Paycheck Chronicles

Travel Reimbursement to increase in 2019

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If you are traveling on official government business, either for permanent change-of-station moves (PCS) or temporary duty (TDY/TAD), you will see more money in your pocket in 2019.

When you travel on official government business or make an official government move, you receive several travel allowances. Some of these will increase in 2019.

Per Diem

Per Diem is a daily payment to reimburse you for the out-of-pocket costs of food, lodging and incidental expenses you incur during a PCS or on TDY. Per diem limits how much you can be reimbursed for meals and lodging.

It is broken down into three categories:

  1. Meals
  2. Lodging
  3. Incidental Expenses

When you travel, you get reimbursed the meal and incidentals portion of per diem automatically; you must submit receipts showing the actual cost of your lodging to be reimbursed. On the first and last day of your travel, your meals and incidentals are reimbursed proportionally, based on the distance you must travel and the time you are traveling.

Most locations in the continental United States use the standard per diem rates, which will increase for 2019. The standard maximum lodging per diem will increase from $93 to $94. If your lodging costs less than $94, you will be reimbursed only the actual cost; if it costs more, you have to pay the difference out-of-pocket.

The meal portion of standard per diem will remain at $55 and the incidental expense portion will remain at $5.

Of course, there are exceptions to this rule: It's nearly impossible to find a hotel in New York City for $94, so there are several "high-cost" areas that have higher limits for lodging. These areas have higher reimbursement for meals as well. Also, some areas have higher per diem rates during tourist season, when prices go up. However, for most of the U.S., the standard per diem rates apply.

If you are traveling outside of the continental U.S., your per diem rates could change on a monthly basis due to fluctuations in exchange rates, as well as other factors.

Dislocation Allowance

If you've ever moved, you know it can be expensive. The military knows this and graciously gives service members something called dislocation allowance (DLA) to help offset the costs.

The purpose of DLA is to partially reimburse you for the expenses incurred in relocating during a PCS, evacuation or other housing moves ordered for the government's convenience. This allowance is in addition to all other allowances and may be paid in advance. The amount varies by rank and family status. Normally, you can receive DLA only once per fiscal year.

It is important to keep in mind that DLA is intended to partially reimburse relocation expenses not otherwise reimbursed and probably won't reimburse all of your relocation expenses.

DLA will increase by 2.6 percent for 2019. A married E-5 will see DLA go from $2,209.67 to $2,267.12, while a single E-5 will see an increase from $1,542.82 to $1,582.93. Check out all the rates.

It's important to remember that if you are single and live in the barracks or on a ship, you don't get DLA. Also, military members married to each other get a reduced amount.

Mileage

Don't expect mileage rates to go up for 2019, unless there is a big jump in fuel prices. Odds are they will remain at the same amount as in 2018. If you travel on TDY orders, you will be reimbursed $0.545 per mile; if you are PCSing, you get $0.18 per mile. You will be paid the mileage rate based on the official distance, which is determined by the military.

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