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Keesler newcomers face family housing hurdles

KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. (AETCNS) -- As Keesler Air Force Base struggles with housing shortages from Hurricane Katrina's wake, Airmen with dependents being assigned here need to have a plan before they leave their current assignment.

Due to Katrina, permission for servicemembers to bring their dependents to Keesler has become much like those for an overseas assignment. Airmen now must obtain authorization for their dependents' concurrent travel prior to coming here.

For concurrent travel to be approved, Airmen must have a feasible housing plan for their families, due to the lack of affordable housing on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Without a plan, concurrent travel might be disapproved.

"The bottom line is, the (recent) statistics show 76 (concurrent travel request) approvals and 55 disapprovals for the wing," said Capt. Rob Roeckers, 81st Mission Support Squadron military personnel flight commander. "Initially, they were all being disapproved -- these stats tell me the word is getting out."

Inbound Airmen are authorized up to 10 days of permissive temporary duty for house hunting. This authorization, as well as the concurrent travel authorization, must be coordinated through the commander of the departing organization, said Captain Roeckers.

Being aware of the authorization requirements increases an Airman's chance for approved concurrent travel, he said. However, if a request is disapproved, it's in the interest of the Airman's financial well-being.

"When we first started the program, people thought, 'You're trying to break up my family,'" Captain Roeckers said. "But when we disapprove concurrent travel, it's because we don't want to put you in a financial bind."

He said the best situation for inbound personnel is to know exactly where their family will live before they arrive at Keesler.

"Securing housing (prior to arrival) is ideal -- actually having a lease signed," the captain said. "Normally, concurrent travel won't be approved if you say you are only going to meet with a realtor."
How to get your family here

Members who aren't authorized concurrent travel or who request non-concurrent travel:

Permissive temporary duty: The unit commander of the organization from which a member is departing can authorize up to 10 days for house hunting.

Re-apply: If a member secures definite housing arrangements (signed lease or purchase of a home), he of she can re-apply for concurrent travel. If approved, the member must ensure dependents are added to the permanent change-of-station travel orders.

If permissive TDY isn't possible, members must report to Keesler by their designated "report no later than date." Members won't be authorized to bring dependents to Keesler. Inbound personnel whose orders state "concurrent travel is not authorized" are authorized a 60-day stay in a dormitory for house hunting. Members who require more than 60 days are eligible for an extension. Once the member makes housing arrangements, he may request authorization for dependents to travel to Keesler through his unit commander.

Overseas returnees: These members might be asked to voluntarily extend their overseas return date. They're authorized to move dependents to another continental United States location as they arrange for housing in the Keesler area.
(Courtesy 81st Comptroller Squadron)

Non-concurrent travel entitlements

Non-concurrent travel allows members to receive the following entitlements when authorized:

With-dependent basic allowance for housing is payable at the last permanent duty station rate if the delay is less than 20 weeks from the member's reporting date. If the delay is more than 20 weeks and dependents are authorized to move at government expense to a designated place, BAH is payable at the rate where dependents are located. This entitlement isn't authorized if dependents reside in government quarters at the last duty station.

Family separation allowance, Type II, is paid if the member occupies government quarters. The current rate is $250 per month.

Family separation allowance, Type I, also known as family separation housing, is paid to a member while drawing with-dependent BAH when not occupying government quarters. The entitlement is equal to single rate BAH for the member's grade at the rate of the current duty station.

Dislocation location allowance is paid to members at the single rate until dependent travel is authorized and until dependent travel is complete. The difference is paid when the dependent travel voucher is submitted for payment.
(Courtesy 81st Comptroller Squadron)
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