Tips for PCS Moves When Your Family has Special Needs


Part of military life includes moving from one duty station to another.  This can be stressful in the best of circumstances; but when there are issues surrounding the educational services and support programs for a child with special needs or disabilities, this permanent change of station (PCS) can be even more stressful.  The following information is to help in planning for your move. These tips are not all-inclusive, but cover major things to consider.

The suggestions are broken into two parts, before you leave, and once you arrive at your new location.  Keep in mind that, if your child has special medical needs, you may wish to visit with your doctor before your PCS, get recommendations from him/her, and be sure that you have at least a one-month supply of your child’s medications on hand.

When planning for your move, be sure to meet with the school and request copies of your child’s educational records, held in any form and in any location, including special education files.  These copies need to be hand-carried to your new duty station.

So what else is there to do?


Before you leave:


Verify it’s an Appropriate Assignment

Be sure that the duty station to which you have been assigned is equipped to deal with your child’s special needs. Do your own checking to see what is and what is not available there. There are many sources available to help you out with this. Connect with your EFMP, relocation office and other groups, to get information and to help you formulate the questions to ask.


Contact the receiving EFMP/relocation

Let them know you will be arriving and what your needs may be.  They may be able to provide you with some contacts, or information to help you in your transition.  Will you require respite care, or specialized day care, while you search for/move into housing?  Perhaps they can help with that, or direct you to someone who can.  Many installations are going to privatized housing.  This may cause challenges in your receipt of SSI or in how your housing needs are met.  Check with EFMP on any particular issues or requirements that the housing in the new duty station may have.


Laws and regulations

Are the schools run by local school districts or DODEA? Establish which, and start learning about the laws and regulations that apply at your new location, before you leave.  Verify that your IEP is current and that you have talked with the teachers to get their recommendations; if they have them in writing, this will help in making the transition smoother. If the teacher can’t write recommendations ask the Director of special services or other team members to do so.



Obtain all the contact numbers you will need on arrival at your new location. Unfortunately, you must have arrived at the duty station in order to apply for many things.  This means adding these contacts to the huge list of things to do within the first few days at your new duty station.  Remember that you will be extremely busy trying to find housing etc. and won’t have the time or inclination to be digging out all those numbers, so put them where you can easily locate them.


Medical and Educational Records

Verify that your documentation is in order, and update your home file.  Include all relevant documentation.  At the very least, you should have your most current IEP, most recent educational evaluation, shot records, and recommendations from the school, as well as copies of any therapy services through TRICARE or the school, and copies of your child’s medical records.  DO NOT SEND THESE IN YOUR WHOLE BAGGAGE; INSTEAD, HAND CARRY THEM!



If your child is on medication and/or requires regular medical supplies/equipment, such as supplemental feeding supplies and/or equipment, please ensure you have a good supply to take when you leave.  It may even take some time to obtain a new prescription, never mind to establish a supplier. What if you do not find one with the products you need right away? Take at least one-month worth of supplies of everything, in addition to what you will require while en route and/or on leave before arriving at the new duty station.


Medicaid and SSI

Eligibility for both Medicaid and SSI varies from state to state. Leaving a state eligible for both, does not guarantee eligibility for either in the new state. Similarly, non-eligibility in one state does not mean there is no way for you to become eligible in a new state.  Please be aware that Medicaid eligibility does not carry over from state to state, and you must reapply in your new state. If receiving SSI, inform the local SSI office of your PSC move, to insure continuity of the services at your new location; if going overseas, make sure you receive at least one payment before moving, to continue receiving SSI benefits while overseas.


On arrival at your new duty station:


Once you have established where you will be living

Go to your local school district to enroll your child/ren. Take their shot records and a COPY of their current IEP(s) to include in enrollment information. Find out who the Director of Special Education is for your district for future reference. You may want to view the class options and to have a short meeting to discuss your child’s needs, as quickly as possible.  This provides the school with more than just paperwork to get an understanding of your child.



Let them know you have arrived in the area, to ask what is available and what the eligibility criteria for services are. They will need copies of educational and/or medical records to help determine eligibility.


Call SSI/Medicaid office

Set up an appointment to find out what you need to do to apply or to transfer your records from your past duty station.  Social Security has a national database, so it may only require a transfer of records.


After enrolling with TRICARE at the new installation

Make an appointment for your child with Pediatrics. They can then give you the referral you need for a developmental pediatrician, or any other specialty you may require. It is really important that you do this as soon as possible. Just getting an appointment in a regular pediatric clinic can take some time; to get a specialty appointment may take much longer.  You need to know if there is a specific doctor who makes referrals for TRICARE therapies.  You may need to wait on a provider waiting list. This could mean that there may be a several month wait for therapies. You can speed this process up by making those early calls, following up paperwork, and asking to take cancellations at the last minute wherever possible.

If at any time during your transition, you have questions or concerns, please call the STOMP office
at 1-800-5PARENT.  We will be happy to assist you.



It is up to us as parents to make the appropriate connections.  No one knows our children and their needs as well as we do. We are the only consistent factor when a move occurs. The information you are looking for may not be at the forefront of these resources and you may have to dig a little deeper to find what you are searching for. Follow links to local resources, and discover what is out there.  Last but not least, call the STOMP office!  We will find some information for you and may be able to provide a link to another family or group at the receiving installation.


“Working Together with Military Families of Individuals with DisAbilities!”

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