What are your options with unaccompanied orders?
"Honey, I have news," is how the conversation always starts. But the hard part is when news of a military move involves an unaccompanied tour. In the Army, the most common unaccompanied tour destination is Korea. More and more military families make the decision not to follow their spouse for a variety of reasons.
What becomes tricky is when the spouse staying behind is left with several options. The opportunity to move back "home" exists, as does the option to remain at your current location. Another choice is to PCS to the next duty station (if known). The decision is not an easy one. There is no 'right' answer. Of course, whatever you and your spouse decide comes with military rules and regulations.
WHAT ARE MY OPTIONS?
The basic allowance (BAH) for housing question is discussed with every unaccompanied move. The simple answer is, yes; the service member will still receive BAH for their family when they go unaccompanied. The more complicated answer is how the amount is calculated. Let's use some real-life examples.
Tracy went home to West Virginia when her husband did a year-long unaccompanied tour in Kuwait. "We were stationed in New Jersey at the time and would not be returning to that duty station, so it did not make sense to stay," she recalled. "It is hard to be in my hometown surrounded by people with no clue what military family life is like, but it was great that my kids were able to build strong bonds with their grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins." Since Tracy's husband was sent on an unaccompanied tour, and the family was not allowed to go, the BAH the family received was based on their actual location.
On the other hand, when Mindy moved from North Carolina to Texas after falling ill, she ended up living with her parents for 15 months during a deployment. "We had to keep our apartment in North Carolina, and I went back about two weeks before he got home to get settled in," she remembered. Since a deployment does not authorize moving home, the BAH would be for the duty station where the service member is stationed, no matter where the family lives.
A third option is to move ahead to the next duty station like Amanda and Crystal have done. Amanda moved ahead while her husband was in Korea because that would put her and the kids closer to family. It was fortunate as she needed some help when medical problems arose. When Crystal's husband went to school for nine months, she also moved ahead to their next duty station. "He was gone for about nine months and then he signed into Ft. Bragg and deployed for a year." She says, "I'm glad we moved ahead to get settled into our groove instead of postponing the inevitable."
SHOULD I STAY OR SHOULD I GO NOW?
If you ask a hundred military families what they would do if faced with this situation, you'd probably get an even split. One-third would stay behind, where they already have an established support system, a house, and friends. This choice is especially prevalent when a service member is returning to the same place since the military won't always pay for the family to move when the stateside duty station is the same.
Another third would PCS to the next place, get settled and keep on living. "After living this life for 17 years and having school-aged kids, I think it's easier just to get the girls settled into their new schools and save them from any further moves," Crystal explained.
The final third would move back home to live with or be close to their family. Like Tracy mentioned, giving children the opportunity to live close to their extended family is something that happens so rarely, it's hard to turn it down. Karin did just that when her husband went to Korea, "I moved back home and rented a house near my parents and in-laws, the boys were 3, 3, and 8."
ITS A PERSONAL DECISION
No one can answer this question for you. The decision has to be made with your family's best interest in mind. Sometimes that means living near the best schools for the kids. Living close to family is often a huge help to the parent staying behind. And sometimes the security of living on post puts the service member at ease so that becomes the best option. Whatever you decide, know that there is a wealth of information and a vast support system among the military community just waiting for you with open arms.
This post was sponsored by PCSgrades.
Yeah! You got orders to (insert foreign country overseas)! You can already picture your kids in the international school, speaking with cute little accents and wearing local garments. Adorbs. You've got your housing picked out, adventures planned and passport photos taken. You're ready for your epic move ... except for that 13 hour plane ride. Have you wrapped your head around that yet? Before you grab for a paper bag and start hyperventilating, use our travel hacks to help make the emotional turbulence you're experiencing a little lighter.
We've all said it: "We'll drive. It won't be that bad." We picture the adventure, the memories, the nostalgia of car trips when we were younger.
But if we're really being honest with ourselves, think back to those car trips. Someone was crying. Someone was puking. Someone was whining. That person very well may have been your poor mother. True story, my mom once got out and walked along the highway when all six of us kids wouldn't stop fighting. A long car trip can be daunting, but with our tips and tricks they don't need to be.
WE ALL HAVE OUR SHARE OF HORROR STORIES WHEN IT COMES TO MILITARY MOVING!
Name the most disgusting item erroneously packed by your movers… for me it was used coffee grounds and of course, trash. For others, I've heard everything from wet towels to dirty diapers. I've caught movers raiding my fridge, lounging on my mattress in my front yard, and throwing out items that they've broken. Raise your hand (or have a drink) if you ever had packers show up late (or not at all). Ever had packers get into a shouting match among themselves as they were packing your china? Or have you caught your movers throwing boxes down the stairs to the basement? That would be me!
With each military move, there are "lessons learned". For instance, I won't go into great detail but let's just say after watching one packer go directly from using the restroom back to packing my kitchen without washing his hands, we now use gigantic ziplock bags to "pre-pack" all my kitchen utensils. A packers' bare flesh has never again touched one of my kitchen utensils.
My family's last military move was by far the shortest, only 1½ miles up the road. We were moving from a rental to a home we purchased. It was by far the worst in terms of damage and overall angst. I think because we were only "moving up the road" the pack job left a lot to be desired. I found one box of dishes which had not one piece of wrapping paper! Instead two throw pillows from my family room were used as a buffer! Amazingly, nothing was broken! Go figure!
When I heard glass shatter in the moving truck, I asked one of the guys what shattered.
There are any number of reasons why in a given situation renting might be better than buying or vice versa. For military families, it might make more sense to buy at one duty station and then rent at the next. Up for consideration with each PCS is whether to buy or rent, to stay on-base or off. In making these decisions, there are numerous pros and cons to consider.
PROS TO BUYING
- Purchasing the right home can be a great financial investment that can grow in value over time.
- Tax deductions such as mortgage interest and property taxes can greatly reduce your overall income tax burden if you itemize.
- Being a homeowner can give you pride of ownership and a sense of stability, rare in the military life which can seem nomadic at times.
- A mortgage payment that is lower than your BAH can result in a boost to your savings.
- You can decorate however you want! Goodbye white walls! Hello, Color!
- Anyone can stay with you at any time. So it is not a problem when your Mom or sister comes for an extended stay during a deployment or following a PCS.
- You can do (almost) whatever you want….host a late night party, plant a garden, knock a wall down!
- There are no security or pet deposits when you buy a home.
- You have the opportunity to become a landlord when military orders arrive and you have to move. Your home can become an investment property, providing a source of income which can partially or totally offset your mortgage, taxes, and insurance payments.
While retired military Space A travel is a privilege, there are some retirees that do not have this privilege. There are different categories of retirees, some are eligible for Space A and some are not. But there are efforts to change the eligibility requirements.
For a retiree to be eligible for Space A travel they must possess a 'Blue' DD Form 2 (Military ID card). This includes those that are medically retired. Their dependents are also allowed to travel with them and must bring along their ID cards. All dependents should be enrolled in DEERS.
WHO IS ELIGIBLE FOR RETIRED MILITARY SPACE A TRAVEL?
There are plenty of rumors out there saying that ALL retirees are eligible. This is not true. If you are 100% disabled and you only possess a DD Form 1173, or the new DD Form 2765 ID cards, you are not entitled to travel on Space A. Also, if you possess the brown ID card with DAVPRM (Disabled Veteran Permanent) in the bottom right, then you too are not entitled to retired military space a travel Space A travel privileges.
Dependents of retirees are not allowed to travel without the retiree. If the retiree dies, then the dependents no longer have Space A privileges.
If you are a member of the Guard or Reserves with a 'Red" DD Form 2 you can travel through CONUS (Continental United States), to, from, and between Alaska, Hawaii, Guam, Virgin Islands, American Samoa, and Puerto Rico. Also, if you are active duty for more than 30 consecutive days, Guardsmen and Reservists may fly anywhere that Space A flies.
Dependents of the Guard and Reserves are not authorized to fly on Space A until the member reaches the age of 60. At that time, they will be in the same category as a regular retiree, Category 6. Retired Guardsmen and Reservists who have completed their 20 years but are not old enough to collect their retired pay are considered to be in a "gray area".
AN ACT OF CONGRESS
There have been attempts to change the eligibility of all of the above retirees and dependents.
The first Bill to be submitted to the House of Representatives was House Bill 4164 aka Space-Available Act of 2012. This bill sought to authorize the Secretary of Defense to establish a program to provide transportation on Department of Defense (DOD) aircraft on a space-available basis for (1) active duty and reserve members holding a valid Uniformed Services Identification and Privilege Card; (2) retired members who, but for not attaining age 60, would be eligible for military retired pay; (3) an un-remarried widow or widower of an active or reserve member; and (3) certain dependents of members described above. Allows the Secretary to establish an order of priority based on considerations of military needs and readiness.
This Bill was sent to the Subcommittee on Readiness in March of 2012 where it has sat with no action.
Earlier this year, a measure to establish a space-available transportation priority for veterans of the Armed Forces who have a service-connected, permanent disability rated as total was introduced in the house. That bill HR 936 was referred to the House Subcommittee on Readiness.
HAVE YOUR VOICE HEARD
How can you help? Write your Congressman. Make your voice known.
The Gray Area Retirees Facebook group was created to talk about these problems and to try to get the changes implemented.
Space-A eligibility is sometimes confusing and false information is passed around often. Check out the resources in this article for any updates.
PCSgrades.com is a review platform for military and veteran families. Leave a review of your prior duty station and read the reviews of where you are PCSing to. Home is where the military sends us and together we can make a difference!
This post sponsored by PCSgrades.