Military Spouse Licensure Reimbursement | $1,000 PCS Expenses Military Money Manual Podcast Episode 66

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Spencer Reese and Jamie explain how to get up to $1,000 reimbursed for military spouses expenses incurred by PCS through Military Spouse Licensure Reimbursement.

Learn more on Military One Source.

Military Money Manual Podcast Episode 66 Links

Outline of Episode: 

  • Basics of the program- Who's eligible?
  • What kind of expenses can you claim and get reimbursed under the program?
  • What kind of documents are going to be required and how do you apply?
  • Jamie’s personal experience and helpful tips with the program
  • What about those who leave active duty and go to the reserve component?

Military Money Manual Podcast Episode 66 Transcript

[00:00:00] Spencer: Your service will reimburse you up to $1,000 for licensing or certification costs for spouses when you PCS. So this started with a 2018 NDAA. That's the National Defense Authorization Act. It allows military services to reimburse spouses for re-licensing and certification costs due to PCS and all the branches do this.

So that includes the Space Force, the Coast Guard, and all military branches do this, and it's basically for any move that crosses states. Military spouses like teachers, doctors, nurses, physicians assistant, cosmologists, real estate, massage therapists, and any job that requires a state license, can get reimbursed for it if you move states.

[00:01:01] Spencer: Hello again, podcast listeners. I'm Spencer Reese from MilitaryMoneyManual.com and the author of the book The Military Money Manual. Today, my co-host, Jamie and I are talking about the military spouse licensure reimbursement program. Jamie licensure is a really hard word to say, so I might just start saying licensing, but we're going to cover what this program is, what the program covers, and what it will reimburse for in the maximum you can get.

And then we're going to talk about how to claim it, including some service-specific details for all the military branches. 

Hey, if you want to do us a favor and you're not driving, please leave us a five-star review on Spotify or a rating and review on Apple Podcasts that really helps us out. It helps get our podcast episodes in front of military families, in front of military listeners like you.

And it also just gives us a good feeling when we can log in there and see that. Jamie, how many Spotify are we up to?

[00:01:55] Jamie: 93 Five-star reviews on Spotify, which is incredible. Thank you, guys.

[00:02:00] Spencer: Fantastic. Yeah. What's pretty crazy is not to throw shade at other podcasts, but we have seen some pretty big podcasts out there that have zero Spotify reviews, and I think on a per-star basis, we're beating some top-name podcasts like Tim Ferris.

So that's great. Hey, Jamie. Enough about our podcast. Let's get into talking about military spouse licensing reimbursement, or I think the technical term is licensure, but I didn't do too good at kindergarten.

[00:02:29] Jamie: That's hard to say.

[00:02:30] Spencer: Yeah. So what are the basics of the program? Who's eligible?

[00:02:33] Jamie: This program is for spouses of service members of any rank who moved across state lines due to PCS under accompanied orders and who wish to pursue the same license or certification in their new location. This includes any PCS that started on or after December 12th, 2017. So if you're just hearing about this and you moved last year, or within the last 24 months, you should even be able to go back and backdate your application or apply now for a previous PCS.

[00:03:02] Spencer: Oh, that's awesome. I didn't know it was 24 months. Yeah. One thing that's really cool about this program is I don't know a whole lot about it. I don't have personal experience with it. My spouse did work while I was on active duty, but she was in a career field that A, allowed remote work, and B, it didn't require any licensing from the state.

So she was lucky in that regard. But I know for a lot of military spouses, this is going to be super relevant. Yeah. Because they are in career fields that may require state licensing, and it's ridiculous that it took until 2018. To authorize a program like this. I think it's really important that military spouses have a career if they want one, and to not have a program like this, I think it's just, it was a huge failure of congress and military leadership. So I'm really glad that they brought this about because the whole notion of a military spouse that follows the service member around it doesn't have their own career. It doesn't provide any income for the family.

It's so 1950s like it's 2022. We have to get, we have to update our services a little.

[00:04:01] Jamie: Okay, Jamie, so what branches are doing this? So all branches doit Spencer Army, Marines, Air Force, even the Space Force Guardians get it, the Navy and the Coast Guard, and they're all now at $1,000 maximum reimbursement per PCS.

We had initially started when the program first rolled out at only $500 per PCS, but now all branches are at a thousand dollars per PCS, which is an incredible benefit, and I don't think a lot of people know about it. So we hope that this will inform you and you can spread the word to the spouses in your unit, the spouses that you're friends with, and the people in your neighborhood or wherever you are that military spouses need to know about this.

We don't get anything out of it, but for some families, a $200 reimbursement or a thousand dollars reimbursement could go a long way to helping their journey when it's so difficult to be financially ready for each PCS. This is just a great way to be more prepared and have less of an impact on your long-term net worth growth.

[00:04:59] Spencer: Yeah. A thousand dollars. That's an actual big chunk of change right there. If you're going to be doing that every PCS, it's a pain in the butt to have to transfer your license to begin with. But if you're getting a thousand dollars from the government to help you out, that just goes a long way to supporting military spouses.

Jamie, what kind of expenses can you claim and get reimbursed under the program?

[00:05:21] Jamie: The term that they use is qualified relicensing costs, which means fees or costs associated with getting the same or similar license in your new state, the spouse has to have held the same or similar license at their previous location.

And there are even some exceptions for, say you were in Louisiana, you PCS overseas to Germany, and then you come back and now you're in Texas. There are some FAQs out there online. If you Google, army spouse licensing reimbursement. In some of the FAQs, you'll be able to find answers to things like that, but as long as you had it previously, even if you're coming back from overseas, you should be able to get it now, I would guess.

I'm not a hundred percent sure on this, but I believe you would not be able to get it for your PCS to Germany, for example, unless your for some reason using your license over there. But anytime your PCS orders require you to be in a new state where you need a new license that covers that. But it should also cover any required items like transcript requests, background checks, and fingerprinting type requirements. I've seen those personally, but your mileage may vary, but anything that goes into it, including exams, registration fees, and in the Air Force, that policy specifically mentions continuing education courses, which is a huge deal for career fields like nursing, teachers, everyone needs their CE online training. So if you can wrap up your CE online training, or the course you had to do into the new state's license requirement, then the Air Force, your branch is going to cover that up to a thousand dollars maximum.

[00:06:49] Spencer: Wow. That's awesome. I know for a lot of military spouses when they do move states and they have to get every license like you were mentioning there, Jamie, it's sometimes it's not even just the cost of the certificate or of the license, but it's all those just like ancillary nickel and dimed costs where, okay, you have to go to your college and get your transcript.

You have to, get a certified copy or a notarized copy or what, and it's just like 20 bucks here, 50 bucks there. Yeah. Before you know it, you're out like 500 bucks. You're like, man, this never seems to end. How many hours of work is it going to take you to earn that money back before you even start making a profit?

Really? Yeah. With your job. I think just having that cash infusion, that thousand dollars that the government says, Hey, we want you to work, we want you to contribute to the family. I think that's awesome that they're doing that. So what kind of documents are going to be required in order to get the thousand dollars?

[00:07:36] Jamie: It's going to vary slightly by branch, but generally you're going to need things like a copy of your PCS orders, including any amendments or anything like that. But it's going to have to be accompanied orders. As I mentioned before, it has to list the spouse on the orders as well. You're going to need a copy of the spouse's previous state license from your previous duty station, a copy of your new state license, or certifications.

And then any itemized receipts that show the proof of payment for all those expenses we mentioned. Then each branch has a slightly different thing the Army requires a standard form 1034, and the Air Force requires a Form 1164. By the way, the Air Force form 1164, I learned the hard way mine got rejected because you can't make any pen and ink changes.

I'm like, what is this? Come on, 1960? So you can't use a whiteout or anything like that. So each branch is going to have its own weird things. The navy, you have to submit a memorandum, so look up your branch-specific stuff. But those are the big requirements that you'll have to turn in.

[00:08:31] Spencer: That sounds pretty reasonable.

You have to show your receipts. You have to show that you are eligible for a license because you had a previous license. You have to, of course, it's the military, so you have to fill out standard form 1034 or form 1164. But once you do all that and you go through, the pain and process of that, what's the reimbursement process like?

How fast are you going to get paid? I PCSd in June last year and got paid, I think in 13 months or so, it was rejected. In typical fashion, they don't get notified when something gets rejected. They have to go pull a manual report every day or every week, I think it is.

Yeah, for Air Force Finance, at least of what was turned down that week. So if they miss it or forget to notify me anyway, so mine was rejected, like I mentioned, because it had pen and ink changes on it, so it normally shouldn't take that long. The big thing that's going to take time is you have to wait until after you get your new license.

Because you have to have a copy of your new license to submit your paperwork. Again, it's going to vary slightly by branch, but you're going to fill out the documentation, fill out the form that's required, make sure you keep all of your receipts and a copy of your license, and then you can submit that. For example, in the Army, they say once it's approved by your commander's local rep that will approve the documents.

It'll be deposited within 10 working days. In the Marines. You bring it to your personal administration office or center and they'll start the process for you. The Navy, you can initiate it from mynavyhr.navy.mil website. The Air Force I mentioned already. You have to go to finance and initiate that.

Quick note for the Air Force listeners, AFMAN 362102 is the regulation that you're going to want to look at. But if you Google “Department of the Air Force Spouse Licensure Reimbursement Program Frequently Asked Questions”, there's a PDF on Google from 13 December 2021, is the most current one that I could find, and it has a lot of those FAQs on there.

So that, again, is the Department of the Air Force Spouse Licensure Reimbursement Program, Frequently Asked Questions, 13 December 2021 version on Google. That's posted on afpc.af.mil

The Coast Guard actually has the coolest system that I found, Spencer, you can fill out at the CG 133 military personnel policy website. So they allow you to submit it online from what I could tell. 

But my top recommendation here is whatever your branch is, just Google Navy spouse licensure reimbursement, army spouse reimbursement for a state license, or something like that. It should pop. 

The other note, I want to say, to your point earlier about taking care of spouses is spouse unemployment is really bad right now, and it's starting to catch some traction in the news. It's been that way for a while, but it's starting to catch some momentum, I think. So hopefully we'll see more and more states have compact agreements where you can transfer your license without having to go through all the reapplication.

It'll just be a one-for-one exchange, and hopefully, we'll see more and more programs from Congress as well, helping out military spouses. But in the meantime, at least get your expenses covered.

[00:11:26] Spencer: Yeah, I think some of the dumbest things are like when the SOFA agreement doesn't allow for a spouse to work remotely.

Yeah. If someone's sitting on base in Germany or Korea, and maybe this is a hot take and I apologize if I get into trouble here. Actually, I don't apologize quite yet. I'll wait to see if I get into trouble, but, If someone is sitting on base in Korea or Germany or the UK or Japan and they're working remotely for a US-based company, what impact does that have on the German economy?

Yeah. If anything, it's going to be positive because they're going to be making more money and they're going to be spending money in the local economy. I don't know, maybe there's probably a lot of politics that go into SOFA agreements, but hey, if any congressman or State Department people are listening to the podcast, which I think there are actually a couple

[00:12:11] Spencer: I don't think we have any congressmen yet, but hey, we'll probably get some one day. Jamie, do you have any personal experience with this program?

[00:12:18] Jamie: I hinted at it. We've actually used it twice. My wife was a nurse when she was on active duty and has continued as a registered nurse, RN, BSN, since she got out of the Air Force.

So we've used it twice. Once for our PCS to Hawaii and then again for our PCS to Alabama. So 2018 and 2021. One other interesting note I've learned on our recent claim is that starting in FY 22, at least for the Air Force, I can't guarantee that this is the same for all the branches, but the Air Force has started withholding it as a bonus with 22% withholding.

They cited per ESS DFAS, I'm not sure what that is, and if this is Air Force only, but per ESS DFAS. It's now a miscellaneous code, SPLE, which needs to have the taxes offset for these reimbursements, which is complete crap because it's a reimbursement, not a bonus pay, but they will withhold 22% initially.

So this round of 2021 PCS, we submitted a claim for $190 something and got $147 ish approved or something.

[00:13:18] Spencer: Yeah, that's terrible. They, again, if anybody's listening here from Air Force or Finance or DFAS, please go fix that. It's not a bonus. It's a reimbursement. So it shouldn't be taxed. Ugh, that pains me that happens.

Jamie, do you have any of their tips for our listeners, especially military spouses who are going to try to take advantage of this program? A thousand dollars can be huge. That can really help people.

[00:13:40] Jamie: The biggest thing is always to keep a copy of everything, and this goes with anything you submit to any personnel or finance or any kind of department like that.

TMO, keep a copy of everything and keep a record of when you submitted it, ideally with names of who you talk to, and that makes it easier to follow up. By the way, quick side note, whenever you call customer service at a bank or credit card or wherever, especially if you're having issues, ask them what their name is and make sure you document that and the date you call them.

That's just a good life hack there. For the Air Force listeners, again, sorry, a little Air Force specific, just because it's my experience here. But the finance office actually takes the paperwork and then passes it to the financial management, FM, side and they are the ones that approve it and submit it. So it's even easier than a normal voucher or another kind of documentation to get lost in the exchange.

And it's not something that's tracked online. So stay on top of the process, and keep track of who you talk to and when. Then the qualifying relics costs must be incurred and paid after the date of the PCS orders were authenticated. So once you get the assignment notification, don't start paying for stuff yet because you might get someone that holds it to the letter of the law and doesn't reimburse it if it was paid for before the orders were authenticated.

And then make sure you do submit within 24 months of the date the orders were authenticated. So you can go back as I said, if you PCSd a year or two ago, you might still be able to put in a claim for this if you haven't yet.

[00:15:04] Spencer: So this is a niche question Jamie though, but what about those who leave active duty and go to the reserve component, whether it's Air Force Reserve or Army Reserve?

[00:15:14] Jamie: So what I found for this question is for the Air Force for sure, others I'm pretty sure it's going to be the same, but your mileage may vary. You should be able to get reimbursed for it if you're getting PCS entitlements. So if the military has determined that you are eligible for PCS entitlements for your move to the reserve unit, then you should be able to apply for this as well.

Usually, when you separate, you're eligible for PCS costs up to the cost of going back to your home of record, but reimbursement for sure is not authorized for moves upon accession, the career intermission program, retirement, or separation from the armed services. But you should be able to get it if you're going to reserve or guard unit, Palace Chase, palace front for the Air Force types, or something similar in the other branches.

[00:15:58] Spencer: Hey, that's awesome Jamie. I'm going to create a blog post all about this. If you Google “military spouse licensure reimbursement”, my website will pop up because it looks like it's pretty easy to dominate Google on this search term right now. 

But for the listeners today, we talked about the military spouse licensure reimbursement program and how all military services reimburse up to a thousand dollars in cost per PCS for spouses to get a new license or certification in the new state.

So that's real estate. That could be nurses, that could be anybody who's licensed by the state. You can get reimbursed if you have to change jobs. You have to move states due to a PCS. I think this is a great program that can really. Improve spouse unemployment issues and help ease some financial burdens of the PCS.

So I'm really happy that Congress brought this around. I think this is a really great program. Another one I'll just mention as an aside is the Military Spouse Residency Relief Act, where you can essentially claim the same state of residence as the military service member, or you can keep a previous, is that right? Am I getting those two conditions right?

[00:17:03] Jamie: Absolutely. So if the service member claims Florida or Texas, or one of those states that they've been stationed in the past that doesn't have income tax, the Military Spouse Residency Relief Act allows the spouse to also become and maintain status as Texas, Florida, wherever.

[00:17:20] Spencer: I really enjoyed all the details you dug about this, Jamie. It was, I think the variety of expenses covered was really interesting too. I think there are a lot of opportunities there. If a spouse is going to be moving and there's like a conference or some kind of like training that they could go to.

Yeah. Continuing education. I think this is a great opportunity to take advantage of that.

[00:17:39] Jamie: And listeners, thanks for being with us today. We hope today's discussion will encourage you on your journey to financial independence while serving in the military, and also will help you maximize your military benefits.

As always, if you have any questions or feedback, message us on Instagram @MilitaryMoneyManual or via email at our newer email for podcast listeners. The other one will work too. Hit us up now at podcast@militarymoneymanual.com. That's the new hotness for our special podcast family.

We always love the questions and the messages we're getting. We appreciate you joining us today and we're grateful for all of you. Keep sharing the podcast with your friends, your family, and your coworkers. It does mean a lot to us. We'll see you next time. Thank you for joining us.

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