How To Organize Your PCS Documents
How To Organize Your PCS Documents
(The Easy Way!)
The plastic file folder that I affectionately refer to as my PCS bible, will be your best friend when you are moving with the military. I suggest using one every move, stateside or abroad. It is extremely helpful, when you’re in transit, to have a centralized place to house all of your important documents. The military loves its paperwork, so if you’re not organized, it is easy to lose things, or just feel like you’re drowning in papers.
If you do a basic internet search for PCS binder, you’ll find countless blog posts with how to structure your binder, along with printable PDFs and all sorts of other resources. To be totally honest, I always found them to be overwhelming.
Many suggest a 3-ring binder to put things into. I have found it easiest to use a sturdy plastic accordion folder, and here’s why. When you’re checking in to a new command, you’ll be running around between different offices, often times with children in tow, or families waiting behind you. This makes time to neatly organize things nearly non existent. You’ll be expected to not only present documents, but also receive them. It is much easier to keep things organized if you can simply throw papers into their appropriate folder pocket without having to open/close binder rings, or hole punch things to be able to properly put them away. Many suggest having a “catch all” folder in a binder that you can use to house all loose documents. This comes with the expectation of filing them later. However, I’ve found many people don’t because, honestly, who has time for that? I highly recommend keeping things as simple as possible, especially when you’re going to be navigating an already probably new and potentially stressful situation.
Here is a sample of how to organize your PCS bible, as well as which documents should be in it:
POA (powers of attorney)
- Be sure to have your service member go to your local legal office, and get powers of attorney for anything you think you’ll need to take care of in his or her stead. Generally, when you go, they will have a form that you can designate which special POAs you will need (ie. ID cards, POVs, financial transactions, etc…). I recommend consulting with them about which ones they recommend for your move. However, many families end up ordering every special power of attorney on the menu. This way, the dependent will be able to operate as if he or she isn’t there in case duty calls and are left to handle the check out/ check in process solo.
- Keep any documents pertaining to your pack out here such as inventory lists, pack out documentation, POV shipping documents, furniture measurements, etc.
- House deeds, or vehicle titles. These will not necessarily be required for the check in process. However, they are difficult to replace if lost, so I highly recommend hand carrying them between duty stations versus having them be sent in your HHGs.
- Designate a folder specifically for orders, and have between 5-10 copies on hand. Many offices will want their own hard copy to have on file not only during the check in process. In addition to the 5-10 stapled copies, I also have one that’s only paper clipped, in case an office is willing to make a copy. This helps mitigate the risk of running out. A good tip to cut down on space is to not print the first page that is essentially blank with the exception of a few words up top, and to print them double sided.
- This tab is also where I kept my DEA, or dependent entry approval and updated page 2 that you’ll also need for checking in.
- Keep separate labeled folders for each dependent that has any medical, dental and immunization records that you’ll need to have on hand. If you’re going overseas, I suggest also keeping your overseas screening documents here.
- I also suggest having a separate folder for each pet containing things like vaccination records, quarantine results (if applicable), original rabies vaccine certificates, health certificate for flights, as well as any other documentation you have.
- Driver’s license.
- Tourist passports and no fee passports if required.
- Marriage License, birth certificates, social security cards. These will not necessarily be required for the check in process. However, they are difficult to replace if lost, so I highly recommend hand carrying them between duty stations versus having them be sent in your pack out.
- Personal checks and emergency credit card(s) are great to have on hand in case of the unexpected.
- Notepad, Post its, Pens and paperclips are great to have on hand because you’ll inevitably have to take notes, organize or label something at some point. Post its are fantastic because you’ll be given several documents that need to be filled out and submitted to another office. For example, housing has forms that need to be completed and turned in to PSD or your service member’s command so that you can qualify for different entitlements like OHA (overseas housing allowance if you’re OCONUS), COLA (cost of living allowance) or TLA (temporary lodging allowance). When receiving them, you can easily place a post it note on each saying where it needs to go, and what supporting documents, such as a hotel receipt, need to accompany it. This has been a sanity saver for me.
- Receipts will be required to get reimbursement for things like hotels, baggage, transportation, etc, so it’s key to have a separate folder to house them to ensure you don’t lose something, in turn losing out on getting reimbursed for a covered out of pocket expense. I’ve kept mine in anything from a folder, to an envelope. It doesn’t have to be fancy.
- While it is necessary to have a physical folder or binder to keep things in, I also keep a digital version of many critical documents, like orders and the Dependant Entry Approval for example, in an easily accessible folder on my phone. I do this so that when I write an email and need to attach something, I can do it without needing a computer. My preferred app for this is iCloud Drive, but others like Dropbox or Google Drive are also fabulous. For documents that you receive in paper format and want to convert to digital format, I recommend Camscanner. It’s an app that you can take a photo of a single, or multiple documents and it will automatically convert it to an exportable PDF.
So thats it. You don’t need a fancy binder, or printables to keep your documents organized while you PCS. A simple file folder will do. The one I use is from Target and cost me $2 (thank you dollar spot!). Is there anything I’m missing? Do you use a different system? Leave me a comment below to tell me!