File a Household Goods Damage Claim

Moving an entire family and potentially buying a new home can be extremely stressful experiences.  Once the moving truck has delivered your household goods, however, the journey is not over.  Now, you and your family must unpack hundreds of boxes as you search for your precious personal belongings and sadly account for what items were broken, damaged, or are now missing.  The new DP3 Military Household Goods system brings with it a totally new damage claim process.  This article will walk you through the process on how to file your claim and get reimbursement.

Track what was Broken

As we discussed in our PCS Move-In article, make sure your movers do not rush as they unload their truck and deliver your household goods.  On one particular PCS, we were in such a rush to get our boxes that we never fully accounted for all the box numbers and ended up missing several boxes altogether.

Bring up to the movers (or the truck driver) what items you see are damaged during the unloading process.  Make sure you note the box # the item came out of or if it was a piece of furniture or oversized item, its own item #.  Make sure you bring the item up to the movers because you will be required to annotate this on your post-delivery paperwork.

Take Photos, Estimate Costs

Prior to sitting down and filling out the paperwork and online forms, prepare by taking digital photos of the damaged items, note the box or item #s, and get estimates for repairs (for items that are actually repairable).  For items that are not repairable, completely destroyed, or missing, you will need to come up with a figure that will replace that item for you.  An easy way to accomplish this is by searching the internet for a comparable item and finding how much (in today’s dollars) it will take to replace the item(s).

Now is a good time to get estimates on repairs that need to be done (such as wood furniture repair or stereo component repairs).  Find a local repair service and ask for a cost estimate for repair and mention that you will be filing a claim through your moving company.  The repair service should be able to give you a written estimate that you will turn in to the moving company.  You may have to up-front the cost for the estimate (usually around $75-$100), but the cost for the estimate will go towards the cost of the repair.

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File Moving Company Damaged Items Form

You should have received several forms from your moving company’s government office.  One of the forms should be labeled “Damage After Delivery”.  This is a simple paper-form that simply lists the items damaged, item or box #, and cost for repair or replacement.  Once complete, simply scan and email or fax direct to the moving company – it’s pretty simple.  Don’t be fooled – the rest of this process is extremely complicated and painful!

File your Loss/Damage Report on DPS Website

Please be patient with this step – it will take several hours of your time and will likely confuse you thoroughly.  Hopefully, your moving company government office sent you an informational package that talks you though how to enter a claim in the DPS system — if not, you candownload it here.  This should help you with many of your questions about this laborious process.  If you have any problems accessing DPS or filing your claim, please contact the SDDC Help Desk at 800-462-2176 option 5.

If you file your claim within 9 months of delivery, the TSP is REQUIRED to replace any item that is lost or destroyed with a new item, or pay the cost of a new item of the same kind and quality without deducting for depreciation.

The TSP is not required to replace items which can be repaired for less than the Full Replacement Value of the item.

Loss or damage to an item must be reported to the TSP within 75 days of the date of delivery.

All loss/damaged discovered on the day of delivery must be listed on “The Notice of Loss/Damage at DeliveryReport”, any discrepancies found after delivery must be annotated on “The Notice of Loss/Damage After DeliveryReport”.

DO NOT DELAY …filing past the 9-month deadline eliminates your right to receive Full Replacement Value. If your claim has been timely filed, additional information may be presented at a later time.

DPS Website Instructions

1.  The first place to go is: Make sure your internet browser’s POP-UP BLOCKER is de-activated for this site — this site must be able to generate a Pop-Up or you will not be able to file a claim!

Click on the link labeled “LOGIN TO DPS”.

2.  The next page you will receive will be your actual login page. This will require the use of your ETA User ID (your SSN without dashes), then enter the Password which was provided to you via email from SDDC.  You should have received this email shortly after your household goods were delivered.

3.  Once you arrive at the main Defense Personal Property System (DPS) website, click the link labeled “CLAIMS”.

4.  Next, click on the “LOSS OR DAMAGE REPORT” located on the right-hand side of the page.

5.  Then, about half-way down the page, click on the option “CLICK HERE TO ADD A LOSS/DAMAGE REPORT”.

6.  Next, you must enter, line-by-line, each item that was damaged, destroyed, or lost.  Make sure you are complete in your answers.  However, the blanks on the electronic form only allow for a limited number of characters, so don’t  be too verbose.  Make sure you periodically save the page by clicking on the SAVE button.

7.  Once you are done and have entered all items, click on the SUBMIT link to submit your claim.  OK, you aren’t done yet – you still have to create and file your actual CLAIM (see below).

File your Claim on the DPS Website

1.  Back on the main DPS page, Create a Claim by clicking on the small icon next to PICK A SHIPMENT and a list will pop up showing your recent move.  Select it and click on the ADD & GO button.

2.  Next, you will need to re-enter the same exact information that you entered in the Loss/Damage Report section.  Some of your data may be able to be imported (we could not get that feature to work so we had to re-enter all of the information again).  You will need to list each item that was damaged, destroyed, or lost and (most importantly) the cost you are claiming for either repair or full replacement.  Make sure you save the form as you enter items into it to save your progress.

3.  Once you have accounted for all items that were damaged, destroyed, or lost, click on the SUBMIT button at the top of the page to submit your Claim… finally…

4.  Next, wait for correspondence from the moving company to let you know that your claim items were accepted (or not).

5.  Once you receive the email, log back on to DPS and for each line item check to see if the moving company has accepted your amount for reimbursement.  You will be required to click on ACCEPT OFFER or COUNTER OFFER based on these figures.

6.  Now just wait for your reimbursement check to appear in the mail.

Related Articles:

PCS Packing and Moving Advice
PCS Destination Move-in Advice
PCS Reimbursements
Military PCS Information

Military PCS Reimbursements

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Household Goods Full Replacement Value

The 2007 Defense Authorization required the Department of Defense to provide Full Replacement Value (FRV) reimbursement for household goods lost or damaged in government-ordered moves for military members starting in 2008. This new standard replaced the old method of depreciation reimbursements from carriers based on the weight of the damaged item, a formula that used to provide members only a fraction of actual replacement costs.  As of 2008, Members whose household goods are ruined, damaged, or lost, in a government-required move (PCS) will be reimbursed by the moving company for the actual cost of replacement.

Under the new FRV standard, if a mover lost an item or destroyed an item, the service member would get a new one in return.  For furniture, appliances, electronics, and more, the carrier will have to replace old items with new ones, complete a full repair of the item if possible, or pay the replacement value in dollars.

This is a welcome change to the depreciation formula used to cheat military members out of reimbursements in the past.  However, not all changes brought about by this new PCS system are good ones.  Read on to find out what is not good about this new system…

New System Saves the DoD Money

We’ve spoken extensively with professionals in the moving industry – from company managers, to dispatchers, to long-time truck drivers, and even the government contract representatives at these companies — they have all agreed that the sole purpose of this new PCS / Household Goods Shipmen system is to save the Defense Department money.  Unfortunately, in an attempt to streamline processes and introduce mandatory full replacement coverage (in line with industry standards), the service member and their families suffer.

Moving companies are now paid significantly less for each military service member’s move.  In an attempt to satisfy moving companies who are now making less revenue per military move, the Department of Defense has also loosened delivery windows (time it takes for your moving truck to transport and deliver your household goods at your final destination — more about this later in this article).  Now, the moving companies pass on the low payment they receive from the government to the truck drivers.  So, we end up with a system where many truck drivers refuse to take on a military shipment because they are barely covering their time, labor, and fuel costs.  Low costs = low quality.

Household Goods are Slow to Delivery

As mentioned above, the Defense Department has loosened its moving company standards on delivery timeframe in the new “DP3″ System.  In the past, when the service member had his household goods appointment with TMO to arrange for his upcoming PCS, they would decide on a pack date  (when the packers start packing your home), a load date (when your boxes and furniture would be loaded onto the moving truck), and a delivery date at your final destination.

The new system does not hold the moving companies accountable to specific delivery dates – not even for a door-to-door move.  Instead, moving companies are given a sliding “window” of delivery that can be as much as 8 days long.  This means your goods could be delivered anywhere in this large window of time.  And, the window is not determined or influenced by the truck driver, it is set by the moving company and the dispatcher.  You no longer have the ability to arrange for a specific delivery date in order to meet a lease date or home closing date, etc.  You now have lost control of your move.  Door-to-door moves are now extremely painful because you could be moving into a home more than a week before your goods are delivered.

There are additional changes to PCS reimbursement.  Newly implemented are: a new electronic billing and payment system, customer satisfactions surveys, new contracts with moving companies emphasizing best performance rather than the lowest bidder — although, with the DoD paying moving companies dramatically below industry standards, you end up receiving sub-par services.  Now, service members will settle claims directly with the moving company rather than rely on the overburdened military claims offices.  Service members will be urged to report on moving companies performance through satisfaction surveys and this feedback will rank the companies and determine which companies will receive the most business.

We Can Do Better

We applaud the change mandating additional FRV coverage that a service member used to have to purchase out-of-pocket.  This saves the service member a few hundred dollars on an average military shipment.

These are all welcome changes to a current system that treats military service members as second-class citizens.  Hopefully, over time, this new system will result in better quality of packing and delivery.  Historically, over one-fifth of military moves result in claims being filed – a number absurdly high.

However, the low-balled payments from DoD to moving companies is simply passed on to the truck drivers and the result is fewer truck companies signing up for DoD moves.  Lastly, the incorrigible window of delivery (even for door-to-door moves) hurts military families and adds to the already high level of anxiety experienced during a military PCS.  We can only hope our elected officials and DoD leadership fixes the “new” system.  For more lessons learned, tips and advice, check out our comprehensive Military PCS Information section.

Related Articles:

PCS Packing and Moving Advice
PCS Destination Move-in Advice
File a DPS Damage Claim
Military PCS Information

Moving In – PCS Tips and Advice

Getting organized and planning your PCS and subsequent move-in are crucial for success.  Life will throw a lot of challenges your way, but a good bit of preparation can make things go a lot smoother.  The first thing you need to do ahead of time is call and set up services to your new house.  This means calling your new utilities and services companies and arranging to start up services.  In many cases such as natural gas, this will require a serviceman show up at your home.  Call several weeks before move-in and set up your dates of service (and if necessary, your in-home service call dates and times) so that you can move in to a fully functioning home.

For families with kids, we’ve underlined all of our kid-specific emphasis items in this article.

Phone, Internet, Cable TV

If you have a family with children, one of the most important things to set up (as quickly as possible) is the cable TV.  Obviously, since Al Gore invented the internet, you almost require internet service to function today.  So, one of your most important appointments is the Phone/ Internet/ Cable TV service installation.  Call early to make this appointment.  Perfect timing is to have the installation person come to your home within the first 24 hours of your move-in!

Before-Move-In Cleaning

It’s always a good idea to hire some professional cleaners before moving into a new home.  As a minimum, we recommend an appointment with Stanely Steemer for carpet cleaining.  Stanley Steemer now also cleans tile and hard-wood flors as well as cleans your air ducts.  Before the movers arrive with all of your boxes, take the time to wipe down all counters and shelves so that you are ready to unload, unpack, and put away all of your belongings.

Schedule your Contractors and Repairmen

If you are purchasing a home, your Home Inspection should have brought up any issues and impending repairs your new home requires.  Additionally, you may elect to repaint portions or all of your home’s interior and/or exterior.  Before you move in, take the time to investigate which repairmen and contractors you wish to hire (or get a price quote from).

It is desirable to call and schedule appointments before you even move in so that the work can be completed as soon as possible.  We recommend using resources such as Angie’s List to read reviews on contractors and repairmen.  If you are interested in repainting your home’s interior – we highly recommend doing this early and hopefully getting this done before your household goods are unloaded from the moving truck.

If you plan on installing garage shelves or overhead storage, try to have the work accomplished before the movers unload your boxes that way you can unpack items and immediately place them in organized storage locations.

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Unload and Unpack

Echoing our advice in our PCS Move Advice article, we recommend placing big sticky notes on the doors of the major rooms in your house so your movers know exactly which room to take your boxes.  Label the name of each of your kids on their bedroom doors.  If you kitchen or other room is particularly small, have a plan on where you want those boxes placed so that you are not “boxed out” of an important part of your house.  Also, remind your movers when they unload the boxes to place them with the label facing outwards and unobstructed so that you can quickly and easily read the contents of each box as you unpack.  Discuss with your spouse how you want the living and family rooms arranged based on the furniture you currently own (i.e. “where do you want the sofa?”)

As soon as your movers unload your boxes, have a plan as to what items in which boxes are the most critical and need to be unpacked your first day.  We suggest, bedding, linens, towels, and some kitchen items.  Also, if you have children, consider unpacking baby bottles, toys, bath items, backpacks for school, and things that can entertain your kids as you spend the next several weeks unpacking (i.e. TV, DVD players, iPods, video game systems, etc.)  Distraction is a good thing.

What did the Movers Break?

Keep a keen eye on the movers as they unload and reassemble your items.  This is the most dangerous portion of your move as the movers have no incentive to be careful – they want to quickly unload your stuff and move on to the next job.  This means they could care less about scraping up your doorways, banging things up and down your stairs, dropping boxes and fragile items, and often, they don’t even unload all of your stuff (and accidentally leave items on their truck when they depart).

Pay close attention when your movers unload big items, furniture, fragile items, and your high value items.  Don’t let them rush you as the unload your boxes in a flurry.  You set the pace of the unload and make sure the movers bring the right boxes to the right rooms.  This is especially important if you have a two-story home – you don’t want heavy wardrobe boxes or furniture delivered to the wrong floor of your house.

As you spot items that are damaged, bring it immediately to your movers’ attention and note what item # or box # it was.  This makes it a lot easier when you submit your damage claim.

Make sure that anything the movers disassembled at your old home they re-assemble at your new home.  Grills/Bar-b-ques need to be placed in the correct location (backyard, etc.)  All garage shelving that was moved needs to be unpacked and re-assembled by your movers once more.

Items that routinely get damaged or are not re-assembled properly include: dining room tables (movers don’t care how they re-attach your table legs – inspect closely); baby cribs and changing tables (movers like to manhandle these items and may not re-attach all hardware or shelving – this can be a safety-related issue); table-top glass (when removing or applying the table-top glass, movers often scratch up tables and/or forget to re-apply the small plastic spacers on the surface).  Movers also like to take apart bicycles and then leave them in disarray in a pile somewhere in your garage – if they took something apart, they are required to put it back together.

When we say keep a close eye on the movers when they re-assemble, we mean keep a very very close eye on them.  They should not be performing “field repairs” on your furniture – we caught a mover with United Van Lines using gorilla glue on our dining room table trying to repair damage he had done.  The same mover (United Van Lines) also broke apart part of our very expensive bedroom headboard and decided to try and gorilla glue that piece back together and not tell us – we didn’t notice until several days later.

By reading the above lessons learned, hopefully you will be able to make your next move-in a smooth one and at least avoid making some of the mistakes we made!

Related Articles:

PCS Packing and Moving Advice
How to File a PCS Damage Claim
PCS Reimbursements
Military PCS Information

Military PCS Advice

Military PCS Advice

Smooth Move – PCS Tips and Advice

The last move we had was by far the toughest and worst move of the past 20 years.  What made this one such a challenge?  This time, we had three young children age 5 and below, our scheduled move date was in between Christmas and New Years, and we just did not prepare like we should have prior to the move.

Depending on your personal, job, and family circumstances, you may or may not have a lot of time to devote to pre-move preparations.  Here are some things we learned along the way and some things we wish we had done that would have eased the pain in the move.

We’ve organized our lessons learned based on the “problem” or headache that we encountered and how to best solve it through preparation and organization.

For families with kids, we’ve underlined all of our kid-specific emphasis items in this article.

Each PCS service members and their families learn a little bit more about how to improve their PCS experience – read our tips in this article.  Please add your “lessons learned” as a comment below this article so that we can all share and benefit.

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Lessons Learned

1. Sleep in your own Bed

If you have a family with children, at some point during the packing and moving process, you will have to move out of your home and into a hotel.  Some families will elect to do this the night prior to the packers arriving at the house – this is to keep the area free of small children (for safety concerns).  One thing to remember is if you properly coordinate with your moving company, they will leave your beds and bedding intact and pack them last.  If you have a large home a pack-out can take as long as three days – that means you could have three more days where you could sleep in your own beds!

2.  Label the Boxes, Stupid!

Movers tend to rush and they seem to often cut corners when labeling boxes.  Look on the side your moving boxes – they all come with elaborate labels with many blanks to fill out and boxes to check.  Movers like to do the minimum work so that they can pack your home as fast as possible.  This means they tend to spend very little time writing down what the contents of the boxes are and what room they came from.

To fix the haphazard labeling of your boxes, the first thing we like to do is explain to the movers that they need to label each box by room and each closet specifically.  We also like to post a big “sticky” note on each of your major rooms labeling that room – indicate your kids’ names on their bedroom doors, label the “guest bedroom” and which room is the “family room” versus the “living room” etc.  Therefore, boxes with linens from the Master Bedroom should be labeled “Master Bedroom Linens”, etc.  Sounds easy – but most movers screw up this step.

Another thing you can do is follow behind your movers and with a different colored marker (Red or Green, etc.), label your critical boxes (bedroom linens, towels, baby bottles, kids’ video games, etc.) so that you can quickly find them and unpack them at your destination.

3.  Hold on to your Bedroom Items

One thing to remember, the packers will likely only leave your beds and bedding there but will pack every single thing else in your bedrooms.  This means if you have other crucial items you want to keep handy or items you need to use, make sure you separate them from the packers.  This includes everything that may be on your nightstand such as alarm clocks, reading glasses, cell phone chargers.  Families with kids – don’t forget items that may be on the floor of your bedrooms such as humidifiers, noise machines, baby monitors, special bedtime books, and anything on your baby changing table that you require.  Your packers will pack your entire bedroom unless otherwise told.

4.  Bathroom Items – Watch the Liquids!

Just like #2 above, the same thing goes for your bathroom.  Obviously you will pack your personal travel toiletries.  However, don’t forget that many moving companies will refuse to move liquids (especially opened bottles).  So, your expensive perfume and cologne collection may be in jeopardy unless you pack and carry them in your vehicle.  Many families store medicine in their bathrooms (medicine cabinets, etc.) – don’t forget to pack whatever medicines, over-the-counter items, and your prescription drugs or the packers will pack them and you won’t find them until you unpack all of your boxes at the destination.  For families with kids, don’t forget to pack separately your kids’ bath soap, baby lotion, favorite bath toys, and any children’s medicine stored in their bathroom.

5.  It’s all about the Linens and Towels

Your movers will pack all of your linens and towels.  However, unless instructed to (or unless you do this your self), they will simply label all of the boxes as “linens”.  If you have several different linen closets, they will likely not label any of the boxes differently and it will be a big guessing game when you are unpacking at your destination to find the right sheets and blankets for your different bedrooms and to find the right box with bath towels.  This can be especially painful after a fill day of unpacking at your new home and all you want to do is take a hot shower and hop in your own bed.

If you have room in your vehicles, what I recommend is packing one set of linens for all of your beds (and your children’s beds) plus one set of towels and carrying them in your vehicles.  Once you reach your destination, you know where your bedding is and you are ready to take showers, make the beds, and go to sleep.

6.  Know what’s in your Garage

Most people store a lot in their garage.  Many families end up with those large blue plastic Rubbermaid containers (the movers call them “totes”) full of Christmas ornaments, camping equipment, winter clothes, etc.  Your movers will pack all of your “totes” but, they will only label the boxes as “garage totes”.  So, when you arrive at your destination you will probably have 30 boxes unloaded in your garage labeled “garage totes”.  All that does is waste your time during your unpacking.

Help the movers by labeling the Rubbermaid containers – just attach a piece of duct tape or masking tape and write on it with a black marker indicating what is inside.  Be specific – “Wife Winter Clothes” or “Kids’ Toys” etc.  And then explain to your movers that whatever the tote is labeled is how they need to label their moving boxes.  We moved from a warm Florida climate to a northern state in the middle of winter – it was crucial to know which boxes in the garage had our winter clothes as soon as we arrived!  A lot of your kids’ favorite toys may end up in the garage during your packing process – make sure you label those totes aptly so that you can immediately unpack these toys at your destination.

7.  Separate your Professional Gear

For military service members, your “Professional Gear” does not count towards your weight allowance.  Professional Gear includes uniforms, military-specific gear (such as deployment bags, combat kit, protective gear, helmets, pelican cases, footwear) and professional books and publications.  This may amount to several hundred pounds in weight – so it is a good idea to segregate these items and put a large note on the pile so that the movers know it is your “professional gear” and to weight them separately from the rest of your household goods.

8.  Don’t Forget your Storage Unit

Many families nowadays have storage units.  A lot of families will end up getting a storage unit during the “de-clutter” phase of preparing to list their home for sale prior to moving.  Make sure you factor in time and effort to empty that storage unit and bring everything back to your home (your garage) before the movers show up.

Storage unit items tend to be stored in those same Rubbermaid blue plastic containers.  Make sure you follow the advice in #6 above and label those Rubbermaid containers so that your movers know how to label the packing boxes.

9.  Keep your Important Documents

Everyone has important documents such as social security cards, birth certificates, passports, check books, marriage certificate, etc.  Many families keep such items in a fire-proof box (good idea).  Before the movers show up, make sure you separate which of these documents you want to hand-carry, and which you will let the movers pack.  Also, don’t forget your work-specific documents such as your Security Clearance paperwork (Form SF-86, etc.), certification cards, ID cards, LES, military orders, medical records, flight records, and personnel reports.  You may want to hand-carry those items too.  Families with kids should also hand-carry childrens’ shot records and written prescriptions (both will be required at their new schools).

By reading the above lessons learned, hopefully you will be able to make your next move a smooth one and at least avoid making some of the mistakes we made!

Related Articles:

Military PCS Information
PCS Move-in Advice
How to File a PCS Damage Claim
PCS Reimbursements

TRICARE for your Family

Upon arrival at your new duty station, you will be required to enroll your family in the local TRICARE office (usually co-located at your military treatment facility).  This is a good time to re-evaluate your family healthcare situation and decide whether you prefer TRICARE Prime or TRICARE Standard.  TRICARE Standard grants your family the freedom of choice in doctors and the flexibility to seek a specialist or follow-on care without first getting a primary care referral (saves your family a lot of time and head aches).  For more information, check out our section on the benefits of TRICARE Standard Supplemental Insurance.

Military Pay Questions

Military Pay entitlements change when Service Members deploy. For more Military Pay information check out our Military Pay section.  OurDeployment Pay section details entitlements while a servicemember is deployed overseas.

Military For Sale By Owner

PCSing soon?  Are you looking to sell your home?  Perhaps you are looking for a new home to buy or rent. is the place to go.  Here you can list and browse homes for sale and rent.  By selling your home “by owner” you save a lot by avoiding the high commission rates that realtors charge.  With an easy to navigate, powerful search interface, this website is the premier for-sale-by-owner website!

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