FORT MEADE, Md. – Soldiers and their families can now receive dislocation allowance payments ahead of permanent change of station transfers as a result of an updated Army policy meant to reduce the burden of moving.
The new rule took effect Oct. 10 when Gen. James C. McConville, Army Chief of Staff, and Secretary of the Army Ryan D. McCarthy signed the measure. Soldiers who possess an individually billed government charge card are eligible for the advance payment.
Dislocation allowance partially reimburses Soldiers for expenses incurred while relocating to a new duty station. The new advance-payment amounts can range from $978 to nearly $5,000, based on rank or if the service member has dependents. The allowance does not have to be paid back.
The change comes after McConville asked for a review of certain policies to identify shortcomings, and in this case, create a solution that could be put into effect before the next peak PCS season over the summer.
“This was just one of those areas we took a look at and saw we had the policy flexibility to make changes,” said Larry Lock, chief of compensation and entitlements, Army G-1 office.
The new policy modifies a 2014 version that directed government charge cards to be used for all PCS travel and relocation expenses. That procedure, officials said, was to benefit cardholders so they wouldn’t have to pay for moving expenses out of pocket. Officials still urge Soldiers to use their travel cards for PCS moves.
“The policy change only affects DLA,” Lock said. “It still requires the use of the government travel card for all other travel allowances.”
To request a DLA advance, Soldiers need to fill out Defense Finance and Accounting Service Form 9114. Individuals also can wait to receive their DLA after a move is completed, at which time they would submit their Defense Department Form 1351-2 travel voucher.
The Army also is pursuing other efforts to ease military move challenges. One measure under consideration is ensuring Soldiers get their orders no later than 120 days before their PCS date, making it easier to coordinate household good shipments and other requirements. Maj. Gen. Michel M. Russell, G-4 assistant deputy chief of staff, mentioned this initiative during his family forum talk at the Association of the U.S. Army Annual Meeting and Exposition last week in Washington, D.C.
Further, the Army is developing a knowledge-based smartphone application to assist with the household goods shipping and receiving process, Russell said. The app will streamline all HHG resources and policies into one location, allowing Soldiers and their families to discover benefits that can help them before, during and after the move.
“People are not aware of all the benefits they have,” Russell said at the forum. “One of the things we’re going to get after is making sure everybody understands how to empower themselves and take back the household goods move.”
At another family forum presentation, McConville said the Army is even looking to incentivize “do-it-yourself” personally procured moves for families interested in doing so, which could put less strain on commercial shipping companies during peak periods. Soldiers are now eligible for 95 percent, and sometimes up to 100 percent if approved, of what the government would pay a commercial mover as part of a personally procured move. The change to an automatic 100-percent payment for PPMs, which currently make up less than 2 percent of all PCS moves, is being worked on.
“If we can look at the feasibility of giving additional incentives for people to perhaps do their own move,” Lock said, “it can at least leverage some of that bottleneck commensurate with that peak season.”
Lock noted how these recent changes are in line with the new Army chief of staff’s people-first priority. Adjustments like the advanced DLA authorization are “necessary things to do” to help Soldiers and families.
“If we have the flexibility to do it without (putting) an additional administrative burden on the Army while at the same time helping families, it’s a win no matter how you look at it,” he said.