With hurricane season in Coastal Georgia lasting from June until November, understanding evacuation entitlements has never been more important. These entitlements help Soldiers with expenses they may accrue during an emergency evacuation. Understanding when and how to use these entitlements can save Soldiers and their families time and money.
When to evacuate
Soldiers and families should pay attention to official Fort Stewart social media channels for evacuation information and notifications. Leaders within a Soldier’s chain of command should also provide notification. After the commanding general has ordered an evacuation, Soldiers are eligible for entitlements. If families choose to evacuate before an order is given, they will only be reimbursed for the duration outlined in the evacuation order. Families who live off post and evacuate without an order can seek reimbursement through the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Where to go
While there is no set evacuation location, evacuation orders will contain a mileage radius that evacuees must stay within to receive entitlements. Soldiers may stay with friends or family as long as they provide proof they evacuated the area. Proof can consist of gas receipts. Soldiers should read through the evacuation order for more information about where to evacuate.
Soldiers and their families are required to evacuate once an order has been issued. However, Soldiers who are deemed mission-essential personnel are not authorized to leave. Families of mission-essential Soldiers should be prepared to leave without them. Soldiers should speak with their chain of command to find out if they fit in this category. Mission-essential Soldiers should have a plan for transportation to work and for their family members who are evacuating.
What expenses are covered
Soldiers will be compensated for vehicle mileage, per diem and lodging during an emergency evacuation. Soldiers will only be reimbursed for the evacuation costs for family members listed in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System. Lodging will not be reimbursed to those who stay with family members or friends.
Soldiers will receive $0.56 per mile for vehicles they use to evacuate. Married Soldiers and their families may evacuate using multiple vehicle. However, they will only be reimbursed mileage for up to two vehicles. Soldiers will be reimbursed for the maximum mileage radius provided in the evacuation order and are not required to provide gas receipts.
“Family members should follow the mileage authorized in the evacuation order; anything over that radius will not be reimbursed,” said Sgt. 1st Class Samuel Salgadovalle, the senior enlisted advisor for the 3rd Infantry Division G8.
Soldiers and families will receive a daily lodging and per diem rate based on the evacuation location. Soldiers will be reimbursed the full per diem rate for dependents 12 years and older and half per diem rate for dependents younger than 12. Meals are reimbursed based on the per diem rate of the evacuation location, and it is not necessary to keep meal receipts. Soldiers and families will be reimbursed the maximum daily per diem rate for their location.
It is vital to keep all lodging receipts to receive reimbursement. Airbnbs are authorized, but the receipt must be itemized, and taxes must be listed separately. Soldiers and families can go to gsa.gov/travel web page for more information on location-specific per diem and lodging rates.
Soldiers will not be reimbursed for any pet expenses or for perishables in their refrigerators or freezers. Soldiers should contact their renters or home insurance provider for damages to their residence or personal items.
It is highly recommended that Soldiers use their Government Travel Card for evacuation expenses. Soldiers should coordinate with their unit Agency Program Coordinator at the battalion level to ensure their GTC is active. If a Soldier is considered essential personnel and cannot evacuate, families who do should use a personal credit card in place of the GTC.
What to do after returning from an evacuation
Once a Soldier returns, they will need to file a voucher in the Defense Travel System at defensetravel.osd.mil. Family members can file a voucher at their Soldier’s Brigade Hurricane Voucher Center. The center will walk Soldiers and families through the voucher process. Locations of the centers will be published through the chain of command and official social media platforms.
“Once the order is given to return back to your home station there will be a Hurricane Voucher Processing Area,” said Salgadovalle. “Each unit will have a date to settle the voucher. The Hurricane Voucher Processing Area will be open for two weeks.”
After returning, Soldiers will need the following document: itemized lodging or Airbnb receipts, proof of evacuation if they stayed with friends or Family, a DEERS form DD 1172 and their spouse’s ID card. To receive reimbursement, Soldiers will need to fill out a DD 1351 Travel Voucher or Subvoucher Form, DD 1610 Form, and an Evacuation Information Verification Sheet. Garrison will assist all tenant unit Families with the hurricane authorization and vouchers.
Who to contact with questions or issues
Contact information for reimbursement issues will be found in the evacuation order. Soldiers should use this contact information and their chain of command.