Post Evacuations – Before, During and After

  • Members of the US Foreign Service family – whether a single or married employee, or a family member – move every few years. The more information you have about personnel preparedness, the more you know about department procedures, regulations and allowances - the better you can cope with the variety of events you are likely to encounter at some point in your tours overseas and at home.

Index

Before an Evacuation

Personal Preparedness

Every day U. S. Government employees and family members live with the possibility of the need to shelter in place at home or in the embassy and/or a sudden departure from an overseas post — in response to political unrest, natural disaster, or disease. Being as prepared as possible will help you maximize your control over the situation.

  • Be familiar with the host country – the customs, traditions, local language, potential for crisis and more.  The Foreign Service Institute Transition Center has a wealth of post-specific information to share.
  • Have a personal preparedness plan – Make sure every member of the family have personal and post-specific emergency contact numbers, directions to rally points, addresses of friends and other embassies who can assist in an emergency. Make sure the CLO and Human Resources Officer (HRO) have personal contact information (email and phone) for you and your dependents.  For more information on making a personal preparedness plan go to the Department of Homeland Security website.
  • Have a plan for the care of household and domestic employees and your pets. For more information about pets please go to the Transition Center website.
  • Develop a plan for family and friends communication – Discuss with your immediate/extended family and friends at home how they should contact you in case of an emergency at post.  Provide them with the 24/7 emergency number for the State Department’s Operations Center 1-202-647-1512.
  • Organize Your Personal Affairs – Regardless of your family size, you should have your legal, financial and medical affairs in order. Contact the Department’s Employee Resource Program, WorkLife4You and ask about the Enhanced Legal benefit which offers assistance with a lawyer to discuss options for preparing important documents.
  • Establish individual credit cards for emergencies and be sure you have a credit card limit of at least $20,000 in the event you initially need to cover costs associated with a sudden departure from post.  There is no direct billing for temporary housing during an evacuation and it may take several weeks to receive voucher reimbursement.  Alternately, talk with your agency/bureau about getting a government travel card. With a government travel card you can call the card and ask to be placed on “evacuation status” which will extend the terms and increase the limit.
  • Purchase medical and evacuation insurance for Members of Household MOH.
  • Purchase personal property insurance for your storage and household effects HHE, make sure it provides adequate coverage for all events including flooding and acts of war.  Keep a digital inventory of your possession at post, as well as those in storage.
  • Have ready to hand carry important documents for every member of the family carry in a waterproof case the following documents: Legal documents (Birth/Marriage certificates, wills, contracts, Power of Attorney, etc.) passports, naturalization papers, Immunization cards, cash (in small denominations and multiple currencies), credit cards, prescriptions, school records, IEP for children with special needs, employment records (SF-50) for family members, HHE inventory, and US driver’s license.
Sheltering in Place

Whether it is a house fire, an earthquake or an emergency evacuation, having an Emergency 72-hour kit (backpack or duffle bag) for each member of the family, including your pet that you can grab in an instant is vital.  Be sure to update your kit periodically to insure that all food, water, medications are fresh, all clothing fits, personal documents and credit cards are up-to-date and batteries are charged.   The 72-hour kit should include: a three-day supply of nonperishable food and water per person, fuel and light (flashlight, candles, matches, flares), change of clothing to include clothing/bedding to keep you warm, medication, cash, first aid supplies, sanitary  and toilet supplies and important documents. If you have children, small games/toys are important as they will provide some comfort and entertainment during a stressful time.  Guidance for putting together an emergency pack can be found on the American Red Cross website.

Getting Ready to Leave – Pack a “Go-Bag”

A “go-bag” is just as it sounds, the bag you will pick up when you are ready to leave post.  You can have a go-bag prepack or you can print a list of items for packing your bag just before you leave.  Each member of the family should have a bag that is manageable for them to transport.  Include in your bag all the documentation mentioned above, weather appropriate clothing, work appropriate clothing, something to entertain (toys, games, books, etc.), some snacks and water, necessary medical items such as drug/eye glass prescriptions and medical records, toiletries and sanitary items, cell phones and power cords, cash and credit cards, and other items that can sustain you for a short while.

Contingency Planning for Single Parents and Tandem Couples with Children

During any tour, a crisis can occur which requires the employee to work long hours.  Arranging for the child to stay with friends reassures the child and allows the employee to concentrate on his/her job. Some crisis situations may require the sudden departure of family members and non-emergency personnel. Tandem couples with children and single parent employees should determine early in their assignment if they are designated emergency personnel.   Depending on the employee’s position and the circumstances at post, it may be possible for a parent, with permission, to accompany the child(ren) to the safehaven.  In other cases this may not be possible.

As a contingency plan, the parent(s) should consider identifying an official American employee or American family member who is willing to take care of any issues that may arise when the parent(s) is/are unable to be physically present. This person must be able to assume responsibility for the care of the dependents, authorize medical treatment, and accompany the minor child on a medevac or evacuation from post.

Discuss with long, and short, term providers the responsibilities and liabilities for caring for your child(ren).  Try to cover as many possible scenarios as you can think of, discussing and deciding on how the provider should respond. 

During an Evacuation

During evacuations, FLO is the Department’s main point of contact for evacuees, providing guidance on allowances, regulations, housing, education and employment for family members. We coordinate with post management, regional bureaus and other offices to support the evacuated community. For questions about evacuations contact us at FLOAskEvacuations@state.gov.

  • If evacuation becomes a reality you will follow the emergency evacuation plan for your postPost will prepare your travel orders.
  • Before proceeding to your evacuation point, ensure that visas to enter the U.S. and all passports for non-U.S. citizen family members are in order. Be prepared for a possible interim stopover.
  • If you are able to travel via commercial aircraft, check the airline’s baggage restrictions. If the flight is on a DOS charter plane then you may be restricted to one checked bag and one carry-on. Make your carry-on your “Go Bag” with all your important documents prescription medications, toys, wipes, water, snacks, cash, change of clothing, comfort items, as well as reading material
  • There are two kinds of evacuations: authorized departure and ordered departure. Both are requested by the Chief of Mission (COM) and approved by the Under Secretary for Management. Under an authorized departure, designated employees and/or eligible family members (EFMs) may choose to leave post. Depending upon how events unfold, this may eventually transition to ordered departure. Under an ordered departure, designated employees and EFMs must leave post. There is no difference between authorized and ordered departure in terms of the benefits or allowances provided to those evacuated.
Choosing a Safehaven

In an evacuation situation, the Under Secretary for Management might designate the U.S. or a foreign location as the official safe haven. Depending on the situation, the official safe haven could change during an evacuation. It might start out as a foreign location and then, at a later date, change to include the U.S. as an option.

If the official safe haven is the U.S., family members may choose any location in the United States. They do not necessarily have to choose their home leave address.

When deciding on a safehaven location, family members may want to consider the following options and the pros and cons of each.

  • The Metropolitan Washington, D.C. Area: If the employee is evacuated, she or he must report for duty at the agency headquarters, usually Washington, D.C. In this case, family members may wish to choose Washington as their safehaven point. Family members earlier evacuated to a U.S. or authorized foreign safehaven may be permitted to rejoin an employee subsequently evacuated and reporting to duty in Washington, D.C.
  • Other Locations in the U.S.: Often the most important factor for evacuees in making the safehaven decision is where their network of support is located. If family and friends are located on the other side of the country from Washington that may well be the best safehaven for the evacuee.
  • Foreign Safehaven: Some family members born outside of the U.S. may prefer to return to their home country for family support. Post may request a foreign safehaven for a family member from the Department of State. If the request is approved, the evacuee will receive a Subsistence Expense Allowance based on the lower of the following: the locality to which s/he is evacuated or the standard CONUS rate. If the request was not approved, the evacuee cannot officially travel to or receive evacuation benefits in a foreign location.
  • Changing Locations: Once the evacuee has arrived at the safehaven location, he or she will not be funded for travel to another location during the period of the evacuation. Sometimes family members wish to move from one location to another during the evacuation. While doing so will not affect Subsistence Expense Allowance payments, the evacuee would be responsible for paying for the travel involved.
Safehaven Considerations for Parents of School Age Children 

When choosing a safehaven there are many factors to consider:

  • Proximity of support from family and friends
  • Cost of available housing
  • Transportation availability
  • Recreation availability
  • Weather
  • Ability to be in touch with information from Washington or the post

Be sure to hand carry these documents!  Some of the frequent requirements for registering a child in school in the United States are:

  • Records from a previous school
  • Record of inoculations
  • Recent TB test for people coming from overseas
  • Physical exam within the last 12 months. (The Foreign Service medical exam is sometimes accepted. Virginia forms are available from FLO.)
  • Birth certificate
  • Proof of residence (Your temporary residence at a hotel should be sufficient.)

Parents of school age children additionally need to consider the availability of schools that would be appropriate for their children.

  • Does it matter? If your child would only miss a short amount of school, would you even consider registering him or her in another school? For a younger child you may just prefer to do homeschooling to keep up with schoolwork, or fun activities to continue interests in math and reading. If the school is closed at your post, a contingency plan should exist that will give direction regarding make-up work and a projected schedule for the reopening.
  • What if my child needs to complete coursework or the evacuation is extended for several weeks or months? You will have to decide at what point you would prefer to have your child enrolled in a regular school program. There are no additional educational allowances made available for schooling at a safehaven in the U.S. or abroad. It is assumed that while you are in the States your child will attend the public school where you are staying. If your child is already receiving an away from post allowance for boarding school, you will continue to receive the allowance until the end of the current school year.
  • Where should I stay in order to make sure my children can attend school should the need arise? When choosing your safehaven check into the availability of schools that would accept your child. If your child is involved in programs which are not offered everywhere (International Baccalaureate (IB), or AP classes, advanced levels of math, science or languages, or is receiving special services) be sure the program your child requires is available and would be able to accept your child. In the Washington, DC, area the school districts are generally understanding of such evacuation needs. Outside of the DC metropolitan area check directly with the local school district. The Family Liaison Office and the Office of Overseas Schools are available to provide assistance if you have difficulty enrolling a child on a temporary basis. Knowing the school system is available to meet your children’s needs is a wise investment of your time when choosing a safehaven.
  • How do I register my child at a school? Check Education Options for Foreign Service Children (K-12) for contact information on schools in the Washington DC area. Each school jurisdiction’s website will include information on how to enroll your child.
  • Is there any assistance to register my child? If you have any difficulties registering a child in a school you may contact the Family Liaison Office or the Office of Overseas Schools (202-261-8200). Suggested letters can be sent from the FLO which might ease the registration at a school in the United States.
  • What if my child is enrolled in an International Baccalaureate Program? Many schools in the Washington Metropolitan area offer IB programs. Check the compatibility with the program at the school your children are attending. If you have already signed up for IB exams, the exams are the same worldwide and should be transferable to another location. Parents should carefully consider temporary housing near an appropriate high school if requiring continuation of an IB program. For more information see Choices for High School: IB and AP.

For more information or with specific questions contact the Education and Youth Officer at  202-647-1076 / 1-800-440-0397 or  FLOAskEducation@state.gov.

Important Factors for Tandem Couples to Consider When Choosing a Safehaven

  • Children’s needs and ages
  • Child(ren)’s comfort with caregiver and caregiver’s willingness and ability to adequately care for the child(ren)
  • School (including for Special Needs Children, acceptance of the Individual Education Plan (IEP))
  • Education: Note that there is no education allowance in the United States or at an alternate foreign safehaven. Be sure to hand carry all school records and make sure they are up to date.
  • Financial: It is important to consider the financial arrangements with the individual who may be caring for your child.
  • Communication: During a crisis it may not be possible to make regular phone calls or email.  Discuss this with the child in advance.

Through contingency planning, the parent can provide a supportive and understanding environment for the child evacuee that will lay the foundation for the child and parent to work through the crisis and move together toward a period of positive growth.

Certificate of Acceptance as Guardian or Escort and Travel Authorization letters: Exit control laws of the host country may affect whether or not the U.S. citizen minor will be permitted to travel.  In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments have initiated new procedures at entry/exit points. These often include requiring documentary evidence of relationship and permission for the child’s travel from the parent(s) or legal guardian if they are not present.  Having such documentation on hand, even if not required, may facilitate easier entry/departure.

Special Instructions related to the Execution of Powers of Attorney: Creating a limited Power of Attorney (POA) may be a way to help a child leave the country with only one parent, another adult, or travel to the child’s final destination.  Whether the child is traveling alone or not, the caregiver receiving the child should have the ability to make legal or medical decisions. Have plenty of notarized copies of a POA in case you need to leave it on file with a department or institution.

Special Considerations for Singles with children: A power of attorney will not allow the provider to enroll/ register the child(ren) for services that the child(ren) would not be eligible for under the care of their parent(s).  For singles who are divorced, you should consult with a lawyer and determine whether you need extra clarification as to the care of children in case you are incapacitated. 

Evacuation Benefits Overview

The purpose of evacuation benefits is to help offset added expenses incurred as a result of an evacuation. The employee continues to be personally responsible for normal family living expenses.

Civilian Employees of the U.S. Government, Marine Security Guards, Seabees under Evacuation Orders

The Department of State Standardized Regulations (DSSR Chapter 600) applies to all government civilians in foreign areas; however, each agency may have further implementing regulations. Employees should check with their agency’s HR or other point of contact for further guidance before applying the DSSR (for foreign affairs agencies, consult the Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM).

Department of Defense and Uniformed Military Personnel

Uniformed military personnel and their dependents are covered separately under the Department of Defense Joint Federal Travel Regulations. Assigned DOD civilians, military, and family members should contact their parent organizations. Those assigned to the Defense Attaché Office should contact DIA Headquarters; and those assigned under the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (Military Group, ODC, etc.) should contact their Combatant Command. If DOD personnel have questions, contact the Defense Attaché Service, Support Services Branch at DASSupportServices@dodiis.mil.

Members of Household

Members of Household (MOH) who have elected to leave post are not authorized evacuation benefits; however, the Family Liaison Office (FLO) encourages them to remain in contact with FLO, the Community Liaison Office (CLO) coordinator, and the community at post. MOHs can participate in informational sessions and stay informed through emails and other communications.

Subsistence Expense Allowance (SEA) Overview

Evacuees should wait until they are at their safehaven location to submit the Subsistence Expense Allowance forms. NOTE: Airline tickets and lodging receipts are necessary for completing the application. Applications cannot be processed without them. Forms may be emailed or faxed per the instructions on the application form. (Instructions for how to apply for SEA are addressed in the next section.)

SEA is payable the day after you arrive at the authorized safehaven point for up to 180 days following the date of the evacuation order. The initial SEA payment is made once the initial application (DS-4095) is approved. Subsequently, only lodging receipts are required and will be processed every 30 days during the evacuation.

Lodging

When the U.S. is designated as the official safehaven, the SEA is based on safehaven location per diem. The first evacuee of a family unit is reimbursed for lodging expenses based on either a commercial or non-commercial rate. Larger families (first evacuee plus 4 or more family members) may request a waiver asking that commercial lodging per diem be increased to 150%. Justification must be provided.

Rates for Commercial Lodging

L = Lodging portion of per diem.

M&IE = Meals and Incidental Expense portion of per diem.

Days 1 – 30 Days 31 – 180
First Evacuee 100% L + 100% M&IE 100% L + 80% M&IE
Each additional person 18 & over 100% M&IE 80% M&IE
Each additional person under 18 50% M&IE 40% M&IE
Rates for Non-Commercial Lodging
First Evacuee 10% L + 100% M&IE 80% M&IE + no lodging per diem
Each additional person 18 & over 100% M&IE 80% M&IE
Each additional person under 18 50% M&IE 40% M&IE

SEA will continue to be paid during periods of annual and sick leave (except when in medical evacuation status) to employees and family members who are in evacuation status. SEA will not be paid to employees and family members on TDY, home leave or R&R orders. Family members who are employed at post should be placed in Leave Without Pay (LWOP) unless they are eligible to work while in evacuation status from another location.

Alternate Foreign Safehaven

When an alternate foreign safehaven is approved, SEA can be authorized when the Bureau’s Executive Office in the Department receives the request for an alternate safehaven. SEA is based on the lowest of the following:

  • The standard CONUS rate;
  • The per diem rate for the official safehaven (foreign or U.S.); or
  • The per diem rate for the alternate approved safehaven.

Unaccompanied Air Baggage (UAB)

Contact: TransportationQuery@state.gov

An air freight allowance will be authorized for both evacuation from and return to post in accordance with the current agency travel regulations — DOS Standardized Regulations (DSSR) 631 a (3).

  • 250 pounds for the first evacuee
    • 200 pounds for the second evacuee
    • 150 pounds for the third evacuee
    • 100 pounds each for the fourth or more family members

In lieu of airfreight, a replacement allowance is authorized if air freight is not shipped from post. Air freight is authorized upon return to post, even if no air freight was shipped from post.

  • $250 for the first evacuee without family
  • $450 for the first evacuee with one family member
  • $600 for the first evacuee with two or more family members

Note: If UAB has already been shipped to post, but the employee has not yet arrived, additional UAB will not be authorized.

Daily Transportation Allowance

A daily transportation allowance of $25 per day per family is allotted to offset costs due to lack of private transportation at your safehaven location (no receipts are required).

Lease Coverage

Reimbursement for lease expenses not to exceed the daily SEA lodging rate may be authorized for up to 30 days from the effective date of the evacuation provided the following:

  • SEA payment does not exceed 180 days
  • Evacuee is returning to post
  • The lease was signed prior to the date of termination of the evacuation
  • The evacuee provides documentation demonstrating an effort to break the lease

Advance Payments

In the evacuation cable, post is authorized to issue a one-time, initial payment of $1,000 per family and $500 per single evacuee. The advance payment may be paid to the employee or a designated representative and will be deducted from the first SEA payment.

Household Effects (HHE)/Personally Owned Vehicle (POV)

Access to and delivery of stored household effects for evacuees is at personal expense unless evacuees are not allowed to return to post after the 180 days and are placed on involuntary SMA. In the latter case, agency travel regulations governing SMA apply. Shipment of POV is not authorized at USG expense until the employee has a permanent change of station (PSC).

Education Allowance

Please see the Family Liaison Office’s website for education information for parents of school-age children: In addition, visit the Office of Allowances’ Frequently Asked Questions (Questions # 45-54), which address education and travel allowances during an evacuation.

When the U.S. is the official safehaven, public schools are available to all residents in the U.S. and education allowances are normally not paid. Education allowances will also not be paid if an individual is at an alternate foreign safehaven (other than the designated foreign safehaven).

Away-From-Post and Special Needs Education Allowances

These allowances may continue within specific parameters. Contact FLOAskEducation@state.gov for further guidance. Education travel eligibility rules continue to be applied except that the official safehaven displaces the post as the travel destination from school. No SEA benefits are payable for children at their school locations when utilizing either the away-from-post education allowance or educational travel.

For more information and resources on returning to the Washington, DC area with children, please visit FLO’s Education and Youth web pages.

Tandem Couples

Tandem couples each receive evacuation benefits not to exceed an employee’s eligibility, but without duplication of benefits for eligible family members. Each employee is entitled to all other allowances, including transfer allowances and temporary lodging. If the couple shares lodging only 50% of the allowance is granted for each employee sharing lodging.

Length of the Evacuation

The initial cable ordering the evacuation declares the evacuation for a specified period of time (normally 30 days). At the end of that period, the Department, in conjunction with post, reviews the evacuation status to determine whether it should be continued, whether employees should be reassigned, or whether to terminate the evacuation. If the evacuation is not terminated, the status must continue to be reviewed every 30 days up to 180 days. An evacuation must not last beyond 180 days. NOTE: The evacuation may be lifted at any time. If family members are not allowed to return to post and no reassignment decision has been reached, the post will change status to “unaccompanied.” At such time, eligible family members may apply for Involuntary Separate Maintenance Allowance (ISMA) or Transitional Separate Maintenance (TSMA) depending on their situation. See DSSR 260 for regulations governing all forms of Separate Maintenance Allowance (SMA).

How to Apply for the Subsistence Expense Allowance (SEA)

For Agencies Outside of the Department of State 

Employees outside of the Department of State should check their agency’s regulations before applying the DSSR (for foreign affairs agencies, consult the FAM). The Department of State Standardized Regulations (DSSR) applies to all government civilians in foreign areas, but each agency may have further implementing regulations and has its own forms and process.

Department of State SEA Payments

SEA payments will be made when the DS-4095 form is completed and all necessary documents are submitted and processed. The DS-4095 should be submitted only once as the initial application. Subsequently, only lodging receipts need to be submitted.

To expedite processing: Forms may be faxed to 301-985-8589 or emailed to GFSCSeaPackage@state.gov. Contact information, mail and express mail addresses for sending originals are on the form.

  • Necessary receipted documents: airline tickets, hotel receipt or signed lease agreement, taxi receipts, receipt for excess luggage fees, a copy of the travel advance, and travel orders.
  • Calculation of Meals & Incidental Expenses (M&IE) in Transit to Safehaven: If travel is more than 12 hours, but less than 24 hours on the first day of travel, employees will receive 3/4 of one day’s allowance for the location they are traveling to. For travel exceeding 24 hours, lodging plus M&IE for stopover locations en route to safehaven apply.
  • Please Note: SEA is normally paid in 30 day increments. If the employee has been paid the full 30 days and then the evacuation ends abruptly, or is issued PCS/TDY/MED/R&R/Home Leave orders, or lodging changes from commercial to non-commercial, or the employee or EFMs received SEA but were not eligible, the employee is responsible for repaying any or all SEA balance as soon as possible.
  • Contact for Department of State Direct Hire Evacuees: Comptroller Global Finance Services (CGFS) at 843-746-0722 or email GFSCSeaPackage@state.gov for clarification, assistance or specific questions related to your SEA application and payments.
Resilience Strategies for Evacuees

Evacuations elicit a variety of different feelings, but the universal response to an evacuation is a sense of not being in control of one’s own life. The individual feels powerless, caught in a situation which affects every aspect of life. Since this feeling is so common, the following tips are suggested as ways to gain a measure of control over the situation.

  • Make contingency plans. Decide ahead of time on a safehaven location, organize the documents to take to post, make plans for the children and have powers of attorney in order. Keep and use a copy of FLO’s You’ve Been Evacuated. Now what?
  • Plan for the long term. Evacuations average 3 – 4 months. While the length of any evacuation is difficult to predict, those who plan for a longer rather than a shorter period of time experience fewer frustrations.
  • Use resources. While in the Washington, D.C. area, take some courses at FSI’s Transition Center. Consult with FLO employment staff about short-term employment. The licensed clinical social workers at the Department of State’s Employee Consultation Service (or their equivalent in other agencies) may be helpful. These last two resources are available to evacuees who are not in Washington through telephone consultation.
  • Create a “normal” life. Develop as normal a routine as possible for yourself and your children. If an evacuation lasts more than a month, you may choose to put the children in school. Get them involved in activities, and get involved yourself. Pursue hobbies, do volunteer work, or take a part-time job.
  • Keep in touch. Stay in touch with fellow evacuees, with FLO, or your assigned point of contact (i.e. the Family Liaison Specialist for your agency) throughout the evacuation. You’ll be up-to-date on the latest information from post, and enjoy mutual support with others in the same situation. FLO and your agency’s family liaison representative phone regularly, and share with evacuees the phone numbers and addresses of other evacuees who have given such permission and any other pertinent information.
  • Evacuees sometimes do not return to post. They never get to say a proper good-bye. They must live with a sense of “unfinished business” about their post. Many experience an emotional loss. Most people who experience an evacuation are able to put it into perspective and go on; yet Foreign Service life never seems the same again. Experience may make evacuees more wary, and influence them to take contingency planning seriously in the future. Eventually, the memory of an evacuation becomes part of the rich tapestry of experiences, positive and negative, which make up the life of a Foreign Service family.

After an Evacuation

Returning to Post

By law, Subsistence Expense Allowance (SEA), including any extensions or grace period, may never exceed a total of 180 days. When an evacuation is lifted, evacuated employees must return to post in an expeditious manner. Except for those individuals who are converted to PCS orders, there can be  a grace period up to three days (beginning the date of the RETURN OF EVACUEES TO POST cable, including Saturday and Sunday) for the continuation of SEA to allow evacuees to make transportation and travel arrangements for return to post.

An additional seven days may be available for justifiable reasons and in certain circumstances (usually related to availability of flights and pack out of UAB). The total grace period cannot extend beyond 10 days from the date of the RETURN OF EVACUEES TO POST cable nor exceed the 180th day of the evacuation. The additional seven days are NOT automatic; they must be justified, and the justification must be submitted with the final travel voucher. Contact CFSC, 843-746-0722 or email GFSCSeaPackage@state.gov if you have questions or need assistance.

When Family Members Do Not Return to Post
  • When the status of the post is changed and some or all family members cannot return to post, they are eligible to apply for Involuntary Separate Maintenance Allowance (ISMA).
  • Family members who do not wish to return to post immediately may opt for Voluntary Separate Maintenance Allowance (VSMA). This use of SMA does not count as the one-time SMA option per tour.
  • Families in commercial lodging who choose to remain behind to finish the final semester of the school year may apply for the Transitional Separate Maintenance Allowance TSMA (see DSSR 264.3).
  • Important – Family members who anticipate that they may want or need SMA at the end of the evacuation should apply for it before the evacuation is terminated and SEA payments stop. The Separate Maintenance Allowance is not retroactive.  The bureau will hold the SMA applications to be processed when the evacuation is lifted. Contact FLOAskEvacuations@state.gov for referral to your bureau SMA Coordinator Also, you can read about SMA in DSSR 260.

Employee is Converted to PCS Orders

  • PCS orders take precedence over evacuation orders. Once travel on PCS orders begins, SEA will stop and the employee and EFMs will use the PCS orders at that point to determine allowances and benefits provided for in those orders. If the employee and EFMs have not been able to return to post to pack out, the GSO or another designated U.S. direct hire employee will oversee the pack out. Contact the GSO at post to coordinate.

U.S. Department of State

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