Temporary Lodging Allowances


Every time we make a BIG move, I double check to make sure that I understand Temporary Lodging Entitlement (TLE)/Temporary Lodging Allowance (TLA.).  Frankly, I'm not always sure that the people who calculate it understand it properly.  I am sure that was improperly applied on one of our moves.  With a another overseas PCS this summer, this seemed like a good time to refresh my knowledge of the system.

TLE and TLA are very similar programs that help to reimburse servicemembers for extra expenses incurred while they are moving between permanent duty stations (PDS) in a permanent change of station (PCS) move.  There are a few variables to plug in, but the formula itself is simple.  TLE is the program used for any accomodation that is inside the continental United States (CONUS) and TLA is the program used for any accomodation that is outside the continental United States.  (OCONUS)  In a single PCS move, you may be eligible for either TLE or TLA, or both.  In general, you are permitted 10 days TLE in conjunction with a move between CONUS duty stations, and five days for a move between CONUS and OCONUS (though you may also be eligible for TLA).  The amount of TLA permitted in association with a OCONUS move will vary based upon your location, but rarely exceeds 60 days.  (There are a few odd regs regarding moving from your Home of Record, moves in conjunction with technical schools, times of natural disaster, or other exceptions.)

The first step in figuring out how TLE/TLA works is to understand that there are two parts to the payment:  Lodging and Meals and Incidentals (M&I).  Lodging expenses are paid up to the amount that you actually spend.  You will need receipts to support your costs.  M&I is calculated based on a flat rate.  The only variable for M&I is if you are OCONUS and your temporary accomodations include cooking facilities, defined as "The presence of a cook stove, work area (table, counter, etc.), refrigerator, sink, water, table, chairs, and cooking and eating utensils (i.e., all of the foregoing items) is evidence of adequate cooking and eating facilities."  (From the JTR TLA OCONUS FAQ page.)  If your temporary lodging has cooking facilities, then the M&I allowance is reduced by half.  Therefore, the first variable is whether or not you have cooking facilities.

The second variable is your family size.  TLE/TLA is calculated based upon the number of members of your family, and their ages.

Number of People Percent of Per Diem
One - Service member alone,
or one dependent traveling alone
Two – Service member plus one dependent,
or two dependents traveling alone
Each additional dependent, ages 12 and over Additional 35%
Each additional dependent, under age 12 Additional 25%

The third variable is the Per Diem rates for the area(s) in which you are receiving the allowance.  You can find a query for Per Diem rates here.

Here are some examples:

CONUS PCS, married couple, no children:  Up to ten days at 100% of Per Diem rates.

CONUS PCS, married couple, with two children (ages 2 and 4):  Up to ten days at 150% of Per Diem rates.

CONUS to OCONUS PCS, single person:  Up to five days CONUS, at 65% of Per Diem rates, up to locally permitted amount OCONUS at 65% of Per Diem rates.

We're going to use a hypothetical family, the Incredibles, to see how this actually works.  The Incredibles have two adults and three children, ages 12, 10 and 2.  The Incredibles are moving from Fort Leonard Wood to Garmisch in Germany.  Lucky Incredibles.  They have lodging without a kitchen near Fort Leonard Wood for three days, then they stay in temporary lodging with a kitchen in Garmisch for 5 days before their miraculously simple housing search is over and their household goods are delivered.  (Work with me here - I'm trying to keep the example simple.)

Based upon the number and age of children, the Incredibles will receive 185% of the per diem rate for each part of the allowance.  This represents 100% for the first two people, 2 children at 25% each, and one child at 35%.  The per diem rate for Fort Leonard Wood includes up to $80 for lodging, $41 for meals, and $5 for incidentals.  This means that the Incredibles can spend up to $80 X 1.85, or $148, per night, for lodging while at Fort Leonard Wood.  They will also receive $46 X 1.85, or $85.10, per day for meals and incidentals.  Then the Incredibles travel to Garmish (travel allowances are totally separate.)  At Garmisch, the per diem rates are up to $127 for lodging, $67 for meals, and $17 for incidentals.   The Incredibles can spend up to $127 X 1.85, or $239.95, per night, for lodging while in Garmisch.   Since the Incredibles have a kitchen in Garmisch, they will receive one half of the meals rate that they would receive if their lodging did not have a kitchen.  Therefore, we add the $67 for meals and$17 for incidentals to get $84 , multiply it times 1.85, to get $155.40, then divide by 2 to get an actual allowance of $77.70 per day.

Lodging is paid at the actual rate up to the maximum allowance.  Spend more than the allowance and the rest comes out of pocket.  Spend less, and you'll receive only the actual expenses.

I hope this helps explain temporary housing allowances.  They are a huge confusion to many people, and I think that includes the people working out how much you should receive.  Therefore, it is vitally important that you check your allowances as they are paid.  They don't make it easy, with lump deposits with no explanation.  However, if their numbers don't seem to add up to your numbers, be sure to go to your finance folks and find out how they figured what you were paid.  Small mistakes can results in large overpayments or underpayments.  Either way, you want to get it fixed as quickly as possible.

Happy travels!

Story Continues
PayCheck Chronicles