By Fort Meade public affairs office
Fort Meade’s helpful PCS resources
FORT GEORGE G MEADE, Md. — For most military installations, mid-summer to early fall is known as PCS season, the time of year when many service members are packing up their belongings and their families and moving to their next duty station in a Permanent Change of Station move.
Relocating across country or perhaps leaving or returning to the US from an overseas assignment is always stressful and fraught with the unexpected. Delays and shortages due to the pandemic are still impacting PCS moves at most military installations but there are steps that can be taken to alleviate some of the road blocks and ensure the move runs as smoothly as possible.
According to Jacqueline Sapp, the Fort Meade Installation Transportation Officer, anyone needing to PCS soon, should attend a transportation briefing. “We encourage all of our customers, please attend the briefings. It will save you an awful lot of stress.”
Sapp says anyone at Fort Meade who is receiving orders to move will be notified of the dates and times of briefings. The training is specifically targeted to the type of move required like international movements versus staying stateside. There are also briefings for those who are retiring and separating.
The next step is to visit the Move.mil website. She says service members and civilian employees who are moving to a new duty assignment can still take advantage of the virtual methods established due to the pandemic.
“We are encouraging people to use virtual processing since everything has to be uploaded anyway,” said Sapp. “They are also free to come in to talk to a counselor face to face. Either way, whether they are coming into the office, or arranging for their move through Move dot mil, they will still need to provide their orders and move documents to our office.” Sapp says, having the orders and having an awareness of the upcoming move will give her office the ability to help when it’s needed.
The Installation Transportation Office is located in Fort Meade’s One Stop offices in building 4550 Parade Field Lane, room 132A. Once orders are in hand, all customers, civilian or military, are welcome to walk in from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. and speak to a transportation officer.
According to Sapp, something new this year is a process called “spread dates.” When a customer indicates their preferred moving date in the Move.mil website, their date plus six additional dates are added to their appointment.
“It gives the carrier six days to book their shipment within that window.” said Sapp. “It’s important that our customers understand how the spread dates work. We have had some customers come to us in a panic because they didn’t understand the spread date.”
Sapp’s advice is to plan ahead. She says customers should start the transportation process as soon as you have orders. Carriers are still facing backlogs and available pick up dates fill quickly.
“Since we have PCSers who are still moving from last year, combined with the PCSers moving this year, we are getting really, really busy,” said Sapp. “As soon as you have orders, get into the Move dot mil website. The sooner you can get your paperwork to us, the sooner we can get the request to the booking office and get a date secured.”
Some customers who have short report windows have chosen to do a do-it-yourself or Personal Procurement Move or PPM. The Move.mil website has information, tutorials and suggestions for PPM shipments.
Some additional options exist for Soldiers and families unable to get a moving company assigned under certain circumstances. Service members who have a 30-day or less home sale or expiring lease, or a short-notice report date that cannot be extended; or a short-notice DOD moving company cancellation or missed pack and pick up. Consider the following options:
· Option one: The government picks up the household goods and places them into an origin storage facility until a DOD moving company can move it forward to the destination with some delays expected.
· Option two: The Service member of government civilian conducts a PPM from the residence to a local self-storage facility and receives actual cost reimbursement until the government can schedule a DOD moving company to move it to the destination.
· Option three: The Service member or civilian conducts a full PPM at 100 percent of what the government would pay a moving company to move all of the household goods from the origin to the destination duty station. This option is not recommended for overseas moves.
· Option four: The Service member or civilian receive an ACR memorandum from the transportation office to hire a commercial moving company with a minimum of two commercial invoice estimates.
Service members and civilian employees who need to move should take advantage of all the tools and advice available to make a PCS more convenient, predictable and user friendly.
The Army PCS Move App — available for download from the Google Play and Apple app stores — offers information on financial management, entitlements, types of moves, planning, scheduling and the claims process. In addition, it provides practical advice, links and interactive functions such as live chat to make the PCS move a low-hassle experience.
Since each move has unique needs and requirements, Military One Source offers strategies for smooth moves, relocation assistance and personalized support that can be found on their website at www.militaryoneource.mil. You can also call their 24/7 hotline at 1-833-645-6683. The hotline provides customer-support representatives who can offer assistance and answer questions. The Army also released three household goods claims videos, located on the Army PCS Move App, to provide answers to frequently asked questions.
Army officials also offer the following tips:
· Service members and civilians may request their government travel charge card limit be raised to the maximum of $25,000, to be used for authorized moving expenses.
· Service members and families PCSing without a government travel card may request a pay advance through their Organizational Defense Travel Administrator if they’re planning to conduct a PPM.
· Service members and civilians should reach out to their gaining installation housing office as soon as they get their PCS orders.
· Beware of scammers. Use only an approved moving company registered with the federal government. More information can be found at the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration website.
Service members and civilians PCSing outside the continental United States are authorized an overseas housing allowance, dislocation allowance and temporary lodging allowance for no more than 60 days. However, extensions may be authorized when certain reasons exist, such as non-arrival of household goods or a delay in the availability of government quarters due to service requirements.
Service members and civilians PCSing inside the continental United States are authorized a basic allowance for housing, dislocation allowance and temporary lodging expense up to 10 days, depending on the location. TLE reimbursement must not exceed $290 per day.
Civilians should be aware that recent tax laws have made most moving allowances taxable. Civilians should consider discussing these changes with their tax preparers to understand how these changes impact them.
After a shipment is delivered, customers should complete the customer satisfaction survey on the Defense Personal Property System website. The survey results will help keep moving companies accountable by assessing their performance.
The deadline for claim notification is now 180 days after delivery — up from 120 days — which gives Service members, civilians and families ample time to identify and report lost or damaged goods.
Though the summer PCS season may feel different this year, the Army is doing what it can to take care of its most valuable asset — its people.
Note: Parts of this article was compiled with the article, “Army offers helpful PCS resources as COVID-19 creates household goods shipment delays” by Fort Lenard Wood Public Affairs Office.