Military households moving to a new duty station this summer may not get to claim a new pet transportation entitlement that was created by Congress in December.
The proposed rules allowing the reimbursement of pet travel are still sitting on a desk at the Pentagon. The Defense Department confirmed in an emailed statement Friday that the draft regulation authorizing the military services to pay the reimbursement awaits the approval of the chair of the Pentagon's Per Diem Travel and Transportation Allowance Committee.
The deputy secretary of defense for military personnel policy chairs that committee, according to a DoD website. Stephanie Miller currently holds the job. Congress created the new entitlement as part of the fiscal 2023 National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, which was passed into law on Dec. 23.
Officials didn't immediately confirm whether Miller's approval is all that's needed nor clarify details about the effective date of the new discretionary authority being given to the services to reimburse for pet travel.
The Defense Department has traditionally covered dependents' travel expenses, but troops have had to pay out of pocket to move their pets.
The 2023 NDAA says service secretaries may reimburse up to $550 per move within the continental U.S., and up to $4,000 per move to or from a foreign duty station.
But the DoD's Joint Travel Regulations still cover only the mandatory quarantining of household pets -- specifically cats and dogs -- reimbursing up to $550 per PCS move. The department also reimburses both transportation and quarantine fees in the event of evacuating from a foreign location.
The new regulation still being finalized "implements Sec 624 of FY 2023 NDAA which ... authorizes a discretionary authority to reimburse the costs related to the relocation of a pet that arise during a permanent change of station (PCS)," according to the DoD statement. "The item is pending Per Diem Travel and Transportation Allowance Committee Chair approval."
To get out in front of questions from families, the Marine Corps published an administrative message dated June 9 letting its service officials know that it likely won't reimburse PCSing Marines for pet travel undertaken during this summer's moving season, and that reimbursements won't be retroactive to the president's signing of the fiscal 2023 NDAA.
Citing "significant unbudgeted costs," the Marine Corps said it expects the new entitlement will not be effective until Jan. 1.
The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic made transporting pets more expensive for families that couldn't drive from one duty station to another after commercial airlines largely stopped transporting pets. The situation left families who were moving overseas, in particular, with few options, such as pet shipping services that could wind up costing thousands of dollars.
-- Amanda Miller can be reached at email@example.com.