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As if there weren’t enough acronyms to swim through in military life, PCSing comes with its very own set of terminology.
The terms can get confusing. Add to the mix rising out-of-pocket costs, spouse unemployment, cleaning fees, and deposits, and you have not only a lot of confusion but a significant life transition that is also very expensive.
A recent Military Family Advisory Network survey found “Military families typically move every two to three years, and each move can set the average military family back about $5,000.”
It’s essential to understand what benefits are available for each move to keep more money in your pocket. This article will break down two important acronyms, TLE and TLA. Read on to learn:
- What you are entitled to
- How to maximize your benefits
- How to claim your expenses
Differences Between TLE and TLA
The main difference between Temporary Lodging Expense (TLE) and Temporary Lodging Allowance (TLA) is a stateside move versus an overseas move.
- TLE covers reimbursement for temporary lodging and meal expenses during a PCS in the continental United States for service members and their families.
- TLA covers the cost of temporary lodging and meal expenses, up to 60 days, for service members and their families waiting for permanent housing overseas.
Regardless of which one applies to your current situation, remember this: always keep your receipts.
Temporary Lodging Expense
If you are making a CONUS move within the continental United States, you will be reimbursed up to but no more than $290 a day for up to ten days, at a percentage of the per diem rate of the temporary housing location. The number and age of your dependents staying in temporary lodging with you determine the applicable percentage, and therefore, the total amount.
You can split those ten days between your old location and the new location in whatever configuration works best for you.
If available, you must use Government quarters. In order to receive reimbursement for commercial lodging, you’ll need to provide a non-availability confirmation number, showing there was no room for you and your family.
Keep in mind that reimbursement is not intended to cover the full amount spent. To receive the full use of this benefit, it is best to use Government lodging when possible. You will not be reimbursed for staying with friends or family. (FAQs about TLE)
Temporary Lodging Allowance
If you are making an OCONUS (outside the continental U.S.) move, the TLA will help cover a partial amount of your higher than ordinary expenses during your search for housing. If you are arriving OCONUS, TLA is available for up to 60 days, and if you are departing OCONUS, you will receive up to ten days. It is possible to receive an advance to cover this cost and an extension for additional days of TLA allowance, though these exceptions to policy are not always granted. (FAQs about TLA)
Several factors play into the computation of the TLA, from whether or not you are staying at a facility with meal services to currency conversion fees and more. You can find examples on the DTMO website. Scroll to the bottom to find TLA variations.
How to Maximize Your Benefits
One benefit of reimbursements for a PCS, including the use of your TLA, is that they are considered non-taxable income. Make sure you take advantage of this resource and file all necessary paperwork.
If you are moving CONUS to OCONUS and use your TLE while stateside, you will not be able to use your TLA on arrival. You can not stack these two benefits. It is important to determine ahead of time which one will be more beneficial. Moving overseas takes a lot of prep work but it is an amazing opportunity.
Plan ahead and keep every receipt. Once you arrive at your new station you will file a claim for the expenses incurred for lodging and meals. Since there is a cap as to how much you will be reimbursed for plan accordingly to stay under that amount. Anything above your total allowance will not be reimbursed. If you have adequate kitchen facilities, you will only receive 50% of your meals and incidental expenses.
The last thing you want is to end up with non-reimbursable expenses. To avoid this know the per diem at both the old station and the new. The maximum $290 per day does not mean you will automatically be reimbursed for $290 a day.
How To Do the Math
- Go to https://www.defensetravel.dod.mil/site/perdiemCalc.cfm to find the per diem at both locals.
- Multiply the percentages for your family with the local per diem to know how much you can spend, and be reimbursed for per day. You can find examples of how this works on pages 5 & 6 of the PCS Travel Entitlements Worksheet.
Remember, the more prepared and knowledgeable you are up front, the better your chances for a great outcome!