Army families: Prepare for your military move 

 
ROTC Cadet Wesley Swayze with son Cameron Swayze, 5 months, and wife Sgt. Stacey Swayze of the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Chemical Defense, stand in front of their new home with the Aberdeen Proving Ground commander Col. Orlando Ortiz. The Swayzes were the first military family to move into Bayside Village community. (Photo Credit: Megan Murray)

Gene Thomas

Army G-4

Did you know the Army spends $1 billion annually on transportation and storage costs for soldier, civilian, and family household good shipments, and that the Army accounts for 42 percent of the total DoD household goods moving volume?

As the summer moving season rapidly approaches, soldiers, civilians and families need to plan ahead to mitigate the stress of relocating.

The number of moving company drivers, vans, packing, loading/unloading crews, and warehouses available May through July is limited in most locations.

Of course, if you are moving within the continental United States there is always Plan B – a "personally procured move" or "do-it-yourself move."

But those require transportation office approval as well as the submission of full and empty weight tickets.

This article will assist you in preparing for your next move by introducing you to the Defense Personal Property System (DPS) fielded in April 2009; by providing helpful tips on move planning and follow-up; providing instructions for claim settlement; and emphasizing the importance of your customer satisfaction reporting requirement.

Why did we move to DPS?

The Fiscal Year 1996 Defense Authorization Act directed DoD to develop pilot programs implementing commercial business practices and standards of service for the movement of household goods.

In 2002, U.S. Transportation Command completed its evaluation of four pilot tests and provided its recommendations to the secretary of defense and Congress.

The report included streamlining the liability/claims process, improving carrier performance through performance-based contracting, and implementation of an integrated move management system.

Using DPS

The first step is to go to www.move.mil and register with DPS.

Army policy requires all soldiers who are first time movers, and those soon-to-be retired or separated, to receive face-to-face counseling in a group or individual session, in addition to self-counseling in DPS to fully understand moving entitlements and to avoid excess cost issues.

As you navigate the DPS counseling screens, carefully read the information. The number one misunderstanding is the difference between permanent or non-temporary storage (always requested at origin and remains at origin) and temporary storage (requested at origin or destination with a maximum of 180 days).

Not getting this right can be costly.

The earlier a shipment request is submitted in DPS (e.g. four to six weeks ahead) the more likely your requested pack, pickup, and delivery dates can be met.

However, your requested dates are not guaranteed upfront.

Soldiers and civilians are now empowered through DPS with communicating directly with a moving company for move management. You can negotiate actual pack/pickup dates with the moving company.

The company must finalize dates no later than three to seven business days prior to the pack/pickup. Call the transportation office if communication with the moving company is not meeting your requirements.

If your goods are placed in storage in July or August, anticipate a five- to 10-business day delay to schedule your delivery date.

You can also negotiate inconvenience claims with the moving company for out-of-pocket expenses due to failure to meet agreed to pickup/delivery dates.

Soldiers and families should not cancel or enter into a rental agreement, lease, or buy or sell a home until they have verified with their transportation office and their moving company that their required packing, pickup, and delivery dates are all confirmed.

Although DPS is web-based, the local supporting transportation office and military claims office are there to help you navigate the system and provide you with either face-to-face or telephonic help.

Weight of your household goods

Exceeding household goods weight limit is the number one reason service members have to pay excess costs.

To avoid this, be aware of your maximum weight allowance found in the Joint Federal Travel Regulations, Paragraph U5310-B-2.

There is a weight estimating tool available on www.move.mil.

The moving company also will provide you with an estimated weight during the pre-move survey. If you are close to your maximum allowance you should request a witnessed reweigh with both the transportation office and your moving company before your household goods are picked up.

Re-weighs must occur before a shipment is scheduled for delivery and can be requested through DPS website or through your supporting transportation office.

Professional books, papers, and equipment (PBP&E), known as "pro gear," does not count toward your maximum weight allowance; however, make sure you check the Joint Federal Travel Regulation definition of what is authorized for a member and spouse.

All pro gear must be identified and claimed upfront, entered into DPS, and on the application for shipment.

The member is directly responsible to separate PBP&E from their other household goods during packing. Each box needs to be clearly annotated by the packing crew and placed on the inventory sheet.

Full replacement value coverage

Are you aware that the term full replacement value (FRV) coverage does not mean that the moving company will replace a piece of furniture when it can be repaired?

Full replacement value (FRV) coverage is $5,000 for the total shipment or $4 per pound times the weight of the shipment, whichever is greater, but not more than $50,000.

Based on direct customer feedback, the DPS on-line claims module will be vastly improved and more user friendly by Fiscal Year 2014.

Improving your moving process

To help the Army improve the moving processes, soldiers, civilians and families now have a direct say in which moving companies the Army uses.

The cornerstone of the program is a 12 question customer satisfaction survey (CSS) completed on-line after the shipment delivers.

With the data collected, the Army can score the best and worst moving companies.

Currently only about 30 percent of soldiers take the survey, and those who do tend to be the mostly highly satisfied and the least satisfied customers. We need to hear from all soldiers and civilians each time they move.

The five minutes that it takes to complete can provide you and your colleagues a better moving experience next time.