Housing Allowances When Living Apart

Military Housing Allowances for Unaccompanied Tours

Today’s random topic that only applies to military families:  housing allowances when families are separated by Permanent Change of Station (PCS) orders.  When a military service member is permanently stationed without his or her dependents, what are the entitlements for housing allowance?

Accompanied or Unaccompanied?

The primary factor in figuring out the allowances for housing is whether the service member is authorized to have their dependents move with them.  If the orders are “unaccompanied,” and the service member isn’t permitted to take their dependents with them, then the service member may be authorized to receive a housing allowance for their dependents’ location.  If the orders are “accompanied,” and the service member is permitted to take their dependents with them, then it is a personal choice for the family to remain elsewhere, and, therefore, the service member is not authorized a housing allowance for their dependents’ location.

Where Can The Family Live?

If a service member has unaccompanied orders, they are authorized a housing allowance for their dependents to live at a “designated place.”  Under the Joint Travel Regulations (JTR,) this designated place may be anywhere in the United States.  If the spouse is foreign born, then the designated place may be the native country of the foreign born spouse. Under certain conditions, the designated place may be overseas if it is the previous or intended next duty station of the service member.

How It Works

If a military member is moved on PCS orders to a location where dependents are not authorized, then the military member must inform their branch of service where their dependents are residing. The service member must affirm that “the designated place is the place at which the dependents intend to establish a bona fide residence until further dependent transportation is authorized at Gov’t expense.” Under these circumstances, the service member will receive Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) or Overseas Housing Allowance (OHA) for the dependents’ location.

What About The Service Member’s Housing?

Regardless of the allowances that are, or are not, authorized for the family’s location, the service member remains eligible for whatever housing allowance is authorized for their status, rank, and location. For example, if an unaccompanied E-5 in Japan is required to live in the barracks, that remains the same whether or not they are receiving a housing allowance for the dependents’ location.

While you could, in theory, make up a million “what if” scenarios, the rules remain the same. If the orders are unaccompanied, then the service member is authorized housing allowance for their dependents’ designated place of residence. This should all be listed in the service member’s PCS orders. If the orders are accompanied, or the dependents do not live in a location eligible to be considered a designated place, then the service member is not authorized to receive a housing allowance for their dependents’ location.

Confused? Sure you have a special situation? Ask in the comments, and we’ll figure it out.

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.