Soldiers can now get their dislocation allowance in advance of their permanent change of station move, even if they have an individually-billed government charge card, according to a new policy announced Tuesday.
The new policy is effective Oct. 10, when it was approved by Army leaders, said Robert Steinrauf, director of plans and resources in the office of the deputy chief of staff, G-1. He spoke during a panel during a family forum at the Association of the U.S. Army annual meeting, discussing officials’ efforts to address some of the problems with permanent change of station moves and family housing.
In a lively question-and-answer session, families asked officials about problems related to the accuracy of the moving companies’ weighing of their household goods; financial costs incurred by families when they have to leave their homes because of mold and other health issues; how the Army holds moving companies and housing companies accountable; the cumbersome claims process for PCS damage or loss; and garrison commanders’ responses to families problems, among other things
The new dislocation allowance policy reverses a 2014 policy that required soldiers to use the government travel card for all permanent change of station travel and relocation expenses. That policy was designed to provide convenience and reduce the need for soldiers to spend money out of pocket during the move. But that policy, which didn’t allow dislocation allowance advances and required using the credit card, caused some financial problems for soldiers for various reasons.
Steinrauf said the new policy allows soldiers to get the allowance, also called DLA, in advance, deposited into their bank account, and alleviating some of the problems of the previous policy.
Army officials in charge of policies relating to permanent change of station moves and housing updated families about steps they’re taking to address the continuing problems with the quality of household goods moves, and problems with mold and other health issues in Army family housing.
Maj. Gen. Timothy McGuire, acting commanding general of the Installation Management Command, told families that if they don’t feel their garrison commander is responsive, they should contact him. “We want to hear the issues,” he said. Soldiers should also bring issues to their chain of command, and can also reach out to the senior commander on the installation.
The Army is working toward getting soldiers their PCS orders at least 120 days before their move, said Maj. Gen. Michel Russell, Sr. assistant deputy chief of staff, G-4. They’re also increasing the number of household goods moves inspections, and standardizing that process so families know what to expect. They’re working on a smart phone app that would be a one-stop resource for all the information a soldier and family need before, during and after the move process. Currently the information is in multiple places. This would help get the information about the benefits that soldiers and families are entitled to, such as requesting an exception to their weight limit, and having the moving company unpack and remove the boxes at the destination.
McGuire said both privatized housing companies and the military took their eye off the ball, regarding the issues with mold, lead paint, water leaks and other problems with family housing. Families have testified before Congress this year about their concerns about the health and safety of their homes, and their frustration in getting the companies or the military to help solve the problems.
McGuire noted that Army leadership is actively engaged with the CEOs of each privatized housing company, and cited ongoing efforts such as the 24-hotline for housing issues at each installation. He said they’ve increased the number of government housing personnel, and now do 100 percent quality assurance inspections of all work orders performed by the housing company that are priority life, health and safety issues. There are also 100 percent quality assurance inspections of houses after a tenant leaves, before the next tenant moves in.
Russell and McGuire both said while they’re working on the issues, they realize there’s more work to be done.
That was evident in some comments from soldiers and families, including Col. Carlene Blanding, commander of Eisenhower Army Medical Center at Fort Gordon, Ga. She said when she moved this summer, it took seven days to pack up and load her family’s belongings. She said the company didn’t send enough people to do the work, and there were a number of issues. “They didn’t understand the military,” she said. In addition, there was no housing inspector available during the process to help resolve the issues.
In her 26 years of service, she said, “I’ve had bad moves, but this was the absolute worst. This was very emotional.”
Karen has covered military families, quality of life and consumer issues for Military Times for more than 30 years, and is co-author of a chapter on media coverage of military families in the book "A Battle Plan for Supporting Military Families." She previously worked for newspapers in Guam, Norfolk, Jacksonville, Fla., and Athens, Ga.