PCS Impact Q&A: Damage Claims and More With TRANSCOM
by Lizann Lightfoot - November 18th, 2020
Guest: Col. Marshanna Gipson from TRANSCOM (US Transportation Command). I am the Deputy Director for Operations for the TRANSCOM Personal Property Management Office. I arrived back in TRANSCOM in July 2019, after being there a few years ago. It’s great to be back at Scott AFB and remind me why I enjoyed the tour the first time. I’ve been in the military over 25 years, and have done at least 11 PCS moves either unaccompanied or with my family. Prior to having this job, I really didn’t understand much about the relocation process, but the people I work with are now so passionate about the relocation process as a whole.
Patriot Express Flights will now be doing random COVID tests on passengers. These will be on the service member only, based on their questionnaire responses. If you have a negative test from within three days, you may use that evidence to opt out. If one member of a party tests positive, the entire party will be quarantined.
Insurance: We recommend that you carry private renters or personal property insurance with you throughout your move. This will cover loss and/or damage above the moving company’s responsibility. We will have an upcoming guest who is an insurance expert to discuss this.
As a military family, what recourse do I have if my mover can't meet my requested pick up or delivery date?
We have seen this a lot, especially with COVID. We recognize that your time is important as well, and relocating is a precision event with many moving parts that impact each other. We did make changes this year to streamline the process for our families if a moving company missed a date, particularly with Inconvenience Claims. Requiring the customer to show receipts for air mattresses, cooking tools, etc. to the moving company was a bit cumbersome. We now tie reimbursement to a baseline based on the local per diem amount, and count starting on the requested pickup or delivery date. That is a receipt-free option for 7 days, and the moving company will let you know you are entitled to that claim. If there are extenuating circumstances, you can also choose an option based on receipts. The max is 7 days and will be based on the local per diem amount, unless you negotiate with specific receipts. So save the receipts just in case! Read more about the Inconvenience Claim details here.
Delivery day: What should a family expect from the movers?
We are in a pandemic and we definitely want to flatten the curve, even as our families relocate. Families should expect that the moving company has taken steps to implement their safety procedures. They have criteria for screening personnel consistent to CDC guidelines, before they arrive at your residence. We have also directed them to follow common sense approaches and protocols, such as a smaller crew size to reduce exposure and improve social distancing. They have hygiene requirements including wearing masks, cleaning commonly-touched surfaces, and washing hands. If something makes you uncomfortable, ask them to stop, and contact your Move Coordinator with your concerns. You have control over who you allow into your home. You have power over what you allow, and you can ask someone to step outside if they appear sick.
If you desire it, the moving company will unpack your boxes and you are entitled to request that. It is a one-time unpack on a flat surface. This is best if you are organized and your boxes are labeled well so they all go into the correct rooms. If you don’t want them to unpack, that is fine also. You can make that call on delivery day when they arrive.
We have noted as the numbers are rising that we need to re-send information out to the industry as a reminder. We just sent it out again this week so it is now fresh, and we have reminded them of health protection protocols in place.
During delivery, as we were receiving things, we noticed some items were damaged. What steps do we take at delivery for damaged items?
Document it! Take pictures to use with your Transportation Service Provider (TSP) and moving company during the claims process. Notify them on the spot. It’s always helpful to find out sooner. Make sure you understand what the company’s process–do I contact a specific person, is there a form? If the moving crew doesn’t give you those details, call the moving company contact number while the crew is still there. We ask customers to call within 5 days to notify us that there was damage during your moving process.
We are finding damage as we are unpacking boxes. What is the process in the the time after delivery?
Again, document it! You can’t imagine how much time it will save you if you immediately take pictures and make a note. The moving company will provide you a form for items damaged during delivery, but they will give you a separate form with the steps and timeline for items discovered after delivery day. In 2020, we have allocated more time for the customers. It used to be 75 days that you had to report a claim. This often isn’t enough time to go through everything you own! You are very busy right after a move! This year we extended the timeline to 180 days, and that has taken some stress off our families. Either send it to the moving company in the mail or upload it to DPS so we can submit it to the moving company. From that point, we can start working to get your items replaced or repaired, and to give you reimbursement. Here are the details on how to file a claim.
What if the TSP offers a settlement and we do not agree with the amount?
Ask for help. We have a lot of DoD personnel in our military claims office and transportation offices at TRANSCOM who are in place to help you. Those individuals are prepared to fight for you! That’s what they are there for.
There's a lot of confusion for filing claims for damage from items in the non-temp storage. Who do you file a claim with for that?
First, report the claim to the delivering TSP. If it is a different company than the non-temp storage. They filled out an exception report when they picked up the goods and detailed anything that was missing from the shipment inventory, or any damage they noted from the non-temp storage. If you know your Household Goods are coming out of non-temp storage, ask the TSP if there is an Exception Report. If there is, ask for a copy. As you unpack and check everything, if you notice something missing, it should be on that report. If they say they didn’t do one, then they don’t have any documentation, so it is on the delivering company when you do the claim.
File the claim in DPS in the standard way. If the delivering company is not responsible for the loss or damage, then they will transfer the responsibility to the non-temp storage.
What happens after we file a claim? How do we know if it's complete?
First, make sure you hit Submit! We find families who have done hard work and research, but haven’t submitted yet! The moving company must acknowledge receipt of your claim within 15 calendar days of submission. Keep an eye out for counter-offers and negotiations. You don’t have to accept their offer if you don’t agree with it. You can get your Military Claims Office (MCO) involved if there is a discrepancy.
MCO has a primary role of working with families on personal property claims. You can get them involved and they are prepared to pay you full replacement value while continuing negotiations with the moving company. Each branch has their own process, but the MCO will fight for you if you’re having a hard time negotiating. Here are the contacts for each branch of Military Claims Offices. You can accomplish this virtually.
What is the purpose of the customer satisfaction survey?
First, it allows the customer to provide feedback. It lets us know the issues that families are encountering and facing. It also helps us decide who gets the business. Not every moving company is meeting all requirements. We want to know about them so we can remove them from the program and not pass them to another customer. Those surveys play a big role in letting us keep quality movers and shepherd out ones who are not helpful.
You can file your survey through DPS, or by calling our customer help desk here at TRANSCOM, especially if you are having trouble logging in. They will take your survey comments and populate the survey for your shipment.
If you have moved at all this year, you can get on and fill out that survey. It takes 5 minutes to do the survey. Give your feedback so we can make appropriate changes.
Where should you file a complaint when things go wrong?
First, communicate with your moving company and your local transportation office. They have a relationship with that local company and can react faster. Then, share your issue with the DoD. That’s why TRANSCOM is here, to help customers go through that very stressful point in your career! Your transportation office is here to assist you and get them through relocation.
What are moving companies doing when they lack drivers?
We are aware that it has been an ordeal with COVID, and that is one of the challenges moving companies are facing. We are working on it.
Is there another way to file a claim besides the claims website? It keeps crashing!
We would like to upgrade to that, but it isn’t in place yet. If you reach out and message us, we can look at your situation and see if there is an account issue or what the problems are.
Do OCONUS benefits apply to Alaska? What about long-term storage?
It depends on your orders. Not all services do it the same way and manage the same benefits. It depends on the location. Some will allow it, others will not. Reconnect with your local transportation Office to get clarification.
What can you do if the moving company is late and you have to pay rent or for move-out cleaning?
Start with the moving company, then talk to the transportation office. We recognize that is a burden on our families. So we can work to resolve that.
Can we ask the moving company to wrap furniture in blankets and plastic?
They are requested to wrap furniture sufficiently to prevent them from damage. Sometimes I pre-wrap things and allow the moving company to consolidate them. Not all furniture can be wrapped in the home. Sometimes it happens when it is getting loaded onto the truck. But furniture and items should be wrapped in a way to prevent damage.
It’s so important to communicate with and educate our customers. We want to inform customers directly so they are armed to tackle their next moving experience.