The Defense Department's new policy for a pet PCS reimbursement benefit created by Congress will slash the maximum benefit in half for overseas trips -- and won't cover the costs of transporting any furry friends until next year.
Citing the "important role" of the military's household pets, the department on Wednesday announced how it will pay for some of their travel costs incurred during a permanent change of station move. The reimbursement as it was passed by Congress in December allowed up to $4,000 to transport a household pet on a PCS move to or from a duty station outside the continental U.S.
In its new policy, however, the DoD has set the maximum reimbursement for such OCONUS moves at $2,000 -- half the maximum allowed under the law -- and families moving this PCS season won't be able to get it. And while the law doesn't specify animal types -- only "a pet" -- the new policy says the DoD will pay the costs of transporting only a cat or dog.
Military households PCSing within the continental U.S. will be able to receive the law's maximum reimbursement of up to $550.
Troops have typically paid out of pocket to move their pets, aside from a $550 reimbursement for mandatory quarantining of a cat or dog.
The COVID-19 pandemic made transporting pets more expensive for families who needed to fly from one duty station to another, however, after commercial airlines largely stopped transporting pets. The situation left some families with few options, as pet shipping services could cost thousands of dollars.
Troops moving overseas can sometimes ship their pets with them as part of a Patriot Express flight, but that option, too, costs in the hundreds of dollars, depending on the pet's size. Plus, space for pets on those flights is very limited, so families must plan ahead and may take only two pets per flight.
Starting Jan. 1, the DoD will "cover pet travel expenses, like pet shipping or quarantine fees," that households incur during a PCS move, according to the announcement.
Anticipating questions from families, the Marine Corps published an administrative message dated June 9 letting its officials know that it likely wouldn't be reimbursing members during this summer's moving season, citing "significant unbudgeted costs."
As many as 227,000 service members a year could take advantage of the new benefit.
"Historically, service members paid the majority of their out-of-pocket expenses to transport pets when assigned to a new duty station," according to the announcement. "This policy reduces that financial burden while recognizing the important role a pet plays in a military family's household."
-- Amanda Miller can be reached at email@example.com.