Planning to use off-base lodging for reimbursable temporary lodging? Or have no other choice? A Certificate of Non-Availability (CNA) will ensure that you get as much reimbursement as possible.
What is Temporary Lodging?
During a Permanent Change of Station (PCS) move, military members are (almost always) authorized some sort of temporary lodging. If the temporary lodging is inside the United States, it is covered under an allowance called Temporary Lodging Expense. If outside the United States, it is covered under an allowance called Temporary Lodging Allowance. And if you are moving to or from another country, you might get both TLE and TLA during the same move. Confusing, right?
Where Do You Stay for Temporary Lodging?
It is intended that your first choice for temporary lodging will be some sort of military lodging. That might be a Navy Lodge or an Air Force Inn, or whatever is available in your area. However, military lodging can’t always accommodate everyone. When military lodging doesn’t have room for you, they issue a Certificate of Non-Availability. That CNA is the ticket to being reimbursed more than the rate of the government lodging (within the guidelines, of course.)
Now, you don’t have to stay in government lodging, and you don’t have to get a CNA. But if you don’t get a CNA and you stay off base, your reimbursement will be limited to the LOWER of the local area lodging rate or the cost of the government quarters.
What Is A Certificate of Non-Availability?
A CNA is a number that says that military lodging is unable to accommodate you on the dates you require. To get one, you call the lodging and try to make a reservation. When they say no, ask for a CNA confirmation number. You’ll need this later.
What Happens Once You Have A CNA?
Once you have your CNA, you can make plans to stay at whatever approved lodging works best for your family. However, if you spend too much, some money will come out of your pocket. You will be reimbursed up to the maximum amount for your family size and structure. That reimbursement is also capped by a daily limit, if you are in the US.
For many military families, including mine, getting a CNA is a golden ticket to choosing lodging that best meets the family’s needs. With a CNA, you have more flexibility to pick a more convenient location, or get a single unit that can hold your whole family. Many families like to stay in hotels that offer free breakfast, and some places even offer free dinner-type happy hours several nights a week. During one PCS, our CNA meant that we were able to stay in a beautiful resort during our last few days of sun.
On the other hand, the convenience of on-base lodging can be amazing, especially during a challenging move. During one move a few years back, we were in the Navy Lodge and friends were in a hotel out in town. Their days were so stressful. They had to use the hotel’s shuttle to schlep the entire family to base each morning. Then kill time between appointments until it was time to schlep back each night. I very much appreciated that we were on base. Our kids could stay in the room while we dealt with housing and obtaining vehicles and transportation management issues.
How To Get A CNA
Well, call the lodging and try to make a reservation.
While there is no way to guarantee that you’ll get a CNA, just as there is no way to guarantee that you’ll be able to get a room at the base lodging, there are a few ways to increase your chances of either option. If you’re hoping for base lodging, make your reservations early. If you are not exactly sure of your dates, go ahead and make the reservation for the entire time you suspect you might need. Make a note of the cancellation policies, and you can revise your reservation as needed.
If you’re hoping for a CNA, you can increase your chances by waiting until closer to your travel dates to try to make reservations. This is a slightly dangerous option, especially in popular areas, because you might end up not being able to get a good place to stay on short notice.
Understanding CNAs is essential to be reimbursed the full amount for which you are authorized. Staying in non-government lodging without a CNA can result in reduced reimbursement, and no one wants that!
Do you have experience, tips, or tricks to share on this topic? Please tell!