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    Do I Have to Complete My Final PCS Immediately?

    house_flagWhen you retire from the military, you are authorized one final PCS to your home of selection. That means that even if your home of record has been Florida for the past twenty-odd years, your family may look back on time spent during your career and decide they most enjoyed San Diego. You aren’t constrained by your home of record; you can select California as your final destination. No problem.

    But...what if you’re not ready to leave your current duty station just yet?

    Perhaps your retirement takes place in February, but your spouse is enrolled in a graduate program and won’t graduate until May of the following year. For another likely scenario, your daughter has a year or two of high school left, and you really want to keep her in this current school because she’s thriving. Military kids already have enough transition in their lives, so being able to gift her this one semblance of permanence would mean a lot to your family.

    According to the Joint Travel Regulations, you must complete your final PCS within one year of separation, but there are always exceptions, and in this case, you want to make sure you’re paying attention to those exceptions. The final PCS represents a significant benefit to your family, and you don’t want to lose out because of a technicality.

    As a retiree (with pay), you're entitled to:

    • Your travel costs

    • Your dependent’s travel costs

    • Storage costs

    • Transportation of your Household Goods 

    • Shipment of your mobile home (in lieu of HHG)

    • Up to 24 days of Temporary Lodging Assistance 

    Unlike a traditional PCS, you would not receive a Dislocation Allowance, and you would only receive a personal vehicle transportation if you're overseas and had been authorized to bring a car with you.

    Assuming you want to make sure that you can receive your final PCS benefit, the JTR spells out exactly how you can receive an exemption from the one-year time limitation. Good luck reading it, though. If you ever thought the Joint Travel Regulations Manual was tough to muddle through, try reading it now. It’s color coded, which is great, but it’s now a two-fer: in my opinion, the civilian and military travel regulations have merged in an entirely unnecessary and painful union. If you do manage to get to Chapter 5, paragraphs 5068 B-2, 5068 B-3, and 5068 B-4, you’ll see the exemptions spelled out as:

    1. Medical

    This one is pretty cut and dry. If you’re in the hospital, you’re not moving. If you’re undergoing treatment at your current facility, you’re also not moving. At a minimum, you'll receive a one-year extension after medical treatment is complete before you must make your final PCS. A longer extension can be authorized if necessary.

    2. Educational

    As with the medical exemption, if you’re enrolled in schooling to help you with your post-military career opportunities, you don’t have to move just yet. You do need to apply for an extension, though. You have one year after the end of your college program to complete your PCS

    3. Other Exemptions

    This circumstance is a little more nebulous. Essentially, though, you have to remain in your location for reasons that are primarily not to your benefit. These reasons can be because there is something beyond your control keeping you in the area, for instance, yours or a dependent’s medical condition. Other examples: you could claim that it is in the interest of your service branch for you to remain in the area because of your niche knowledge or because a natural disaster has caused a strain on transportation, causing higher than normal expenses.

    However, one teeny tiny little clause in the JTR could help you keep your kiddo in her high school. It states, “A time limit extension also may be authorized/approved by the Secretarial Process for a period NTE six years if it is...substantially to the member’s benefit and not costly or otherwise adverse to the Service.” Now, you just need to prove that it is “substantially” to your benefit for your daughter to attend her prom in a few years, and then you and your spouse can look forward to sending your kids to college while the military comes by and moves you to the golden beaches you’ve been dreaming of.

    Whatever the case, good luck on your next step and happy military retirement!

    Note: this post is intended to be informational and is not meant as legal advice. Please seek specific details from the proper military authorities regrding your particular situation. 

    Veterans United

    Photo credit: Nikkytok/DollarPhotoClub

    Karina Gafford


    Karina Gafford

    Originally from Ireland, Karina has been a proud U.S. citizen since 2010. She and her husband have lived together in Florida, South Carolina, Virginia, and Texas. Karina is a Realtor with Keller Williams City View in San Antonio, a founder of Tutors By Base, and an active member in her military spouse community. She has served on many military spouse committees, and is currently the co-chapter leader of the MilSpo Project in San Antonio, a non-profit that supports military spouse business owners and entrepreneurs.

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