitlements by subscribing to AAFMAA premium content for free. 

A new duty station likely means a new job environment, a new salary, and a new place you call home — all of these are reasons to reevaluate your life insurance coverage. Contact us to learn about supplementing your SGLI with one of our life insurance policies, all designed specifically for the unique needs of military servicemembers and Veterans.

This article was originally published May 18, 2021.