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    5 Must-Haves for Your PCS Binder

    Amid the PCS chaos, there must be some organization. Whether you let movers do the heavy lifting or you do the hard labor and make a DITY move, military families pack up, cross their fingers, and hope for the best. And that’s okay—for most things. 

    When it comes to certain items, especially important paperwork, military families can’t just hope they make it safely to the next destination. For these things, it’s best to create a dedicated PCS binder for your military move.

    women with paperwork

    Photo from Canva 

    What is a PCS Binder? 

    A PCS Binder keeps everything you need for your move in one place and prevents you from going through your luggage or ripping open boxes to find a crucial piece of paper.  What should you include in your PCS binder? 

    1. Orders (and Copies of Orders)

    The entire move revolves around one set of papers, the service member’s orders. Without web or original orders, you can’t book movers, secure discounted lodging, book flights, apply for on-base housing, or check into your next duty station.

    This piece (or two) of paper runs the show. Keep the originals and copies of them in your binder to show or distribute to whoever requires them.  

    2. HHG Shipment Documents

    Moving companies provide copies of the inspection sheet and high-value items to keep in your records. These are important for tracking damaged or stolen items and are essential for seeking reimbursement when applicable. 

    While you don’t need them upon arrival at your next duty station, you have 180 days from the delivery of your household goods to submit a Personal Property Claim. Wouldn’t you agree that it’s much easier to have these documents on hand than to search for them in a sea of cardboard boxes

    It's also wise to keep receipts for high-value items or big purchases in a safe space, as they will exponentially help the reimbursement process should those items arrive damaged. 

    parents and teacher talking at school

    Photo from Canva 

    3. School Records

    If you have school-age children, you know that registration is one of the first things you do upon arriving at your new home. Having records in hand eases the tremendous stress of digging through your belongings or spending the morning on the phone requesting copies. 

    Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP) and Individualized Education Program (IEP) paperwork are also essential for the binder, as they’ll help expedite your military child’s transition into your new community and limit gaps in care. 

    4. Medical & Dental Records

    Service member’s health and dental records are transferred electronically to the next duty station. For others, the service member’s records are sealed and hand-carried to the next duty station. If your medical team hands you a brown folder to deliver upon check-in, keep it nice and tidy in the binder. 

    While many healthcare facilities are digital, some systems don’t talk. Dependents with civilian healthcare providers should consider obtaining hard copy health records to deliver to their next provider. However, if these records are accessible online, printing them after arriving at your new duty station is another option.  

    Expert tip: Add prescription refill reminders to your calendar alerts to avoid gaps in medication as you juggle settling into your new home.

    vet examining dog

    Photo from Canva 

    5. Veterinary Records

    If you have a pet, you’ll need to gather the health records from your veterinarian. These documents are necessary if you’re flying your pet to your new duty station and for those applying for on-base housing

    Plan to collect vet records early so it's one less thing on your to-do list as your departure date nears.

    Keep copies of your pet's: 

    • Rabies vaccinations 
    • Yearly vaccinations
    • Health certificate (if flying) 
    • Prescribed medications

    Those making a military move overseas will need to add a few more things to your binder:

    • Area clearances 
    • Passports 
    • Pet microchip numbers and health certificates 

    Having a binder with essential records for traveling and checking into your next duty station can reduce the stress of a PCS move. This tool can help you stay organized and achieve a smooth military move as you uproot and settle into your new home.

    See our free PCS guide for more tips and support for your move!

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    5 must-haves for your PCS binder

    Danielle Keech


    Danielle Keech

    Danielle Keech is a writer and content creator for MilitaryByOwner Advertising. She writes on military life topics, highlights clients’ open houses on social media, and manages the Military PCS Facebook group. She especially enjoys covering financial topics and helping military families exercise financial responsibility and plan for the future. Danielle has been a Marine Corps spouse for ten years (and counting!) and is a momma to four littles and one fur baby. She and her pilot spouse have lived in Virginia, Florida, Texas, California, Hawaii, and, most recently, Okinawa, Japan. And yes, you guessed it, Hawaii is her favorite duty station to date! Find MilitaryByOwner's Millitary PCS group here.

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