My Coast Guard

PCS season: How to survive with a smile

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[Editor's Note: This article is one in a series covering various PCS-related topics. Please see the Resources section below for the other articles in this series.]

A nationwide surge in housing prices, combined with transportation shipping shortages, is creating some challenges this transfer season. 

Last month, we shared tips for finding a home at your new duty location. Today, we’re following up with helpful things to keep in mind as you look for your new home, and get ready for the move. 

First Step: Connect with your support system 

Once you know where you are going, it is a good idea to determine your basic allowance for housing (BAH) to help establish a housing budget to include rent/mortgage and utilities. Please keep in mind the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act introduced a member cost‐sharing element that expects that members will be responsible for 5% of your housing expenses. (See: BAH Rates 101: What every member should know about BAH rates.)

Well before your PCS date, make sure your government travel charge card (GTCC) is on hand and fully paid. For more information on authorized uses of the GTCC during a PCS transfer see Government Travel Charge Card (GTCC) Program Policies and Procedures, COMDINST 4600.18 (series)

Start your search as early as possible. House hunting leave has returned to normal, so you no longer have to wait until you report to use this entitlement. Talk with your command to determine the best time visit the area of your new duty station and start to look for your new home. Here are a couple of things to keep in mind as you begin your search:    

Housing officers: One of your best sources of information about the housing market is your new local housing officer, who is familiar with the local housing areas and maintains a housing referral list of real estate professionals and properties for sale or rent at your new permanent duty station (PDS).   

Housing officers have been directed to conduct a review of their areas of responsibility (AOR) to identify and assist any inbound members who are finding it difficult to find a place to live at their new PDS .   

Housing officers are also comparing data submitted during the annual basic allowance for housing (BAH) data collection with BAH rates which will give an indication of any rental rate  surges that may be occurring.   

Relocation sponsors: You should also contact your relocation sponsor as soon as possible, since they too will be familiar with the local housing areas, and area specific requirements. For example, many locations in Florida generally requires three months’ deposits and has home ownership associations (HOA) requirements which may hinder the process. Your sponsor may also be aware of available homes before they are advertised. 

Next: Consider all your housing options

Once you have communicated with your housing officer and your relocation officer, here are some housing situations that may be options for you: 

  • Privatized housing: In some locations, privatized military housing is available for Coast Guard members. Privatized housing is owned by a private partner and governed by a business agreement in which the Department of Defense (DoD) has limited rights and responsibilities. Members may choose to live in privatized housing, if available, typically for the amount of their housing allowance. (Read: Housing market woes? PPV housing might be your answer.) 

  • Housing Referrals: The Coast Guard also partners with the DoD on the Home.mil referral database (CAC required). Homes.mil is the official military sanctioned website, dedicated to helping members, DoD civilians, and their families find housing.   

  • Leased Coast Guard Housing: The Coast Guard manages a leased housing program, which may be an option for you depending on your situation. In certain circumstances, the Coast Guard may lease residential housing for accompanied and single personnel when Coast Guard-owned housing (family and single type berthing) is not available and the cost of community-based rental housing exceeds the member’s allowance for housing. Coast Guard-leased housing is typically offered to eligible members based on paygrade and  family composition. However, waivers can be considered on a case-by-case basis. Specific guidance on Coast Guard leased housing can be found in Chapter 5 and Tables 5-1 and  5-2 of the Coast Guard Housing Manual, COMDTINST  M11101.13G.   

  • Renting: Here are a couple of tips for those who choose to rent. Maintain a good relationship with your current landlord. Leave your previous property in pristine condition. And have as clean of a credit record as possible. All of this is critical when property managers must pick out of a field of renters. Also, if there is an application fee, be sure to ask how many applicants there are before submitting your application and fee.  If the numbers are not stacked in your favor, this may save you the cost of an application fee. 

Getting ready for the move

Moving your home can be a very stressful time with packing, cleaning, moving to a new place, and taking care of children and pets.  Though we go through an annual PCS season for active duty members, not everyone moves every year. Here are some things to know about government-funded moves and personally procured moves. (Read: PCS expenses have you stressed? Know your options.)

Household Goods

Household goods HHG refers to everything in your home, storage, everything you are moving. Here are some key tips for making sure your HHG shipment arrives on time and in good condition. 

  • When it comes to your HHG, if you plan to do a government move, make sure you start the process now – since getting your desired date may be hard.  

  • You should already be in contact with your local Personnel and Administration Office for additional information.   

  • For members who are PCSing to/from Alaska please ensure you review COVID-19: Impacted Assignment Year 21: PCS and HHG Shipments- SITREP 2 ALCOAST 098/21 and follow the guidance as soon as possible. 

  • Help keep your personal belongings safe from water and moisture damage. Make sure wet or damp items are not packed into your shipment.  No matter how innocent it may seem to pack a slightly used washrag into your belongings, you have no control of the shipping environment and the bacteria or spores that thrive in dark humid spaces - especially if your shipment is stored. 

Personally Procured Movement (PPM) of HHGs

Any costs of moving that are greater than the government cost for moving will be at your own expense. For this reason, if you are thinking about making a PPM, make sure that can accomplish the move for less than a government-arranged move.  

The DoD/DHS has updated its policy to increase the PPM incentive payment, which is now 100% of the estimated cost the government would pay a moving company to move your HHGs. And, as of Jan. 1, 2021, the 100% PPM incentive payment is permanent. 

You only have 45 days following your completed move to submit a claim for reimbursement of your PPM allowance, per Coast Guard policy.  

Military moves are not taxable, unless you receive incentive pay, which is taxed at 22%. You can lower your tax liability by subtracting your PPM "Common Operating Personal Expenses" from your PPM incentive payment before taxes are calculated. (Remember that you must claim PPM incentive payments on your tax returns.)

The following goods and services are eligible as Common Operating Personal Expenses: 

  • Rental truck/trailer 
  • Hand truck/dollies-rental 
  • Furniture pads 
  • Boxes/tape 
  • Oil/fuel 
  • Tolls 
  • Hired labor 
  • Rope/tarps/tie-downs/tie straps 
  • Packing material 
  • Weight ticket fees 
  • PODS 
  • Environmental fees 

The following expenses are not are unauthorized as Common Operating Personal Expenses. These expenses may not be subtracted from your PPM incentive payment: 

  • Safe Move Insurance 
  • Purchase of Auto Transporter/Dollies 
  • Extra Drivers 
  • Totes 
  • Oil Change/lube 
  • Meals/lodging 
  • Sales tax 
  • Hitch fees/tow bars 
  • Routine maintenance 
  • Storage 
  • Locks 
  • Tire chains 

We’re Here to Help 

PCS Assist Teams: The Coast Guard PCS Assist Team is standing by to help you and your family if you need assistance during your PCS transfer. The PCS Assist Teams can provide information about entitlements, order amendments, lodging options, Coast Guard Mutual Assistance, local health requirements and restrictions, and a variety of other issues that may arise during your transit not necessarily related to COVID 19. The main Coast Guard PCS Assist Team can be reached at PCSAssist@uscg.mil and by telephone at (833) 551-0887. 

USCG Housing Office: Your local Coast Guard housing and transportation specialists are doing everything possible to stay ahead of these challenges and assist you with your transfer. In the event you are still experiencing difficulties not resolved at the local level, please feel free to contact the CG PSC-PSD-FS Housing Office at:  HQS-DG-CGPSC-PSD-FS-HSG@uscg.mil.   

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