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Senate bill would improve PCS travel benefits

By Rick Maze - Staff writer
Posted : Tuesday Mar 23, 2010 12:24:32 EDT

Mileage reimbursement rates would increase and military families moving to or from Alaska, Hawaii and Guam would be able to ship a second car at government expense under legislation introduced Monday in the Senate.

Sponsored by Sens. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, and Patty Murray, D-Wash., the Servicemembers Permanent Change of Station Relief Act, S 3150, addresses two of the three improvements in travel reimbursements requested by the Military Coalition, a group of more than 30 military-related organizations.

The bill would raise the mileage reimbursement rate for PCS travel to 50 cents per mile, the rate now paid for temporary duty travel, more than double the government rate for PCS moves of 24 cents per mile.

“It doesn’t make any sense that gas mileage reimbursement rates are different amounts for PCS and TDY,” said Begich. “Our service members get official orders to move. It is not optional.”

Shipping a second privately-owned vehicle at government expense to Alaska, Hawaii and Guam helps families that now face choices of paying $1,500 to ship a vehicle at their own expense, buying a new car at the new duty station or going without.

“Without a second vehicle, spouses and children who accompany a service member on a permanent change of station may be unable to hold a job, run daily errands or otherwise participate in their new communities,” Begich said.

In some cases, not having a second car can be a major challenge, he said. “With housing on one end and base services on another, some families cannot even get to the grocery story or take their children to a doctor in an emergency.”

House-hunting trips

Missing from the bill is a Military Coalition request for at least some reimbursement of costs for house-hunting trips made by service members in advance of moving to a new duty station. Under current law, time off is provided as additional leave, but travel, food and lodging costs are not reimbursed.

The bill was referred to the Senate Armed Services Committee for consideration. The provisions are expected to be discussed when the committee begins writing its version of the 2011 defense authorization bill later this year.

Coalition representatives testified Tuesday before the House Armed Services Committee’s military personnel panel about the need for improvements in pay and benefits. Their testimony included a request to improve travel reimbursements.

The 24 cents-per-mile PCS reimbursement is “outdated ... designed for a conscripted, single, non-mobile force,” the coalition said in a statement.

“Travel reimbursement should be adjusted to reflect the reality that today’s all-volunteer service members do, in fact, own cars and that it is unreasonable not to reimburse them for the cost of driving to their next duty station,” the coalition statement said.


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