Military releases new details on reimbursement for pet travel expenses

Planning to move to a new base? The U.S. military has begun releasing new details on how much soldiers are required to pay for the cost of bringing pets along for the ride.

Service members may be reimbursed up to $2,000 for a dog or cat for each permanent change of station to or from the continental United States, or up to $550 when moving to the lower 48 states. PCS orders should take effect on or after January 1, 2024.

PCS has become pet transportation during moves. It’s getting harder and more expensive for military families. In the last few years. Lawmakers sought to help ease that burden by authorizing the reimbursement in the fiscal year 2023 National Defense Authorization Act.

Now, soldiers can get reimbursed for expenses related to mandatory microchipping, quarantine, boarding, hotel service charges, virus immunity testing and pet licensing at the new duty station. The Pentagon may also cover the cost of shipping a pet by air, if the service member flies instead of driving, or if the pet is separated from its owner.

The Defense Department’s Joint Travel Regulations set out general rules for reimbursement of “reasonable and authorized expenses” during permanent deployment. According to the Defense Travel Management Office website, soldiers must provide the required receipts to get their money back, but the services may require additional documentation.

Soldiers will use Form DD 1351-2 to claim pet expenses, and they will be paid when the travel claim is settled. Service members must be on PCS orders. The benefit is not retrospective.

When transoceanic travel is involved, according to the Joint Travel Regulations, service members must use government-operated or federally contracted transportation to ship their pets, if available. If that’s not an option, defense travel officials added, service members must get a “letter of unavailability” to be reimbursed for separately booked travel.

These letters state that official pet transportation was not available, and are issued by the office processing the transportation request. According to defense travel officials, service members should contact their transportation office for more details.

On Jan. 4, the Air Force Department became the first of the military branches to announce more details on what soldiers are required to reimburse for pet shipping costs:

  • All receipts related to pet travel must be provided and must be itemized, specifying which pet they are for. They should include the pet’s name, if possible, especially for special care such as pre-travel vaccinations. All receipts must be provided, including for expenses subject to the $75 general reporting threshold.
  • If the pet is flying cargo because it exceeds the weight limit for travel by government-operated or contracted transportation, the receipt must include the weight of the pet.
  • All documentation used to obtain a letter of unavailability, which proves the lack of official transportation, must be included when the service member files for reimbursement.

According to the Air Mobility Command, passengers using AMC Patriot Express flights contracted with the government will receive a receipt for their pet’s travel fee when checking in for the flight.

The Navy and Marine Corps do not require any additional documents beyond the Joint Travel Regulations, out of service. Officials told Military Times.

Army spokeswoman Lt. Col. Ruth Castro said the Army soon expects to publish its own guidance to explain the process for claiming and documenting compensation for soldiers. Until that guidance is published, soldiers should “refer any questions to their chain of command,” he said.

Defense travel officials emphasized that expenses can only be paid for one pet. If service members pay to ship more than one household pet, they can choose which pet to claim reimbursement for. However, if a dual military couple is traveling on separate PCS orders, each can claim reimbursement for one household pet – meaning two pets can be covered in total.

Although the law allows the DOD to reimburse up to $4,000 in costs associated with moving each pet, per PCS moving to or from overseas, defense officials LIMITATION OF MAXIMUM AMOUNT PAYABLE at $2,000 and delayed the implementation of the policy until January 1, 2024.

The Marine Corps said in a June 9 memo. “Significant unbudgeted costs” had prompted the Defense Department. Delaying the benefit until it becomes law in December 2022.

Military families face financial hardships to transport their pets around the world. Military relief societies have stepped up to help service members with costs.. Army Emergency Relief and the Navy Marine Corps Relief Society spent an average of $3,000 per client to help with pet travel.

For more information, service members may contact:

  • Air Force and Space Force: Local Finance Office
  • Navy: Human Resources Service Center at 833-330-6622, or askmncc@navy.mil
  • Marine Corps: usmcpassengertravel@usmc.mil
  • Army: For now, local chain of command

Karen has covered military family, quality of life and consumer issues for Military Times for more than 30 years, and co-authored the chapter on media coverage of military families in the book “The War Plan to Support Military Families.” are She previously worked for newspapers in Guam, Norfolk, Jacksonville, Fla., and Athens, Ga.

(tags to translate) Karen-Jours

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