DoD Updates: AMC reminds families that OCONUS locations like Japan, Korea, etc. require a no-fee (government) passport. They were allowing you to use civilian passports during COVID because of the delay in processing passports. But now they are returning to the original requirements of using a no-fee passport. 

There have been issues logging into DPS website. Sometimes the site has been down for maintenance, but if you have any issues, use their Help Desk which is usually very capable in helping you with technical issues.

What are ways to make moving less expensive?

First, try to maximize the PCS cash that you have at the beginning of the process. Purge your closets and get rid of what you don’t need. Not only will that give you bonus cash from a yard sale, but it will also help ensure that you don’t go over your PCS weight limit. 

Next, make sure you maximize your PCS entitlements. TLE is 10 days total used on either end of your PCS, typically for domestic moves. You can be reimbursed for hotel stays on either end of the move. For OCONUS moves, you can be reimbursed for up to 5 days on the USA side, and up to 30 days on the international side. 

Make sure you use the per diem, which applies to lodging, and food for the service member, spouse, and children. Usually this goes on the Government Travel Charge Card. It is for each allotted travel day that you actually use. So if you are allotted 5 and use 6, you will only be reimbursed for 5. If you were allotted 5 and only used 3, you will get reimbursed for those 3. Remember that the reimbursement number is 100% for the service member, 75% for the spouse, and 50% for children. 

DLA is Dislocation Allowance. Almost everyone qualifies for this, unless it is your first PCS and you don’t have dependents, or it is a separation PCS. This is for non-reimbursable expenses like a rental car, home cleaning, etc. 

It’s important to plan out your PCS budget and make sure you are making everything work for you so you won’t be stuck with a huge bill at the end. 

What should you do if you need longer hotel stays?

First, use the maximum number of days from your TLE (typically 10 days total). Then, start to use the DLA so you will be reimbursed. If you run into an issue where neither of those things cover you, contact the chain of command. You can also reach out to your branch’s aid society (Army Emergency Relief, Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society, etc.). They can support you with grants or loans in emergency situations. 

What should you do if you don’t receive details about your move?

First, contact your local transportation office at your current location. Some aren’t booking anything until August 1st, others are already booked through August. They can help you evaluate whether they will actually be able to book you movers, maybe you can shift your dates, and what your options will be. They can help you determine the chances of getting a company booked. Due to labor shortages and truck driver shortages, many people are choosing to do a PPM (DITY) move to move themselves and control their timeline. 

If necessary, call the gaining command and ask if the report date can be shifted. Keep the gaining chain of command informed about any issues or delays. 

You can also pack your things into a storage unit (either pack it yourselves or hire a local company to do so) and then the government movers can pick it up from the storage unit after you have actually left the area. 

If there are no local agents assigned, what should you do?

First, communicate with your Move Coordinator from your TSP. Ask what the updates are and what the possibilities of having a local agent assigned. In some cases, it hasn’t been assigned until a few days before the pick-up date. Before you cancel your move in DPS, talk to your Transportation Office! This takes all responsibility off the TSP and movers and means you won’t be eligible for an Inconvenience Claim because you canceled the move yourself. Even if you are planning to move yourself, talk to the Transportation Office on your installation first, and make sure the TSP cancels it from their side. 

What to do when your transportation company shifts the dates?

If the TSP misses the agreed-upon pick-up date, you are eligible for an Inconvenience Claim for missing that date. There are more details about the Inconvenience Claim here. You could request a prorated rent from your TSP. If you need to pay additional cleaning fees, those can be included in the Inconvenience Claim. Let your Move Coordinator know that you want to file an Inconvenience Claim for these additional fees and charges.

What if you aren’t able to get a driver for packed goods?

The Required Delivery Date (RDD) is listed in DPS. If the RDD is missed for any reason that the moving company can control, you can request an Inconvenience Claim from your TSP. On this end, the Inconvenience Claim covers purchases that you need to get by for those additional days while waiting for your goods to be delivered. It can be paid out in two different ways. The first is a flat per diem rate for the service member only that covers meals and incidentals for up to 7 days. This is best if you were prepared to “house-camp” and already had some sleeping bags, air mattresses, etc. If you do not have any linens or sleeping gear with you, then you can purchase items off an approved list, and have those basic essential necessities. You must get basic level store-brand items and save the receipts in order to be reimbursed. This helps cover basic cooking gear, towel, sheets, and pillows while you are waiting. 

Who can we contact with moving issues?

Always start with the Move Coordinator from your TSP. They are the one managing your move, contracting local agents, and should be your single point of contact for multiple issues. Some move coordinators have not been communicating equally, so your next step is to contact your local Transportation Office. You can then contact the local or regional JPPSO, Joint Personal Property Shipping Office. This information is on Move.mil under customer service. On that page, you can also find the Transportation Office hotline listed as “help for non-technical issues.” You can put in your zip code to find your local contact numbers, as well as the help desks for the different military branches. You can bookmark this page on your phone so you can get the information quickly during a move.

Let’s talk weight limits. What do we do if it’s over?

This is a hot topic in a lot of PCS groups right now. It’s important to remember that the weight on the email from DPS has not yet subtracted the packing material or Pro Gear deductions. DPS is not authorized to take off those deductions. Only the local Transportation Office can do that. So, from that gross number, eventually they will subtract 10% for packing materials, and up to 2,000 pounds for the service member’s Pro Gear, and up to 500 pounds for the spouse’s Pro Gear. The weight in DPS does not include those deductions, so don’t panic.

If you think the weight is off, let your Move Coordinator and your local Transportation Office know that you want to request a re-weigh. You must do this immediately before you accept your shipment, and before they have started to unpack anything. You may request to view the re-weigh in person. They will go to the nearest truck scale to weigh it, then turn around and go back to your house to unload. 

How is Pro Gear weighed?

If there is a scale available at the home (even a bathroom scale) they should be weighing each box that is labeled Pro Gear during load day. Some moving companies will bring their own scale. The weight of each box should be written on the box and the moving paperwork, and then tallied for the Pro Gear total. If there is no scale available, they will do a Constructed Weight, based on the size of the box. They multiply each cubic foot by 7 pounds to calculate Pro Gear. If you think they are estimating low, you can separate the Pro Gear before or after the move, load it into your car, and weigh the car full and empty. These weight tickets can prove that Pro Gear is a specific amount. 

How do you make unpacking smoother and quicker?

In the past, I have discussed pre-packing strategies. You put trash bags over your hanging clothes, place toys or small office supplies in Ziploc bags to keep them together. The more that things are bundled, the faster it is to cut a box open, throw the bags into the correct drawer or closet, and get the cardboard boxes out of your home quickly.

You have the option to request a full or partial unpack from the movers. The key is to be involved with the unpacking, because they place items on the nearest clean, flat surface. If you are putting things away into cupboards as they place things on the counter, this will give them more counter space to continue unpacking. They will not organize things, but they will put them onto a shelf or counter. A full-unpack can be stressful. But a partial unpack helps, and gets the boxes out of your house. Wardrobe boxes are easy if you have already used flax totes for clothes or trash bags over hanging clothes. Many people want the kitchen set up immediately, so pots and pans, bakeware, everyday dishes should be a priority. You can unpack directly into the dishwasher to save time. Everything they unpack, they are responsible for moving the boxes and paper from your home. You can let kids help with pre-pack by putting their stuffed animals into a trash bag or putting clothes into flex totes. Older kids can help with unpack by putting the bag of magnets on the fridge, putting some of their toys away, setting up their room, etc. If you need to keep younger kids out of the way, find the biggest box that was unpacked, and let them sit inside it and color for a while. They can also color packing paper or use it for paper airplanes!

On delivery day, you must unpack your high-value items. These need to be checked and noted on a special form at delivery. You have to open and inspect them on delivery day, otherwise if you later realize it’s broken and you have a claim later, that claim will be denied. Don’t feel bad about taking the time to open and inspect breakable high-value items. Give the team a water break or something, but it is your job to visually inspect all high-value items. High value is anything that is around $100 per pound. China, crystal, electronics, silver, art, collectables, memorabilia, and a wide variety of items can go on that list.