By Jim Hinnant, U.S. Army Forces Command Public AffairsOctober 27, 2009
FORT McPHERSON, Ga. - Two of the toughest challenges facing Atlanta-area Army civilian employees relocating to Ft. Bragg, N.C. or Rock Island Arsenal, Ill. in 2011 will likely be moving their families and, potentially, selling their Atlanta-area homes.
To answer concerns and help people make critical financial decisions, Headquarters, U.S. Army Forces Command hosted a Base Realignment and Closure Relocation Benefits and Entitlements Seminar, Oct. 15, here at The Commons Community and Golf club.
More than 250 employees from here and nearby Ft. Gillem listened and asked questions during several hours of briefings focused on Permanent Change of Station travel entitlements, and the Defense National Relocation Program, presented by subject matter experts from the Defense Finance and Accounting Service, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
A key ingredient to a successful move is having transfer orders completed well in advance of a move and ensuring the orders explicitly state all command-approved entitlements.
"We will put together a panel of experts to draft individual travel orders, and more than 120 days ahead of either an advanced-party movement or a normal serial\'s departure, people will get their orders," said Lou Smith, a human resources specialist with the FORSCOM BRAC Planning Office. "We want to be sure the orders cover everything and that orders are standard across the headquarters."
Knowledge is also critical to every individual's successful move, said Tammy Estep, a PCS expert from the DFAS-Columbus, Ohio Service Center.
"Know your entitlements up front," she advised. "We don't want anyone to lose money for moving to Fort Bragg or Rock Island."
Estep went over in detail such allowances as the Miscellaneous Expense Allowance ($500 for an individual, or $1000 for a family) for which, she said, many civilians never bother to apply, and the Temporary Quarters Subsistence Expense which is a discretionary allowance that may be paid to the employee and their dependents while in search of permanent living accommodations after reporting to the new duty station.
"The bottom line is to have necessary receipts and itemize everything," Estep said. "You don't have to keep individual receipts for expenses under $75, but please keep in mind not to claim things that aren't authorized."
"You can claim laundry expenses, but don't claim that hair dye," she cautioned with a chuckle. "Make sure your supervisor reviews and signs your claim certifying all the expenses."
Estep said the DFAS goal is to have claims completed and payment made to the employee within seven to eight business days.
The second subject on the day's agenda was the DNRP, which assists eligible and authorized Department of Defense civilian employees in relocating from one duty station to another.
The DNRP can help the FORSCOM Headquarters staff maintain mission continuity during the transition period by minimizing family separation periods and the time it takes employees and their families to settle in at Ft. Bragg.
David Gage, chief of the National Relocation Program Office for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Baltimore District, told the audience that the program is an alternative to reimbursement for Permanent Change of Station-related real estate sales expenses.
"Your PCS orders are the trigger for DNRP eligibility," he said. "But, don't enter the program if you aren't ready to sell your home immediately."
According to Gage, the program has three main components:
Aca,!AcProgram information counseling
Aca,!AcDestination services, such as mortgage counseling and home finding for buyers or renters
Aca,!AcGovernment-paid relocation services - guaranteed home sale with marketing assistance, and property management
He also emphasized the separate nature of the DNRP and another program that may be of use to relocating members of the command - the Homeowners Assistance Program.
"The HAP is not the DNRP, and the DNRP is not the HAP," he pointed out. "Each program is different, but for the DNRP - the most important actions to take or decisions you have to make are to select a qualified real estate agent, and to price your home realistically."
Faye Grover, a management analyst with FORSCOM G3, is moving to Ft. Bragg.
Grover found the day's briefings well worth her time. "This was excellent and very informative," Grover said. "I have moved four times as a civilian and didn't think they could tell me anything new, but they did."
The next BRAC-related event here will be a Homeowners BRAC Town Hall, 2 p.m., Nov. 4 in the FORSCOM Headquarters G1 Atrium.
The subject of the event will be the Homeowners Assistance Program. For more information, employees should contact their directorate BRAC Integrated Process Action Team Representative, or Lou Smith at (404) 464-5577. Interested employees can also visit the Forscom Sharepoint site or http://hap.usace.army.mil/Benefits.html