We have all heard the advice: start saving for you next PCS now, because even though many of the expenses are reimbursable, they come out of your pocket first.
Now all of that has changed, in theory.
Instead the military has directed PCSing troops to pay for their reimbursable PCS travel expenses with their issued government travel credit card (GTC), not out of pocket or on their own credit card.
That means that instead of dipping into your savings account to cover hotel rooms or airplane tickets along the way, you charge them to your government travel card. When you arrive at your receiving duty station and file your claim, you will be reimbursed for those costs and able to pay off your GTC with that money. You can read all about what the DoD said about that in my news story over here.
You're probably wondering what kinds of things qualify as reimbursable PCS costs. Here's a quick list:
-- Mileage from driving your car to your new home (based on the "official" distance between duty stations -- not your personal mileage calculations). You can learn about how that is calculated here.
-- Lodging and meals, reimbursed in the form of a "per diem" rate (and you can look up those rates per location here) for up to 10 days.
-- Airline tickets to your new duty station
That means, according to the new guidance, you can charge to your GTC card any and all expenses for actually moving. That means things like:
-- DITY move expenses like truck rental and gas for the truck.
-- Plane tickets
When you submit your reimbursement request to finance, you'll receive the per diem rate and mileage rate back. So be sure you don't charge to your card more than what you'll receive in repayment.
Of course there is a catch to all of this. Because nothing ever works exactly the peachy way it should, right?
As folks over on the Military One Source page have correctly pointed out -- there's one big, BIG problem with this plan. The whole idea behind it is to keep you from having to spend money out of pocket (while giving the government a hefty rebate kick-back, which I mention in my story). But as everyone who has ever sought a reimbursement from a finance office knows, things can be a little slow in coming. We never did see that separation pay from when my spouse went to Ranger School, even though he applied for it multiple times.
And that means your GTC bill could come due before your reimbursement comes through.
"When the credit card bill came due we had to pay it out of our pocket. Here it is close to three months after our PCS and we still haven't received a dime in reimbursement from the Air Force for our expenses," wrote Air Force spouse Jami Moore on the OneSource page. "The GTC card doesn't make a difference when a service member is forced to pay out of pocket for a move if they aren't reimbursed right away. Luckily we have savings, but others may be forced into a situation where they either have to buy food and risk getting paperwork for not paying their GTC card or pay their GTC card and not eat. And if you can't pay it it goes on the service member's credit report."
In theory you can get a bill extension on your GTC. But it doesn't always work that easily. And so it's not that far fetched to think that you could be forced to pay out of pocket after all is said and done anyway to cover that GTC bill while finance gets their act together.
We're still waiting for the DoD to get back with us with more information on exactly what happens for people who don't have a GTC (I know you're out there) and to those who havent been reimbursed before the bill is due. What we get the answers we'll post them.
Photo courtesy US Air Force.