PCS Q&A: PCS Insurance Protection
by Lizann Lightfoot - September 20th, 2021
Our guest = Bryce Palmer of Armed Forces Insurance. I am the Assistant Vice President of Infinity Programs at AFI. I’ve been in the insurance industry for 10-12 years now, and have done a variety of roles. I’ve been at AFI for 5 years now and manned booths at different events. I do a lot of community outreach and want to make sure people have all the tools for their PCS moves. I have 3 kids at home and one is celebrating her 12th birthday today!
If you are shipping a vehicle with the military and planning to drop off or pick up on Dec. 24 or 25, note that this year the VPCs will all be CLOSED on Christmas Eve.
If you have orders for next year, go on DPS now and register your move on Move.mil. You do not need an address yet, just the duty location you are going to. You can shift your dates later, but this helps them assign you a TSP and a Transportation Office.
A lot of people don't think about insurance when they move. Why is it important to have insurance on your stuff?
It’s peace of mind, knowing your stuff is protected against life’s unexpected moments. Most days are going to be mundane, and no one expects the bad stuff to happen. But what if that hurricane happens, or a fire? If something happens, you don’t have to come up with money to replace your property, or pay off your home, or repay the bank. Homeowner’s insurance is required when you own a home, but renter’s insurance and personal property insurance isn’t. But they are relatively cheap and a good idea to have.
What is the difference between those policies?
Homeowner’s Insurance: This covers your home in the event of fire, weather damage, etc. This covers your personal property, your liability of someone is injured on your property, etc. It even provides money for you to live somewhere for a while if your home is damaged, being repaired, or completely destroyed.
Renter’s Insurance: It’s like a home policy, but you don’t need to cover the dwelling because you don’t own it. This applies whether you are on base or renting an apartment or condo in town. It keeps the personal property, coverage for living elsewhere, and liability in case your pet bites someone or something happens to someone while you are renting there.
Personal Property: This is even more specific than the renter’s insurance, because it doesn’t include the liability coverage. It just covers replacing your things. If you move home to stay with your parents during deployment, you don’t need renter’s insurance for the liability. You just want your things to be replaced if they are damaged in storage, or any items taken overseas during deployment.
Are these blanket policies? Or do people need to have valuables specifically listed?
Every policy has a limitation. The basic household goods are things loaded on a moving van, they are all generally covered. Your furniture, clothes, electronics, and such are all covered. The things that need to be listed separately are jewelry, antiques, expensive camera equipment, firearms, coin and stamp collections, card collections, artwork, etc. There are limitations on the policy against theft. Generally it starts at $1,500, so if you have anything worth more than that, you want to put those on a special valuable items policy. This would be an extra policy to cover the value of any of those high-value items. So if you have several important items worth more than $1,500, you can design a policy for their specific value. You do not need actual receipts for the items, but at the time of loss you are expected to write down an inventory. For high-value items, it’s smart to have an appraisal value. Keep a list or rough inventory of everything you have. If you keep your PCS inventory list, or have a picture of the serial number from the original boxes, that speeds up replacements. Take pictures of the rooms in your house and save them to a Cloud, so when you sit down with the evaluator to try and discuss what was there, visual proof will help you get reimbursed.
Do general insurance policies cover household goods in transit? What if your things are lost of damaged in transit?
There’s always a basic renter’s policy to start with, and there are always situations where the insurance company will say, “we won’t cover THAT.” Every policy has a limitation, so find the policy with the fewest limitations. Get educated about the coverage you need for a military move. Policies will NOT cover rough handling by the mover. That is something that falls on the moving company, so your insurance policy won’t cover it. The DoD covers up to $75,000 now as a safety blanket for your stuff. But people always undervalue what they have. But when a fire occurs, you can’t shop on deals and sales. You need the replacement cost to get items right now, so make sure you have the replacement cost covered. In transit, you may have more than $75,000 of things destroyed, if the moving truck catches on fire, or the storage company is hit by a hurricane. Our Personal Property Policy will cover your items worldwide. You could have things in 3 different storage units in several states or countries, and we will cover it all. But many insurance policies only cover belongings at a particular address. We will cover objects in a moving truck and en route to a new address, but not every company covers that.
Is there any policy I could get to protect absolutely everything, if I want all the coverage?
We have endorsements on our policies to extend coverage. So you can expand coverage. Our comprehensive coverage removes almost every exclusion on a renter’s policy, so it will now include flood damage, earthquakes, breakage (not caused by mover). These are not covered under most policies. We also cover “mysterious disappearance” which is when you don’t have a specific theft or police report, but you simply don’t know where something went. This is useful when half your sectional couch disappears, or a diamond falls out of your jewelry, etc. Most companies do not have coverage this broad, so AFI has great coverage for almost every PCS move scenario.
Mold is a big concern for PCS moves. Is mold generally covered? Or do we need to add it on to our policy?
Generally, mold is an excluded item that is not covered. For example, if you load your items and they go on a shipping container, when it arrives at your location, it is full of mold. Most insurance policies don’t cover that type of mold damage. The only time it is covered is when there is a claim such as a storm, and the mold in your home or on your goods is a RESULT of that claim, which is a covered item. If a hurricane damages your property and mold results, it is all covered under the storm claim.
If your shipment arrives with mold, you file a claim with the TSP and through DPS. Whenever mold is discovered, unloading should stop, and everything should be taken back to the warehouse. They will contact a remediation company like Serve Pro to sort through your stuff and determine what is salvageable, what needs to be cleaned, and what is “unsalvageable” and can’t be restored. Things like pictures and books can’t really be cleaned. You should receive a list of those things, then continue on your damage claim to list values of those items. Mattresses, box springs, and couches should be denied from being remediated (cleaned) and just claim them as a loss so they can be replaced. If it is a catastrophic loss, the $75,000 DoD coverage includes the remediation cost.
Catastrophic loss happens when a major event happns during a PCS move. How does it work to file a catastrophic claim?
Any insurance company is there to cover you from whatever items are listed in the policy. Just get the policy with the most coverage and the fewest exceptions. If it is a covered loss, your policy will cover up to the coverage limit. Sometimes we will pay a policy, but we will expect another company to pay up first because they were the responsible party. (Moving company, trucking company, storage unit, etc.) This is called subrogation. We let them pay first, then we come in and cover what is left over. So we are working on your behalf and our behalf too.
The military covers $6 per pound up to $75,000, so if you don’t have a heavy load, you won’t receive as much.
Is there anything other than having a good inventory that families can do to protect their property and help claims go smoothly?
Putting together an inventory is the #1 thing to do to help with claims. It’s painful to put together, but totally worth it. Once you hand over your household goods, it’s too late to get renter’s insurance coverage on your property. You need to get the coverage before your move. This will help you get the most amount of protection. Call early, don’t wait, don’t forget! I know the checklists are crazy, so make sure that insurance phone call is still on the list as soon as you get orders. Find out what is covered, and come up with a plan now.
Should anyone ever cancel insurance in between moves?
No, never cancel your policy when you are moving! Your home owner’s insurance will cover you for 30 days after you move out of your home. But if you call to cancel it, then coverage stops that day. I like our policies because they offer worldwide coverage. If you forget to call me to update your address, we can just change your address and continue to cover you. But other companies don’t work that way. So don’t cancel the coverage, just update the address. Some companies will covered for 30 days during a move. So call your company, make sure how to get coverage through the move, so you know where the policy starts and stops. Make sure you have protection through the move, before your goods reach the new address. Renter’s insurance is such a small amount to pay each month, and it is so much lower than replacing all your things. Extra added coverage often just costs you a few more dollars each month. Fire and theft are extremely unsettling, so insurance is completely worth that peace of mind.
What advice do you have for families getting ready for a PCS?
First of all, cover yourself. It’s not much money and will put your worries at ease. Second, call your company before your move. Know what you are covered for and what you are NOT covered for. Talk to people who have been through it before, because they are the best resource to you. The milspouse community is the most resourceful people I have EVER met! Find out what works for others.