One little known aspect of the military pay and allowance system is the ability to request advance payment of Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH). While this opportunity has been around since 1999, you will still find that most admin folks and senior leadership are completely unaware that it even exists. And, unfortunately, even those who do know about it sometimes won’t authorize it. Plus, it’s not available to Marines. Silly.
Authority for advance BAH comes from the Joint Travel Regulations, Chapter 10, Part A, Section 10006 (generously cut and pasted by Rob for our use). It is authorized “to pay advance rent, security deposits, and/or initial expenses incident to occupying other than Gov’t housing.” Translated, this means for expenses associated with setting up a house that is located off base and not owned by the government or part of a public-private venture (PPV) military housing set-up.
Who Is Eligible?
Any service member who is setting up new, non-government housing is eligible for advance BAH. This does not have to be in conjunction with a PCS move. Rob reports that it is commonly used by service members who are newly married and moving from the barracks to their first apartment. It could also be used by service members who have just attained a rank that allows them to move off base, or families moving to a new location that is more expensive than their Permanent Change of Station (PCS) savings account can handle. One common misconception is that advance BAH is only available in conjunction with a PCS move. In fact, the instruction specifically states that “The advance may be made at any time during a member’s tour at the station concerned.”
Advance BAH is not authorized for expenses incidental to purchasing a home or other dwelling – it’s just for renters.
How Do You Request It?
There is no standard way of requesting advance BAH, so you may encounter some difficulty with admin folks and leadership who are unaware that it exists. As far as I know, the Coast Guard is the only service who has their own branch-wide form. Some local area authorities have their own forms, such as this one used by the Naval Medical Center Portsmouth. In cases where there is no form, you’ll have to use whatever form your branch of the service uses for special requests. In the Navy, they are called “special request chits.” I’m not sure what the other branches use.
You’ll need to attach documentation to demonstrate your financial need. Rob recommends an unsigned lease from the prospective landlord as one form of documentation.
There are also time limits on requesting advance BAH. It must be requested within 30 days, before or after of the qualifying event.
How Much Money Can You Get?
Service members requesting advance BAH need to demonstrate their ability to repay the loan, and may take no more than 3 months of the prevailing BAH rate for their location, rank, and dependency status.
How Do You Pay It Back?
The typical repayment schedule for advance BAH is 12 months, with one-twelfth of the total amount borrowed to be repaid each month starting with the month subsequent to the loan. In certain circumstances, the repayment may be deferred up to three months, and repayment may stretch as long as 24 months or until the estimated detaching date of the service member.
In a perfect world, military families would have a hefty PCS savings account to cover the many expenses that come with a move. When that doesn’t happen, advance BAH can help pay for the upfront costs involved with setting up a new home.
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