Military Retirement: Do You Have This Covered?

Soldier with flag

Transitioning to civilian life is just like everything else in military life. Doing it successfully takes preparation. Give yourself plenty of time to complete all the required tasks before you officially retire. There are four basic steps to take:

1. Separation requirements: Must-dos before your retirement date

Do you have questions about saving for retirement?

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Start with the Department of Defense Transition Assistance Program website. You’ll find detailed information about transition assistance and how to connect with your service branch’s program. You can also contact your installation’s TAP office.

Initial Counseling and Pre-separation counseling: You need to complete an Individualized Initial Counseling session and Pre-Separation counseling at least 365 days prior to your separation or retirement date, but you can schedule it up to 24 months before your retirement date.

Core Transition Curriculum: As part of the Transition Assistance Program, you will have the opportunity to attend mandatory briefings on transition preparation, employment preparation, and the benefits offered from the Department of Veterans Affairs. Learn more about the core requirements on the DOD TAP website.

Final medical exam: Schedule your mandatory, final medical and dental exam with your installation’s medical clinic 90 days before you separate.

Scheduling final move: You will have one year after leaving active duty to complete your final move. But the sooner you can schedule, the greater the chance of getting the dates you want. Learn more under the benefits section in number 3 below.

2. Plan your post-retirement budget: Know what you’ll have to work with

Review your military retirement pay, benefits and expenses to plan your budget and calculate what you’ll have each month.

Income: You’ll receive one of three types of non-disability retirement pay:

  • Final basic pay – for service members with an entry date prior to Sept. 8, 1980.
  • High 36 – for service members with an entry date between Sept. 8, 1980 and Jul. 31, 1986, or for those with dates after Aug. 1, 1986 and before Jan. 1, 2018 who didn’t elect REDUX or opt in to the Blended Retirement System.
  • CBS/REDUX – for service members with an entry date after Jul. 31, 1986 who accepted a mid-career bonus at the 15-year mark and agreed to remain active duty for at least 20 years.

Note: Service members enrolled in the new Blended Retirement System will have slightly different retirement payments than the three outlined above, including a different monthly retired pay formula, a possible lump sum payment taken at time of departure, and a Thrift Savings Plan. Learn more in these frequently asked questions regarding the Blended Retirement System.

Payouts: Federal and state taxes will be withheld from your retirement check. Also remember medical and dental premiums, and Survivor Benefit Plan premiums.

Annual adjustments: Just like your active-duty pay, your retirement pay adjusts annually based on the cost of living to protect your income against inflation.

3. Benefits you’ve earned as a retiring service member

As an active-duty service member, you receive a number of benefits. What happens to them when you retire?

TRICARE: Retiring service members must enroll themselves and eligible family members or risk losing TRICARE benefits. This includes family members with Medicare Part A and B. For more information on health care plan options for retiring service members and families, visit the TRICARE website.

Dental and/or Vision: You may choose to enroll in to dental and/or vision insurance through the FEDVIP benefits program You can enroll during the annual open season each fall, or whenever you have a qualifying life event. Dental and vision plans have a monthly premium based on the plan you choose. Find more details at the Benefeds website.

Final moving expense: You have one calendar year from your retirement date to use your last government-paid move anywhere within the U.S. or to your home of record outside the country. Check with your installation’s Personnel Support Office for information.

Life insurance: Your Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance plan continues uninterrupted for 120 days after separation. During that time, you can convert your life insurance to Veterans’ Group Life Insurance. You can still convert after 120 days, but you will have to prove that you’re in good health. Visit the VA life insurance webpage for more information.

Commissary and exchange privileges: You and your family have the same access to both facilities after retirement. The only exception – overseas privileges may be subject to a Status of Forces Agreement.

GI Bill/Education and Training: Depending on which GI Bill you have, and when you leave the service, your GI Bill may be good for 10 years, 15 years or indefinitely. Get the details at your installation’s education office or visit the VA education webpage for more information.

Home loans: Find out about a VA loan to purchase or build your dream retirement home. To qualify, you must have served at least 24 months and have an honorable or general discharge. Call 800-827-1000 or visit the VA housing assistance webpage.

The Survivor Benefit Plan: The plan provides a portion of your retirement pay to your spouse or other eligible person after your death. As long as you have an eligible spouse or child, you’ll automatically be enrolled, and at the maximum level unless you elect otherwise. Contact your installation TAP office or the Defense Finance and Accounting Service with any questions.

4. Finally, prepare for civilian life.

You’ve got military life down cold. What’s it like being a civilian? Time will tell. The best way to prepare is to know what to expect and have some strategies for success.

Saying goodbye: You’ve been through enough moves to know what it’s like to leave friends who feel more like family. But these days, social media makes it easy to keep in touch.

Job searching: Ace that interview. Get a head start. You can attend a Transition Assistance Program employment workshop on your installation as early as two years before retirement.

Miss the lifestyle? It’s not as farfetched as it sounds. You’ve been in a tight, exclusive community with its own unique lifestyle. Look into joining a military organization that can keep you connected and in the loop on retirement issues.

Retirement is the first step to your next successful life and career. Know what’s ahead, be prepared, and enjoy.

Moving After the Death of Your Loved One

Woman sitting with moving boxes

Moving after the death of a loved one can be an important step toward creating your new normal. However, it can be emotionally exhausting. In addition to grieving, you may be faced with deciding where to relocate and worried about what to do with your loved one’s belongings.

Deciding where to move

Some things to consider when choosing your next home:

  • The best location to find support. Depending on your situation, you may find it comforting to move near family and friends, especially if you have young children. You may want to relocate near a military installation for a variety of services for yourself as well as your children.
  • Seeking new employment. You may want to consider looking into employment opportunities before you decide where to move. If you’re seeking employment through the federal government, you may be able to take advantage of special preference programs. Contact Military OneSource’s Spouse Education and Career Opportunities to get a certified career counselor in your corner. Your SECO career coach can connect you with employers, education or other career resources in your current or new area.
  • The affordability of your location. Perhaps you need to relocate to a place that allows you to live comfortably with your survivor benefits.

What’s next?

Once you’ve made a decision about where to move, you may want to:

Take your time with your loved one’s possessions

You, and only you, should decide what to do with your loved one’s personal belongings. When you are ready, you can sort your loved one’s belongings at your own pace and may want to consider asking friends and family for help. Ask yourself questions about each item to help you decide what to do with it such as:

  • Could this item make a good heirloom for kids or grandkids?
  • Would a family friend find comfort in the item?
  • Can I donate it to charity to provide comfort to others?
  • Should I keep it for myself?

Resources

Moving away from the military doesn’t mean that your relationship with the military has to end. As a surviving spouse, you have access to military installations and may access your Morale, Welfare and Recreation facilities, commissary, exchange and medical privileges.

Military OneSource can help you through this process. Available 24 hours a day, this free service can provide you help through:

Moving isn’t a one-person job. Tap into the support that is available to you and take advantage of the resources that can help you take this important step forward to your new normal.

PCS and Taxes: Deducting Military Moving Expenses

Man moving boxes

Service members who move due to a permanent-change-of-station move may be eligible to deduct some of their unreimbursed moving expenses from their federal income tax returns. Most moving costs are covered by military allowances, so you’ll want to save your receipts and log your expenses to calculate any possible deduction at the end of the tax year.

Check out IRS Publication 521, Moving Expenses for examples and more details.

Who is eligible?

The only people who can deduct moving expenses are active-duty military members who relocated due to PCS orders or, in some cases, their unaccompanied family members. These include orders to a first duty station and orders when separating or retiring from military service.

Free MilTax Services

MilTax’s tax preparation and e-filing software is available mid-January through mid-October. And MilTax consultants are available year-round to help with tax questions.

What expenses can be deducted?

In general, you can deduct unreimbursed expenses directly related to the moving and storage of your household goods, and your travel from your old location to the new one. This includes expenses for the taxpayer and any member of their household.

Qualifying military moving expenses fall into two groups:

Moving household goods and personal effects:

  • Packing materials
  • Shipping vehicles
  • The cost of moving your household goods, whether by car, container or contracted moving
  • Transporting pets

Reasonable travel and lodging expenses:

  • The cost of one night’s lodging at your old location if your furniture has been moved
  • The cost of the first night’s lodging in your new location
  • The costs of stopping and starting essential utilities
  • The cost of moving household goods from another location, up to the cost of moving them from your old location
  • In some cases, storage fees

To be a “reasonable” expense, the route you take, for example, must be the shortest, most direct route available from your previous home to your new one.

What expenses cannot be deducted?

The following items are not deductible:

  • Meals
  • Temporary lodging after the first night that you arrive at your new location
  • Vehicle registration
  • Driver’s licenses
  • Any cost of purchasing or renting a new home
  • Other expenses for stopovers, side trips or pre-move-house hunting expenses

How to report deductible expenses

Deductible moving expenses are reported on IRS Form 3903, and any deduction on that form is reported on your regular federal income tax return.

Reimbursements

Many moving expenses are fully or partially covered by military allowances. You cannot claim any expenses paid for by the military, whether paid directly or reimbursed. For example, you cannot deduct mileage and lodging that was reimbursed under the military’s Monetary Allowance in Lieu of Transportation, typically called mileage, or the PCS Per Diem rates.

Military OneSource offers free tax assistance through the MilTax suite of services, including tax preparation and filing software and telephone consultations with a tax professional. Contact a Military OneSource MilTax consultant for free at 800-342-9647. OCONUS/International? Click here for calling options. Or live chat to schedule a free consultation with a MilTax consultant or a financial counselor.

Plan My Move: Great PCS Moving Checklists & More

Woman packs moving box

If you’ve received new orders, it’s time to fire up a powerful tool that can help you take charge and master your move. Plan My Move is a Department of Defense online tool that simplifies the moving process, breaking it down into clear, manageable steps for both experienced and first-time movers, as well as family members and loved ones.

Plan My Move helps you create personalized moving checklists, and offers tips about housing, transportation, finances and more. This online tool puts you and your family in charge of a smooth relocation to your new duty station.

Personalized moving task lists and tips

Plan My Move is easy to use. Simply answer a few questions and the tool creates lists tailored to your unique needs. As you provide more details about your upcoming move, your checklists will become more detailed as well. New features enable you to:

  • Choose whether to view your tasks by topic, or in a chronological timeline
  • Edit checklist items
  • Add checklist items
  • Rearrange the order of checklist items with drag and drop
  • Revisit and continue previously saved checklists(s)
  • Save your checklist in a variety of formats

Need more info about your new duty station?

The MilitaryINSTALLATIONS website is your one-stop shop for information on DOD installations worldwide, for all service branches. Check out how easy it is to find resources and contacts for your current installation, or for the one where you’re being reassigned. You can:

  • Search a directory of installations and services, complete with websites, maps, program offices, phone numbers and email addresses.
  • Create your own downloadable personalized installation booklet with the information you are most interested in, such as check-in procedures, housing, child and youth programs, transportation and more.
  • Eligible users can log in to get local community information about schools, amenities and home values.

Want to talk to a live person?

Military OneSource can help answer questions about allowances and benefits, COVID-19 travel restrictions, housing, schools, spouse employment and more. Consultants are available 24/7/365. Call 800-342-9647, use OCONUS dialing options, or start a live chat.

In addition to Military OneSource, your installation Relocation Assistance Program can also help you plan for a successful move. Learn how to put the military Relocation Assistance Program to work for you.

Tap into all the available relocation resources and master your next move.

Supporting Your Service Member and Their Family Before a Military Move

child playing in moving box

Service members move every few years in what is called a permanent change of station or in short a PCS. After PCSing a few times, military families tend to become pros at moving. But even those who have relocated many times can feel overwhelmed when those official military PCS orders arrive.

Your support can go a long way in easing the stress of a military move. Even if you live too far away to watch the kids or pitch in with the packing, there are ways you can make it easier for your loved ones to prepare for a PCS.

Everything you need to know about PCS

Military moves are different than moving as a civilian. Learn the ins and outs of a PCS so you will understand your service member’s experience.

Your service member has two options for a PCS move, but can do a mix of both:

  • A household goods move, in which the government provides a moving company to pack and transport all household goods.
  • A personally procured move, in which service members hire their own moving company or pack up and transport all household goods themselves. The government will pay your service member 95% of their cost to hire a moving company. A PPM move is allowed only within the continental United States.

Your service member will receive a PCS notification before orders arrive, but will not be able to schedule the move until orders are in hand. Military families may feel in limbo during the time in between because plans are always subject to change. So, while your service member and their family may look at schools and homes in the new location, they shouldn’t make any commitments until orders arrive.

There are other differences between military and civilian moves, including:

  • There is a weight limit on household and other goods that may be moved to the new location at government cost. The weight limit increases with rank and number of dependents. For example, a single service member at the rank of E-1 may transport up to 5,000 pounds of household goods. They are allowed another 2,000 pounds for their work-related equipment and vehicle. At the high end of the scale, an officer at the rank of O-7 with dependents can ship up to 18,000 pounds of household goods plus 2,000 pounds of work-related equipment and a personal vehicle.
  • The cost to transport a pet is not covered. However, your service member may be reimbursed for some or all of the cost of quarantine in countries where that is mandatory.

Helping your service member prepare for a PCS

Ask your service member and their family how you can help them. If they don’t have specific suggestions, here are some ways you can ease their pressure and lift their spirits as they prepare to PCS.

  • Be a sympathetic ear to your loved one. When frustrations or fears build up, having someone to vent to can be a big relief. Talking through problems can also lead to solutions.
  • Become familiar with the new duty station so you will have some knowledge of the area before your service member arrives. You can find information on MilitaryINSTALLATIONS.
  • Encourage your loved ones to stay positive and to connect with their installation Relocation Assistance Program, where they can receive an array of services to assist with their move.
  • Put together a playlist of songs or podcasts if your loved ones will be traveling a long distance to the new duty station.
  • Create a photo album of your service member’s time at their duty station. Fill it with pictures of friends, important places and memorable experiences.

If you live close by:

  • Provide a few meals along with disposable dinnerware and containers. You might also organize a meal train where friends and neighbors take turns bringing meals. Not having to worry about making dinner can be a huge relief in the midst of packing – particularly when cookware is already boxed up.
  • Lend an inflatable mattress and linens to your service member and their family if they will be staying behind a night or two after the movers pick up their furniture.
  • Pitch in to help clean the home after it’s emptied out for the move.
  • Watch your service member’s children or pets on moving day.

If you live far away:

  • Arrange for meal delivery from a local restaurant or takeout place on a night when you know your service member will be busy packing.
  • Give a gift of a cleaning service to deep clean the home after everything is moved out.
  • Send a gift box of activities for the trip.

Resources for a smooth move

There are a variety of resources to help make military moves as easy and safe as possible. Pass these along to your loved ones if they’re not aware of them.

  • Move.mil is the Department of Defense customer moving portal. Your service member can register as soon as the PCS orders arrive.
  • Plan My Move is an online tool that helps military families create personalized moving checklists, offers tips about housing, transportation, finances and more.
  • MilitaryINSTALLATIONS is where you can find information about each military installation, the surrounding community and more. Your service member can also create a customized installation booklet with key resources and installation information.
  • HOMES.mil lists housing near military installations.

No matter how you support your loved one, the important thing is that they know you are there for them. Text messages, letters or emails from you will remind them that they’re not alone, no matter where they are.

Special Education and Child Care – The Essentials

Child with Special Needs Playing

It takes a lot of involvement to make sure a family member with special needs gets the right education and care. It also requires good communication with child care providers and school administrators and teachers. How can you make sure special education or child care is working for you and your child? Here are some essentials:

Learn about child care options.

You want to find the right care for your child with special needs. The military offers quality, affordable child care with options both on installation and off. We can help you find the best fit for your child and your family. Find out more with EFMP & Me or with these resources:

Relevant Articles:

Relevant Resources:

  • MilitaryChildCare.com. This site streamlines your child care search. It lets you access options and make informed decisions about your child’s care.
  • Military Respite Care. This offers fee assistance to eligible military families through the individual service programs. It also offers a child care search as well as information on resources for military spouses who provide child care.
  • Education Directory for Children With Special Needs. This gives you information to help with assignment decisions and less stressful transitions.
  • EFMP & Me. This tool provides information and resources tailored to your needs, including a child care checklist. It’s online and available 24/7. A must-use tool for every military family with special needs members.

Find information and tips to support you – download the Special Needs Parent Tool Kit

This toolkit from the Department of Defense provides information for you and your child with special needs. Learn about early intervention services and find help during relocation. Understand educational rights granted by the Americans with Disabilities Act and much more.

Relevant Articles:

Relevant Resources:

Create your education roadmap. Get an Individual Education Program.

The first step in any special education plan is developing an Individual Education Program, or IEP. After an evaluation, an IEP becomes a roadmap you can take with you. It lays out the instruction and services to help your child succeed. The sooner you get started, the better.

Make sure your child’s IEP stays current. When you move, give a copy of the IEP to your child’s new school. Work hand-in-hand with the school to support your child’s transition and to implement the IEP. The new school’s services may not look exactly like their previous school. However, they are required to provide comparable services.

Relevant Articles:

Relevant Resources:

Call Military OneSource at 800-342-9647 or live chat to schedule an appointment with a special needs consultant. Appointments are available seven days a week.

An Overview of Special Education

Teacher works with student

Special education is designed to meet unique needs of children with special needs, ages 3 through 21. Military OneSource offers tools and resources to help you navigate the system. Start here to learn about the special education process, including eligibility, relevant laws and regulations, moving (including overseas) and graduating or leaving school.

Introducing EFMP & Me

Explore services and supports for your military family with special needs using this personalized tool as your guide. You can be your best advocate!

About the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act ensures that all children with special needs have access to a “free appropriate public education” and they have the necessary tools to meet their educational goals. The act governs how states and public agencies, including the Department of Defense, provide early intervention, special education and related services to eligible children with disabilities, ages birth through 21.

Eligibility

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act assists with early intervention services for eligible children, birth to age 3, and special education services for eligible children, ages 3 to 21, in three specific areas:

  • Identification
  • Evaluation
  • Delivery

Children qualify for special education based on guidelines set by the state and Department of Defense.

Relevant regulations

The U.S. Department of Education uses specific regulations that implement the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act in public schools in the United States and its territories. States then create guidance to supplement these regulations. You can find state regulations on state education agency websites.

The Department of Defense school system operates under Department of Defense policy as outlined in Department of Defense Instruction 1342.12, “Implementation of Early Intervention and Special Education Services to Eligible DoD Dependents,” June 17, 2015.

It includes these guiding principles:

  • Free appropriate public education. This principle makes sure every child, regardless of disability, has the right to attend a public school and receive an education tailored to achieve his or her highest potential.
  • Appropriate evaluation. The testing process is regulated so children receive the best individualized education placement and services.
  • The individualized education program, or IEP. This written document is created for every child in the public school system who’s eligible for special education. It’s drafted by an interdisciplinary team and reviewed every year.
  • Least restrictive environment. This principle requires that students with disabilities share the same setting, as much as possible while still meeting their needs, with students who do not have disabilities.
  • Parent and teacher participation. This principle establishes the importance of parents and teachers working together to achieve their children’s educational goals.
  • Procedural safeguards. These are in place to protect the rights of families with special needs.

Moving with an IEP

The act also protects your child’s educational progress when you move to a new school district. School districts must provide comparable services that honor the previous school’s IEP. Keep in mind, the new school district may not necessarily recreate the same program.

When a student with an IEP transfers, the new school must:

  • Provide free and appropriate public education
  • Include services comparable to those in your child’s current IEP

Resources vary according to location. In some cases, they may be better than those available at your last duty station. Reach out to the school’s counselors and teachers who will develop a new IEP for your child after your move.

Bring current copies of your child’s IEP and eligibility records before transferring to start similar services immediately in your new location.

See Moving With an IEP for more information.

Moving overseas

The Department of Defense Education Activity special education website lists special education relocation suggestions and contacts for families moving overseas. Parents should contact the responsible special education coordinator if a child receiving special education also requires:

  • Special equipment
  • Assistive technology
  • Individualized paraprofessional support

If you need help with a PCS, be sure to reach out to your local installation’s EFMP Military Family Support Center.

Graduating or leaving school

Young adults with disabilities can find a number of continuing education and work opportunities within their communities. You can help find these opportunities by calling your local state vocational rehabilitation program. Learn how to advocate for your child within the school system by contacting your Center for Parent Information and Resources.

No matter what stage of life, individuals with special needs deserve a quality education just like everyone else. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act is in place to open classroom doors to every child and help all students to be their best academically. The Exceptional Family Member Program provides family support, education and much more.

Contact a Military OneSource special needs consultant if you have any questions or concerns regarding the care and education of your family member with special needs.

See the Special Education Fact Sheet for more information.

The Interstate Compact Makes Changing Schools Easier for Military Children

Military wife takes walks with her children to the first day of school.

When moving to a new duty station means going to a new state as well as a new school for your kids, rest assured that the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children is designed to make the transition smooth. The Department of Defense, in collaboration with the National Center for Interstate Compacts and the Council of State Governments developed the compact to address the educational transitions for military families. All 50 states have committed to helping your children enroll in school, register for the classes they need, and graduate on time.

Through the compact, states are working together to provide a consistent set of policies that will make getting started in a new school, joining extracurricular activities and meeting graduation requirements as easy as possible for military children. Military parents can help their families access this support with a few simple steps.

Help your family benefit from the Interstate Compact during a military move

Enrollment: The compact makes it much simpler to get started at a new school.

  • School records: You can obtain a copy of your child’s school records from their old school to bring to the new one. Use these until the official records arrive.
  • Immunizations: You have 30 days from the time of enrollment to give your child any new required immunizations.
  • Kindergarten and first grade: Children can continue in their current class year, even if the new school has a different age requirement.

Consultants Support Families Changing Schools

If your child is changing schools, an education consultant can answer your questions and guide you to help for a smooth transition.

Placement: Your child’s progress in their previous school will be recognized.

  • Course and program placement: If your child is already in a program, such as advanced placement, the new school must honor that if they have an equivalent.
  • Placement flexibility: Your child won’t have to repeat basic coursework if they’ve taken something similar already.
  • Attendance: The compact enables a student to miss school for military-related reasons.
  • Absence related to deployment: Students may request excused absences before, during and after the related deployment period.

Eligibility for activities: Your child’s eligibility for attending school and extracurricular activities won’t be affected.

  • Enrollment: Your child can continue to attend their same school if they’re living with a relative, friend or non-custodial parent during the deployment. The guardian will, however, need a power of attorney to enroll or give permission to participate in school activities.
  • Extracurricular activities: Even if tryouts or application deadlines have passed, the school will help make it possible for the child to participate.

Graduation: With the compact, graduation for kids in high school won’t be affected.

  • Course waivers: If your child has already completed similar coursework, they can waive courses required for graduation at a new school.
  • Exit exams: The new school district may accept your child’s exit exams and achievement tests required to graduate from their previous school.
  • Senior-year transfers: If your student changes school during their senior year, the two school districts will work together to get a diploma from the former school to ensure on-time graduation.

The Interstate Compact also covers children with special needs changing schools

In addition to provisions in the Interstate Compact, Military OneSource offers these educational resources for families with special needs:

  • The Education Directory for Children With Special Needs: The directory provides the information you need to make informed decisions about education and early intervention services.
  • Exceptional Family Member Program: Your local installation EFMP Family Support staff can help you identify and access programs and services related to education, outreach, local school and early intervention services.
  • Special Needs Consultants: Special needs consultants can be accessed through Military OneSource Exceptional Family Member Program Resources, Options and Consultations, or EFMP ROC. Consultants are available by phone or video to help you navigate the medical and educational needs of your family and connect you with military and community-based support.

If you want to schedule an appointment or have questions, Military OneSource has military-trained consultants in education and special needs. Call 800-342-9647 or live chat at any time to schedule an appointment. OCONUS/International? Click here for calling options.

Sesame Street for Military Families: Helping Kids Through Life’s Milestones

Sesame Street characters dance on stage

Hope and Healing: Family Caregiving

When a loved one needs extra support, it’s important to come together as a family.

For many years, colorful Sesame Street characters like Elmo and Big Bird have helped children learn while having fun. The Department of Defense has drawn on these familiar friends to help children ages 2-6 through the milestones of relocations, deployments, transitions and more by creating Sesame Street for Military Families.

The initiative aims to address the ongoing needs of military children related to their experiences and transitions. The free multimedia website – with videos, games, tips, articles and more – is offered in both English and Spanish for kids and parents. You can help your child gain resilience and have fun along the way. Here is a sampling of what you’ll find.

Learning tips and games for parents and kids

  • Changes Big & Small Tip Sheet: These tips offer information for parents on building a sense of security during periods of transition and strategies for providing reassurance, such as establishing regular rituals.
  • It’s An Adventure! In this video, Muppet friends Elmo and Rosita help military children to see change – starting a new school or moving into a new home — as an exciting adventure.
  • New Friend Coupons: This downloadable coloring sheet makes meeting friends more fun. Kids cut apart the coupons and give to their new classmates.
  • Conversation starters: Getting your child to communicate about his or her feelings can take a little creativity. Download these instructions for a finger puppet show with conversation-provoking scene-starters.

Streaming YouTube is currently blocked from DOD networks.

Deployments and relocations

Family health and wellness

  • Sesame Street’s When Families Grieve: This DVD resource kit features Elmo, other Sesame Street Muppets and the courageous stories of families who have experienced the death of a parent. The bilingual kit includes a DVD, children’s storybook and guide for parents and caregivers.
  • Bedtime Routines: Military children need routine even more than the average child, starting with a consistent bedtime ritual. This tip sheet gives parents directions on establishing a good bedtime routine.
  • Self-Expression Videos: Elmo and friends teach children how to express themselves: through song, laughter, hugging, moving and talking in this entertaining video series.
  • Feeling Faces: Muppets Elmo, Abby and Oscar help children explore their feelings in a fun online card game.
  • Breathe, Think, Do with Sesame: This mobile app helps children learn how to calm down and solve everyday challenges thanks to a Sesame Street monster friend.

Family caregiving

  • Hope and Healing Together: When a loved one needs extra support, it can mean big adjustments for everyone in the family. But no matter the caregiving situation, embracing a sense of family togetherness will help.

Sesame Street for Military Families is there for children with a parent in the military. The website celebrates the unique role of military children by offering them and their parents a wide range of resources, from engaging videos and fun apps to helpful tip sheets and articles.

PCS: The Basics About Permanent Change of Station

Moving truck in front of house

A permanent change of station is part of military life. Experiencing different parts of the country and the world is a unique benefit of military service. In fact, travel and visiting new cultures may have been among the reasons you joined the military.

More than 400,000 service members PCS annually, so you can expect PCS orders to be part of your military career.

Received PCS orders?

Military OneSource moving experts can help you with moving tips, information about your new duty station and everything you need to master your PCS.

Overseas? OCONUS dialing options.

What your PCS orders include

Unlike temporary travel assignments, permanent change of station orders are a longer-term assignment, generally two to four years. Broadly speaking, your orders will tell you where you’ll be moving to – either CONUS or OCONUS.

  • CONUS: Moves inside the continental United States
  • OCONUS: Moves outside the continental U.S. These are typically overseas moves, but OCONUS moves also include Alaska, Hawaii and U.S. territories.

Your orders will also include:

  • Issue date
  • Issuer’s name
  • Order number
  • Authorized locations

If you are going to coordinate your move through the military, you will need to have this information handy.

Organizing your move

Moving is rarely simple, and in times of global uncertainty it is more important than ever to know the best ways to organize the logistics of your move and act fast once you get your orders. The Department of Defense provides a variety of resources to help make your PCS as easy and safe as possible:

  • Military OneSource is available 24/7 anywhere in the world with expert moving consultants and online tools and resources to help you get organized and settled. Call anytime to speak with a consultant, or set up an online chat. Learn more about how our experts can help you master your move with this information about moving in the military.
  • Move.mil is the official Department of Defense customer moving portal. It provides comprehensive information about all aspects of moving, including entitlements, household goods, privately-owned vehicles, weight estimators, scheduling your move and much more. If you want to coordinate your move through the DOD, register with Move.mil as soon as you receive your PCS orders. After you have registered your move, contact your local Household Goods/Transportation Office for further information. They can help you with questions about entitlements, scheduling and more.
  • Plan My Move is an online tool that helps you create custom checklists, access information about entitlements, benefits, points of contact at your new installation and more. Answer a couple of questions and you’re on your way to organizing your move.

Relocation assistance and resources

There are a variety of resources both online and through your installation to help you transition before, during and after your move:

  • Your installation’s Relocation Assistance Program is a great source of information and support for moving and getting settled at your new duty station. Relocation experts offer pre-departure briefings, newcomer orientations, and a wealth of information about job opportunities, child care and more. Find out how to put the military’s relocation assistance program to work for you.
  • The MilitaryINSTALLATIONS website provides comprehensive information about each military installation and the surrounding community. Search for programs and services, access information on temporary housing, check-in procedures, schools and more.
  • The military sponsorship program helps service members and families settle in after a PCS. This program is available to all service members and families no matter where you are moving to. Your unit will assign a service member of similar rank and family make-up to help you learn the ropes at your new duty station. Learn more about how sponsorship can help you settle into your new home.
  • And check out the Blog Brigade website to see what other service members have to say about moving.

Personally procured moves for do-it-yourself movers

If you prefer to organize your move yourself, you may be able to choose a personally procured move. You are eligible for a PPM when you have PCS orders, a temporary duty assignment, or face separation, retirement or assignment to, from or between government quarters.

During a PPM move, you coordinate the move of your household goods yourself without using any military moving services. This means that you are responsible for all the planning and communications that a military-coordinated move usually handles. Doing it all yourself can mean added stress and possible problems.

But military moves don’t have to be exclusively one or the other. You can use some military moving services and manage other parts of the move yourself. For more information, contact your installation Household Goods/Transportation Office or ask a Military OneSource moving expert.

Whether this is your first PCS or you’re a seasoned professional, let Military OneSource help you master your move so you can get on with your mission.