Pentagon & Congress

Advocates call on Pentagon to provide more relief funds to military families struggling amid COVID-19 PCS suspension

The Pentagon announced this month nearly all PCS and temporary duty moves would halt for the next 60 days in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19. But some are worried this could strain military families financially.

That’s why Pay it Forward Inc., a group that was established in 2016 to provide resources to military service members and veterans, is urging military families and others to get in touch with their lawmakers to require the Pentagon to provide service members relief funds. The group has crafted a draft letter that could be sent out.

“These families left in ‘limbo’ with the 60 day suspension are facing unprecedented financial hardship,” the letter says.

“A fund must be created to support military families who have suddenly found themselves in financial peril due to the current circumstances,” the letter says. “This requires urgent action.”

Specifically, the group argues military families are in jeopardy of paying double for housing at both duty stations, losing out on thousands of dollars for rental deposits, and losing income if a military spouse has already left a job at the current duty station and won’t be able to start their jobs at the next duty station on time.

“We understand that the suspension is necessary to ‘flatten the curve’ and the health and well-being of our service members is always our top priority, but we want to implore the DOD to provide relief funds for these families who are now facing financial devastation as a result of these changes,” the letter says.

On Thursday, the Army announced that those impacted by the suspension can qualify for hardship pay before the PCS move is completed. Under the policy, Army families are allocated up to $1,500 a month to offset their expenses while they wait to PCS.

“It allows $100 per day, not to exceed $1,500 to defray the of additional lodging if a commander restricts them or they’re restricted by the stop-move policy,” said Lt. Gen. Thomas C. Seamands, the Army’s deputy chief of staff G-1.

Although Pay it Forward Inc. said this action was a start, the group posted on Facebook that it “barely makes a dent in making our military families financially whole.”

The Pentagon did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Military Times.

The Pentagon’s decision to stall PCS and temporary duty moves was included in an order to bar all travel for all DoD military and civilian personnel and their families from traveling to and from countries designated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as a “Warning Level 3.”

“This includes all forms of official travel, including permanent change of station, temporary duty and government-funded leave,” the Pentagon announcement said.

Countries included on the list include South Korea, Italy, and Germany — all countries with U.S. military installations.

And on March 14, the Pentagon approved another measure to prohibit all domestic travel among service members and their families, including travel relocating to another duty station.

Many families are already in the process of PCS’ing though — meaning many military families could be without their household goods as they get shipped off to the next duty station.

“If a service member has shipped their household goods, they should work with their chain of command to determine the status of their current orders and contact the local personal property to see what is possible, depending on the status of their shipment,” Dave Dunn, spokesman for U.S. Transportation Command, said last week.

According to the Pentagon, a total of 67 service members have contracted the coronavirus.

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