If you’re a new spouse and have just survived your first permanent change of station (PCS), congratulations! You’ve made it through your first military move. Chances are you learned a lot more than you ever thought you’d need to know about moving – all good knowledge that will come in handy later during other moves. But chances are also great that you have some items that were broken or damaged in transit and you might not know what to do.
For times when movers damage or lose items in your household goods (HHG) shipment or your unaccompanied baggage (UAB) shipment, you are entitled to file a damage claim to get the full or partial replacement value of whatever is broken or missing. Here are the basics you need to know about how to file a claim.
Submit a Notification of Loss or Damage
So your HHG has arrived, and several items are broken. The first thing you need to do is photograph each item from several different angles. Keep a running list of anything that’s damaged or broken and then set them aside.
Your movers will likely have a sheet you can fill out at the delivery time noting anything has been broken or damaged in transit. If you immediately recognize something that’s broken, some moving companies offer you a “quick claim” payout of up to $500. Payment is usually made within five calendar days of your delivery date. Keep in mind you can only accept compensation for an item one time, so you won’t be able to file another claim if you choose the quick claim payment option.
Damage also includes damage to your home itself related to transportation furniture, including scuffs to walls or door frames that require repair.
Once you’ve opened all your crates and have a clear picture of what’s broken, missing or damaged, you’ll need to submit a Loss or Damage Report. This is different from filing a claim with the Defense Personal Property System (DPS). This report simply notifies the moving company that you intend to file a claim. This is an optional step, but most seasoned service members and spouses will tell you that it’s a good step to take, as it might encourage the moving company to settle damages and disputes sooner.
From the time you take delivery of your HHG and UAB, you have 75 days to file a Loss or Damage report and up to nine months after delivery to submit an itemized claim for anything that’s lost or broken. Due to COVID-19 DPS has extended this deadline to 180 days for household goods shipments picked up May 15, 2020, and after.
Once you’ve filed a Loss or Damage Report, then you’ll need to file officially with DPS. The movers have up to 60 days to pay, deny or make a counteroffer on your damage claim.
Here’s why it’s so important not to skip that voluntary first Loss or Damage Report. If you don’t submit it, you only have 75 days to submit itemized claims. Review the current DoD complete regulation for specific guidelines.
Damage Claim for Lost and Broken Items
Lost or broken items are eligible to be fully or partially replaced. You can receive a full replacement value of your item if your claim is filed with your transportation service provider (TSP) within nine months of accepting your delivery. The TSP will either pay to repair your items or provide an amount to replace them with the same make/model or one of comparable quality. The military claims office is instrumental in helping you resolve disagreements between you and your TSP.
When you file your claim, it’s good to have on hand the photographs you took from the delivery day and any information about the items, including purchase date, purchase price and a description of the damage. It is even better to attempt to get “before” pictures of heirlooms and other valuables in order to have a point of comparison should you be questioned about your claim.
The information you provide on your Loss or Damage Report will transfer to your claim without you having to reenter information twice. Then, you’re able to follow up with the claim using the DPS system to see where it is in the process of reimbursement.
Full Replacement Value
The reality is that no moving company is ever going to offer you full replacement value for an item unless you can prove you purchased it immediately before PCSing. This is also frustrating when they break one glass out of a set of four, but only pay for one glass. Most moving companies will cite the depreciation of items when they come back with counterclaims.
Don’t be afraid to push back if you feel like the amount they offer is much too low. Most of the time, moving companies will offer a percentage based on an item’s current retail value rather than the full value. If you feel like your moving company is incorrectly processing your damage claim, you should reach out to your Military Claim Office or check with the Relocation Assistance Program for more guidance.
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Stephen L Lent says
This is a Nota Bene. This is just information. I served 20 years as an AGR and had to PCS numerous times. It’s probably changed, but movers/packers mess up fragile items in packing and even though you inform them about fragile items, they do a slap dash job of protecting those items or just don’t know how to properly pack them.
When unpacking, you find the fragile items broken.
I don’t know whether its changed in the last 20 years, but I found that many evaluation companies look for reasons not to find items damaged NOT the fault of the mover or flawed prior to packing.
So, be careful! I was messed over a number of times and just had to “eat” my losses. I just hope this is just a thing of the past.
Another problem I faced in a PCS move is theft. Somehow, one time, my entire 50 European and Ethiopian beer glasses with pictures “disappeared.” Movers may be insured, but replacing the glasses/mugs is difficult, if not impossible.
For me, now I consider these as “that’s life in the big city” and I just don’t worry about it.
MAJ (Ret), USAR
Ryan Guina says
Steve, you bring up great points. Movers will look for ways to avoid paying for lost or damaged items whenever possible. I’ve had many items damaged and, like you, I’ve had items stolen. It’s a good idea to take pictures of valuable or sentimental items, record serial numbers, and otherwise maintain good records when possible. It’s not always easy to do this though, especially when time is short.