I’m working up some big posts about Permanent Change of Station (PCS) allowances for Temporary Lodging Expense and Temporary Lodging Allowance, and I realized that not everyone might understand about Certificates of Non-Availability (CNA) and how they work.
Military members are almost authorized some temporary lodging while executing a PCS move. It is intended that lodging will be taken at some sort of military lodging, whether it be a Navy Lodge or an Air Force Inn or whatever is available in your area. However, the military lodging can’t always accommodate everyone. When military lodging doesn’t have room for you, they issue a CNA so that you can still be reimbursed for your temporary lodging expenses (within the guidelines, of course.)
Once you have your CNA, you can make plans to stay at whatever lodging works best for your family. Keep in mind that you will only be reimbursed up to the maximum amount permitted for your family size and structure.
For many military families, including mine, getting a CNA is like a golden ticket to choose lodging that best meets the family’s needs. With a CNA, you can 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 our last 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 our move to Italy a few years back, we were in the Navy Lodge and friends were in a hotel out in town. Their days was so stressful, using the hotel’s shuttle to schlep the entire family to base each morning and then killing time between appointments until it was time to schlep back each night. I very much appreciated that the kids could go to the playground or stay in the room while we dealt with housing and obtaining vehicles and transportation management issues.
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 room at in 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 of you suspect you might needs. 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 being reimbursed the full amount for which you are authorized. Staying in non-government lodging without a CNA can result in the loss of reimbursement, and no one wants that!
Do you have experience, tips or tricks to share on this topic? Please tell!
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