Arm yourself for a claim-free PCS move

By Capt. Austen A. Swaim (U.S. Army)
Stuttgart Law Center

Moving to a new duty station can be exciting, challenging and stressful, especially when it comes to the pack-out. Did you know you can safeguard against claims issues before your household goods are even picked up?

Indeed, one of the best ways to ensure you don’t run into claims trouble at your next duty station is to start thinking smart about packing up your household goods right now. The following is a list of pro-active steps to make your move just a little more hassle-free:

• Always save receipts for high-value items, items that cannot be easily replaced or items you think are prone to being damaged. If you must file a claim for these items, a carrier or military claims office may ask you to prove how much you paid for the items. A receipt or billing statement is a great way to do prove value.

• Photograph or video-record your household goods on the day of shipment. Turn all of your electronic equipment on to demonstrate it works properly. Make sure such visuals are date-stamped or place a newspaper (with date, of course) in front of the camera so there is no question as to when these images were taken. That way, if a transportation service provider argues the claimed item had pre-existing damage, you can pull out your time-stamped visuals and prove them wrong.

• On a similar note, watch the packers to ensure the “exceptions” they write are accurate. These exceptions are notations for pre-existing damage or other negative notations about a household good item that negatively affects its value in the event of a claim.

Have someone walk around with the mover who is writing down the inventory, and keep a close eye. Sometimes packers write exceptions for everything under the sun hoping to stop you from making a claim later. If you disagree with an exception, you can write that you disagree. Remember: Your signature at the bottom of the inventory means you agree that everything on the inventory is accurate, even the exceptions written by the movers.

• Take a pro-active role in packing, and if the packers are doing an inadequate job, call them on it. Although it is their job to pack, a claim down the road is not a hassle the movers deal with, but one that you must confront. You can show the movers how you want something packed, but do not pack it yourself. If the packed items are damaged, movers may argue that you improperly packed the items. Also make sure they do not mark “packed by owner” on your inventory.

• Finally, and this applies to the move-out and delivery, if the shippers did a poor job, don’t rate them as excellent. Statistically speaking, your movers are likely doing an average job.

Change can only happen when people speak up. If the movers break all of your things and you still give them a good rating, you’re not doing yourself or anyone any favors.

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