Temporary Lodging Allowances

Every time we make a BIG move, I double check to make sure that I understand Temporary Lodging Entitlement (TLE)/Temporary Lodging Allowance (TLA.).  Frankly, I’m not always sure that the people who calculate it understand it properly.  I am sure that was improperly applied on one of our moves.  With a another overseas PCS this summer, this seemed like a good time to refresh my knowledge of the system.

TLE and TLA are very similar programs that help to reimburse servicemembers for extra expenses incurred while they are moving between permanent duty stations (PDS) in a permanent change of station (PCS) move.  There are a few variables to plug in, but the formula itself is simple.  TLE is the program used for any accomodation that is inside the continental United States (CONUS) and TLA is the program used for any accomodation that is outside the continental United States.  (OCONUS)  In a single PCS move, you may be eligible for either TLE or TLA, or both.  In general, you are permitted 10 days TLE in conjunction with a move between CONUS duty stations, and five days for a move between CONUS and OCONUS (though you may also be eligible for TLA).  The amount of TLA permitted in association with a OCONUS move will vary based upon your location, but rarely exceeds 60 days.  (There are a few odd regs regarding moving from your Home of Record, moves in conjunction with technical schools, times of natural disaster, or other exceptions.)

The first step in figuring out how TLE/TLA works is to understand that there are two parts to the payment:  Lodging and Meals and Incidentals (M&I).  Lodging expenses are paid up to the amount that you actually spend.  You will need receipts to support your costs.  M&I is calculated based on a flat rate.  The only variable for M&I is if you are OCONUS and your temporary accomodations include cooking facilities, defined as “The presence of a cook stove, work area (table, counter, etc.), refrigerator, sink, water, table, chairs, and cooking and eating utensils (i.e., all of the foregoing items) is evidence of adequate cooking and eating facilities.”  (From the JTR TLA OCONUS FAQ page.)  If your temporary lodging has cooking facilities, then the M&I allowance is reduced by half.  Therefore, the first variable is whether or not you have cooking facilities.

The second variable is your family size.  TLE/TLA is calculated based upon the number of members of your family, and their ages.

Number of People Percent of Per Diem
One – Service member alone,
or one dependent traveling alone
Two – Service member plus one dependent,
or two dependents traveling alone
Each additional dependent, ages 12 and over Additional 35%
Each additional dependent, under age 12 Additional 25%

The third variable is the Per Diem rates for the area(s) in which you are receiving the allowance.  You can find a query for Per Diem rates here.

Here are some examples:

CONUS PCS, married couple, no children:  Up to ten days at 100% of Per Diem rates.

CONUS PCS, married couple, with two children (ages 2 and 4):  Up to ten days at 150% of Per Diem rates.

CONUS to OCONUS PCS, single person:  Up to five days CONUS, at 65% of Per Diem rates, up to locally permitted amount OCONUS at 65% of Per Diem rates.

We’re going to use a hypothetical family, the Incredibles, to see how this actually works.  The Incredibles have two adults and three children, ages 12, 10 and 2.  The Incredibles are moving from Fort Leonard Wood to Garmisch in Germany.  Lucky Incredibles.  They have lodging without a kitchen near Fort Leonard Wood for three days, then they stay in temporary lodging with a kitchen in Garmisch for 5 days before their miraculously simple housing search is over and their household goods are delivered.  (Work with me here – I’m trying to keep the example simple.)

Based upon the number and age of children, the Incredibles will receive 185% of the per diem rate for each part of the allowance.  This represents 100% for the first two people, 2 children at 25% each, and one child at 35%.  The per diem rate for Fort Leonard Wood includes up to $80 for lodging, $41 for meals, and $5 for incidentals.  This means that the Incredibles can spend up to $80 X 1.85, or $148, per night, for lodging while at Fort Leonard Wood.  They will also receive $46 X 1.85, or $85.10, per day for meals and incidentals.  Then the Incredibles travel to Garmish (travel allowances are totally separate.)  At Garmisch, the per diem rates are up to $127 for lodging, $67 for meals, and $17 for incidentals.   The Incredibles can spend up to $127 X 1.85, or $239.95, per night, for lodging while in Garmisch.   Since the Incredibles have a kitchen in Garmisch, they will receive one half of the meals rate that they would receive if their lodging did not have a kitchen.  Therefore, we add the $67 for meals and$17 for incidentals to get $84 , multiply it times 1.85, to get $155.40, then divide by 2 to get an actual allowance of $77.70 per day.

Lodging is paid at the actual rate up to the maximum allowance.  Spend more than the allowance and the rest comes out of pocket.  Spend less, and you’ll receive only the actual expenses.

I hope this helps explain temporary housing allowances.  They are a huge confusion to many people, and I think that includes the people working out how much you should receive.  Therefore, it is vitally important that you check your allowances as they are paid.  They don’t make it easy, with lump deposits with no explanation.  However, if their numbers don’t seem to add up to your numbers, be sure to go to your finance folks and find out how they figured what you were paid.  Small mistakes can results in large overpayments or underpayments.  Either way, you want to get it fixed as quickly as possible.

Happy travels!

About the Author

Kate Horrell
Kate Horrell is a military financial coach, mom of four teens, and Navy spouse. She has a background in taxes and mortgage banking, and a trove of experience helping other military families with their money. Follow her on twitter @realKateHorrell.
  • John

    Great insight on what a lot of service members are unaware of if they’re traveling overseas for the first time. I have to admit, this is my second duty station in Europe and needed this refresher myself. Thanks!

  • FreqiTraveler

    Are the temporary lodging facilities in Fort Leonard Wood and Garmisch charging room rates that match the maximum lodging allowance? Okay, don’t want to be cynical. Actually, I’m trying to determine the eligibility rule for multiple rooms. At one time, it was dependent (no pun intended) upon the number, age, and sex of your dependents. Today, I cannot find that rule clearly spelled out anywhere, so I’m beginning to think it’s based on the table you illustrated above, in that, if the allowable per diem affords you more than one room, get two. It’s clearly obvious in your scenario that The Incredibles need more than one, but it looks as if they would be short of funds, if the lodging facility were to charge the full $80.00 per room per day.

    Which many -on base- do.

    • Kate

      We have four kids, and the lodging portion has always been enough to cover our expenses. That said, we’ve never used TLE at an Army installation, and their room rates always seem to be ridiculously high. I’m not sure if they offer special rates for PCS people. In Navy Lodging, I think they based our room rates on the amount of allowance we were receiving, and Air Force Lodging is to affordable that it isn’t an issue.

      TLE is based strictly on the number of people and their ages. We’ve always been able to find some combination of rooms to suit us, whether it be a two bedroom suite or two rooms or one really big room with extra beds.

  • jerusha

    Hello, i have TLE but im a little confuse about the refund. So do we get back whatever we doesnt spend from our per diem?

    • Kate

      Lodging expenses are paid only to the extent that they are used, and you must provide receipts to claim these expenses. Meals and Incidentals are paid at the full rate whenever you are in an eligible status. These do not require proof of expenses.

      I hope that helps.

  • Janelle

    We are moving to hawaii, we are married with 3 kids less than 12. Would it be better if we stay at friends while waiting for post housing. Or stay at hotel? Do they only reimburse lodging on the exact bill?
    Also we will have to drop our car to California, do we get reimburse for lodging and meals for the drive ? My husband home of record in California if that’s important?

    • Kate

      Janelle, if you are asking about finances, it is the same either way. You will receive lodging reimbursement for the amount of the actual expenses, up to the maximum for the location. If you stay with friends, you will receive no lodging reimbursement. If you stay in a hotel, you will be reimbursed for your actual expenses (up to the limit.)

      You will also receive the full amount for meals and incidentals, at 175% of the rate for the location, for the number of days you are authorized TLA.

      In general, there is reimbursement for transporting your vehicle to the drop-off site. It sounds like that is some distance from you, if you are asking about lodging. I don’t know the exact details of this, but your finance folks should be able to help you out. As far as I understand, your husband will be authorized per diem for his travel to the vehicle drop-off location.

      Good luck to you. We loved our time in Hawaii!

    • Amanda

      We are PCSing to Hawaii in 50 days. We have 3 kids under 12. We are staying at The Lodge on MCBH. There aren’t many rooms so I would call now to reserve. You pay the first nights deposit $110 and then that’s all, you will get that money back at the end of your stay. They have a fridge, table and microwave but that doesn’t count as a kitchen so we will get $194 for meals a day. The lodge also has free breakfast so you can easily make that money feed you all and still have money left over. We rate 2 rooms because we have a 1yr, 7 yr and 10yr old. I would much rather stay in a hotel if it was being paid for so we sort of have our own space. This is our third time moving to Hawaii :)

  • Tina

    Do service members receive TLA when moving between OCONUS to OCONUS (Same country)?

    • Kate

      OCONUS to OCONUS moves do warrant TLA. The exact number of days will be dictated by the individual bases’ policies. For example, if you moved from Camp Darby to Vicenza, you would receive TLA at Camp Darby at the number of days permitted there, and TLA at Vicenza at the number of days permitted there.

  • Lance

    We are moving from England to Florida… Family of 4, kids are 8 and 10. Are we to expect TLE entitlement?

    • Kate

      Lance, sorry that I just found this comment. Yes, you should receive 5 days TLE when you leave the US. and whatever the command authorized TLA is when you get to England. We received 30 days TLA when we moved to England, but each installation is different and rules may change from year to year.

  • Candie

    How many days of TLA do you get if you are OCONUS (Hawaii) to CONUS?

  • liza

    Moving from OCONUS to CONUS
    Can I uses Airbnb as temp lodging? Or does it have to be a hotel?

    • Joseph

      That’s what I’d like to know too….
      Liza, did you figure it out? I will check with my local office Monday as well as follow up with DFAS

      • K……..

        Anyone have luck figuring this out? I’m curious as well.

    • Doug

      I have spent about an hour looking, because I have had and heard this question, but still don’t have a solid answer. I’m posting you can review what I’ve found, perhaps saving you some time. You need receipts for your travel claim, so would likely be okay in that regard. However, I think you are required to stay in properties listed on the Hotel-Motel National Master List (U.S. Fire Administration, a part of FEMA) when on official travel. http://www.defensetravel.dod.mil/site/faqtle.cfm#https://www.defensetravel.dod.mil/Docs/perdiem/br
      Page 1 and 42 had seemingly pertinent info.
      I couldn’t get the link to open in order to search the hotel list, but it’s at the top of http://www.usfa.fema.gov/prevention/outreach/hote
      As with and gov’t paperwork, good luck!!

      • Doug

        Oh, and I believe you’ll need a certificate of non-availability. This has been my personal experience both PCSing and helping people get temporary lodging. Oddly, Navy Gateway Inns over the phone said they had no rooms and were willing to send me the letter, but in person made reservations! Again, good luck!

  • Marissa

    Hi my husband and I just PCS’d to Italy and are in government lodging while trying to find a permanent place. How does TLA work with that. We are giving a mini fridge and two burner stove but no utensils as well our household goods are not here and they are saying we will be here for another 3.5 weeks it has already been 4 weeks. Do we still divide in half or not. We are assigned TLA but have to report on it every 10 days. Does it come in a lump sum or is it shown in his check?thank you!

    • Kate

      Marissa, your husband needs to file a TLA claim after every 10 days, and he should receive the reimbursement for that fairly quickly (7-10 days, maybe sooner.) It will be deposited into the same account as his paychecks, but in separate payments for each 10 day claim.

      Since you don’t have a full kitchen, you will receive the full Meals and Incidental Expenses rate for your location.

      If you have already been in Italy for 4 weeks, I hope you are actively searching for housing. The process to move into a house in Italy is complicated.

      If you haven’t attended your base’s newcomers brief, I strongly suggest you get into the next session. Many questions, including how the TLA process works, are answered in the newcomers brief.

      Good luck to you!

  • Clara

    We are leaving to Japan on the 14th. My spouse was supposed to be paid his TLE before they released him, but due to the person in charge who did NOT pay him before he was released we will not be getting TLE. We were supposed to get close to $1500 and due to the mistake of a worker, we got an apology and were turned away because the ‘black and white’ says it can only be given before he’s released. The military has cheated us from the money that they were supposed to give us! How can this injustice just be shrugged off? They make a mistake and we have to suffer for it? Really?

  • Mark

    Did anyone find an answer about Airbnb for temporary lodging?