Troops Are Reimbursed for Shipping Breast Milk During Temporary Duty But Not Moves. That Could Change.

Airman assembles a breast pump in a lactation room
Airman assembles a breast pump in the 20th Air Force headquarters lactation room, Sept. 3, 2020, F. E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyoming. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt Ieva Bytautaite)

When the Defense Department changed its travel regulations in 2022 to reimburse female service members and civilian employees for costs associated with shipping breast milk during official travel, the policy skipped an important component of military life: permanent change of station moves.

Now, it is considering an amendment to allow for military moves, but any change likely won't affect the current orders season.

A Pentagon spokesman said last month that the DoD's Per Diem, Travel and Transportation Allowance Committee is "considering a proposed change" that would reimburse service members for the costs of shipping or transporting frozen breast milk during a PCS.

Read Next: 19.5% Pay Hike for Junior Enlisted, 4.5% for Everyone Else: House Panel Unveils Bill with Proposed Raises

The Pentagon amended the Joint Travel Regulations in May 2022, allowing reimbursements of up to $1,000 for nursing mothers to ship breast milk during official temporary-duty orders lasting more than three days.

Covered expenses include commercial shipping fees, excess baggage, storage bags or containers, cold shipping packages, refrigeration and transport.

But the policy does not provide for reimbursement during permanent change of station moves.

According to a nurse who works for the Air Force's New Parent Support Program, one of her clients, an active-duty family, had a freezer of milk they wanted to ship for their eight-week-old baby but learned that neither Tricare, the Defense Department's health program, nor the Air Force would cover the cost of shipping.

"I know this may be a rare situation, but [it] would be a major impact on military families," the nurse wrote in an email to

In a response, a Pentagon spokesperson said that the department is considering the change, explaining that it seeks input from the services to "ensure that the full breadth of service member experience is represented" when it amends the Joint Travel Regulations.

He added that the services can work through the committee to enable any changes. He did not provide a timeline for a decision.

The addition for reimbursement for shipping breast milk during temporary-duty assignments was driven by the Air Force's Women's Initiative Team, which felt that the out-of-pocket expense serves as a barrier for lactating moms to relocate or go on temporary duty within a year after childbirth.

The Coast Guard -- the only armed service outside the Department of Defense -- began offering the benefit in 2019 for temporary duty under a reimbursement program supported by Coast Guard Mutual Assistance, a nonprofit organization that provides financial support and emergency relief to the service's members and their families.

The Coast Guard amended its program in 2022 to match the Pentagon's and the Joint Travel Regulations.

Related: New Pentagon Policy Expands In Vitro Fertilization Options for Severely Ill or Injured Troops

Story Continues