Our guest is Rick Marsh: Director, Defense Personal Property Program at U.S. Transportation Command 

This week, DoD opened up the Stop Move Restriction to a Conditions-Based Phased Opening. How does this impact military families?

The new policy enables unrestricted movement between two locations that meet criteria: the White House Opening Up America guide, and local guidelines. It will consider whether installations have lower active infection numbers, adequate COVID testing, childcare re-opening, etc. Right now it is a very short list, but there will be a website that will outline which countries and states are readily available. The locations you are leaving and going to must both meet the standards, so then you won’t need an Exception to Policy. Outside that list, you will need to request a waiver. For Exception to Policy, both the gaining and receiving commands must be on the list. Also, all states traveled through must be on the list. Commands are working to process the timelines and adjust them on a service-specific basis.

What are the current safety precautions families should be aware of for a move?

We have guidelines and expectations. Families should expect moving crews to acknowledge that this isn’t normal and that there is more stress. They should take simple steps: screen personnel consistent to CDC guidelines before they show up at your house. Movers shouldn’t have active cold and flu symptoms. Companies can use a smaller crew to enable social distancing, wear face coverings, clean frequently-touched surfaces, and practice good hand hygiene. They should wipe doorknobs and countertops, but will not deep-clean the home. You can offer crews your own cleaning products if you prefer. Families should extend the same respect to crews: if you are sick or in quarantine, reschedule your move. Wear face masks, etc. We have suspended companies and crews who aren’t following guidelines. Contact your Transportation Office and your chain of command for assistance. 

Families are expecting delays at the gaining locations. Do you expect delays on shipments that have gone into storage? 

This has had broad implications on the global supply chain. There have been delays, but we are accounting for them and updating guides. We are giving companies 1 extra days for each 5 days of transit time built into the timeline. Anything billed after 14 April, the RDD will reflect that in your paperwork. This does not exempt moving companies for inconvenience claims, so you can still work with local companies to file a claim for anything that is the moving company’s fault. 

Will there be delays in transporting vehicles?

We have implemented similar changes for the POV side. They are all operating on an appointment basis, so call before you try to pick up or drop off your vehicle. There will be delays in some host nations overseas when trying to pick up and register your vehicle. The local transportation center and Vehicle Processing Center can walk you through the process as things change and keep you updated.

PPM moves will now be reimbursed at 100% instead of 95%. Many families are now interested in a full or partial PPM. What do families need to do to get reimbursed?

There aren’t any restrictions on when you can get supplies or reservations. Service members are reimbursed based on the documents. Each branch does it a little differently, so get counseled, sit down with your move counselor and discuss your interest in a PPM. Make sure you get counseled and it is in the system that you intend to do a PPM.

Has COVID impacted the claims process after a move?

No, since volumes have been down, only doing 30% of historical volume, so they should be able to process claims even faster than they have in the past.

Many new initiatives went into play on May 15, such as background checks for crews. What do families need to know about that, and how can they follow up with problems?

With great help from Megan and a lot of military families, we implemented a lot of customer-facing changes this year. I’m proud of the list of changes we were able to include this year. Before this year, the requirement was not to use prison labor, so crews should have background checks performed so they can meet local installation requirements. Talk to your moving company and your transportation office if you have concerns. Crews usually aren’t assembled and sent out until about a day before the move. You should expect that the morning of a move that the folks who show up should be screened for COVID, should have the certification that their employer has done common sense COVID guidelines, and they should have their background check. If something doesn’t feel right, contact your Transportation Officer or chain of command.

The Inconvenience Claims have improved: the moving company should let you know that you are eligible due to a missed pickup or date. This year, we have pegged it to a per diem, based on your area, so you don’t need receipts. You will receive a per diem based on the days of delay. This helps simplify claims.

We are also giving more time for families to note loss of damage, up to 180 days. This year it is the family’s decision on how they prefer claims to be handled–either repaired or paid for. This makes moving companies file claims faster, within 30 days for claims under $1000. 

We are trying to do more on the tracking front so you get an email update any time your shipment has gone into storage, moved through a port, or is out for delivery.

Families are interested in the crating of Household Goods, knowing that crating helps reduce loss during a move. Can you explain the crating process and overage charges?

Code 2 refers to shipments that must be put in containers at the residence, usually for overseas moves. All your stuff is put in a crate on the curb, so portions of your shipment can’t be separated or put individually into storage. Code 4 is for shipments packed into a moving truck. The criteria is on Move.mil. If you do not have a delivery address or location, and it has to go into storage, is more than 800 miles, and does not contain giant items like a motorcycle, and the weight cap is 10,000 pounds, then you can get a Code 2 crated shipment. You can request it if you don’t qualify, but it may not be approved. Typical claims are about $500 less on a Code 2 shipment, and customer satisfaction is higher, so there is a benefit to moving that way.

Next year, the global household goods process will be a big change. What does it mean for families?

It is exciting that there will be big changes next year. At the end of April, the contract was awarded after dozens of workshops to write the requirements and the contracts. There was work with Congressional interest and the GAO to make sure there were no issues. TMARK is a great partner in this: Unigroup, United, Mayflower, Suddoth, and Atlas. There is a lot of work to be done. We planned to spend the next 9 months integrating digital programs, training quality control people in each installation, to be ready for moves in February 2021 phasing in domestic volume so we could handle all shipments in the lower 48 states during the next peak season. Vehicles and Non-temporary storage are not part of this, but it would be all Household Goods and Express shipments. 

Families should be excited because there are senior leaders across the department who spent the last year listening to you and fighting for you. This is an opportunity for the department to set a standard and tip the scales back in favor of DoD families. It’s been incredible watching senior leaders in the department dedicating time to personal property. It will make for a better moving experience. Restructuring our relationship with the industry helps us address pain points and get to issues like accountability. The current model encouraged companies not to invest in their work force. Now they have a reason to invest in their crews and give families better quality at the curb. We want to attract new small businesses to the program. I think most issues revolve around communication. Now we will have dedicated POC’s, customer hotlines, and customer service software. We are always tied to the lowest common denominator– small businesses don’t have IT solutions for apps, tracking, etc. We want the entire process to be done in a very modern IT environment, from receiving orders to handling the move, documentation, filing claims, etc. 

Watch the full interview here: