Military Spouse & Family
Preparing for a Permanent Change of Station Move
The first step to take when preparing for a PCS is to meet with the personal property shipping office (PPSO) of your command. The personnel there can help make your move as smooth as possible. If you meet with them early, you have a much better chance of being authorized to move on the date you select.
If you decide to let the military move you, the PPSO can handle all of your packing and shipping. You’ll still need to meet with your PPSO to arrange a do-it-yourself move (DITY) because the military will foot the bill with a relocation stipend and you’ll need to complete paperwork.
Meeting With Your Personal Property Shipping Office
Your counselor will be able to tell you how much weight you can ship, where you can ship and how many shipments you can make on the military's dime. Furthermore, your counselor will assist you in preparing all the proper documentation for your move.
Be sure that all the information you furnish is correct and that there are four copies of every shipment order. Any amendments to your shipping documents could delay your move or even cost you money. When preparing, make sure you bring the following items:
Six copies of your PCS orders for each shipment.
Any power of attorney documents you may have, in case someone else will need to sign documents in your absence.
Registration documents for any privately owned vehicles (POVs) or boats that will be shipped.
The make, caliber and serial number of any firearm being shipped. Proof of dependents from your records.
Dependent Entry Approval (documents that state that your dependents have been authorized to move with you).
If you have household goods that are in storage or need to be moved from somewhere other than your current residence, bring that information with you.
Authorized Weight Limits
The amount of weight you are allowed to ship through the armed forces depends on your pay grade and whether or not you have dependents.
With weight limits, keep in mind that regular uniforms and desk furniture are not included in professional items, and are counted against your weight limit. In addition, when transporting vehicles, POVs are not allowed on certain assignments, boats greater than 14 feet or boats with a trailer must be shipped separately, boats less than 14 feet are considered household items and count against your allotted weight and shipping a mobile home can cost over $1,000 depending on location.
Shipping Special Items
Privately Owned Vehicles
You can ship one privately owned vehicle (POV) for use by you or your dependents at the military's expense if you are authorized to do so (some overseas assignments will not allow POVs). Vehicles that can be shipped include cars, pickups, vans, station wagons, motorcycles and motor scooters. The vehicle must be under 20 measurement tons (800 cubic feet), but exceptions may be granted if a medical reason warrants a bigger vehicle. If you want to ship a vehicle larger than 20 tons, you will be responsible for paying the excess fees.
If you have a low-riding POV you want shipped, be sure that you have at least six inches of space between the vehicle and the ground to avoid damage. Other types of POVs can be cleared for transport as long as they are intended for overland ground transportation and can carry passengers.
The Air Mobility Command will transport two pets (cats and dogs only) for a fee. With its carrying case, each animal must weigh 99 pounds or less. Shipping fees are the service member’s responsibility. Pets between 0 and 70 pounds cost $80 to ship and those between 70 and 99 pounds cost $160. Animals must be in compliance with all applicable state, national and international laws.
Do It Yourself Moves
Do-it-yourself permanent change of station moves, or DITY moves, are also an option. You’ll still need to meet with your PPSO to arrange a DITY move because the military will foot the bill with a relocation stipend and you’ll need to complete paperwork. This stipend is worth 95% of what it would cost the military to move you with professional movers. You are responsible for any up-front expenses like truck rental, lodging expenses, gas, toll fees and packing material, and the military will refund your expenses afterward. Some service members may be eligible for their stipend up-front.
Because a DITY move saves the military money, it lets you keep any difference between the actual cost of the move and the stipend you receive, as an incentive to encourage DITY moves. Any costs incurred above the amount of your stipend, however, will be your responsibility. Your local transportation office can help you figure out the best way to go about your move.
There are four types of DITY moves:
- If you own a mobile home, you can move some possessions on your own and keep some possessions in your mobile home. The military will transport your mobile home with those possessions in it.
- You can pack, load and unload your own belongings, but have them transported by a moving company that the military chooses.
- You can move your own possessions with a privately owned vehicle and be reimbursed for the costs afterward.
- You can move your possessions yourself with a rental vehicle and receive an advance for rental fees.
After you complete your move, you have 45 days to claim your expenses. Your claim must include the empty and loaded weight tickets (two copies of each), a DD Form 2278, DITY Move Certification, receipts of all moving expenses, PCS orders, the advance operating allowance paperwork for rented trucks or trailers and the vehicle or trailer rental contract.
Make sure that you keep all of your receipts. Money spent on gas, tolls, weight tickets, truck rental fees, moving equipment and packing materials will be reimbursed. These expenses are also used to calculate how much profit you will make off your DITY move. Also, check your insurance coverage. If you get into an accident performing a DITY move, proper coverage could save you a lot of money and a big headache.
Allowances and Advance Pay for Permanent Change of Station Moves
If you choose to drive yourself to your new station, or drive yourself to the port from which you will be deployed or stationed overseas, you can receive compensation from the military. If a service member and their family members must travel separately due to age, business or school obligations, the family members may also be eligible for compensation.
The most important thing you can do to make moving day as smooth as possible is to be flexible. There are many things that will be out of your control: the weather, the moving company, unforeseen issues, scheduling conflicts, etc., but there are ways to make the transition to your new home easier. Below are a few tips for making moving day less stressful:
- You may want to take a few days off to get your affairs in order. The military allows service members to use vacation days while in transit to a new station. You may also be allowed 10 days leave to look for a home near your new station. Service members on an unaccompanied tour of duty overseas are also eligible for a four-day leave to help their family move.
- If you elect to use a moving company at the military’s expense, you'll be spared much of the hassle of moving, but good preparation is still wise. Adequate preparation will make the transition quick and reduce the chance of property damage.
- Keep items being shipped as household goods separate from items being shipped as unaccompanied items.
- Drain flammable fluids from lawn mowers, snow blowers, etc. Also, drain hot tubs and water beds.
- Get rid of any excess clutter and old or broken items in the weeks before your move.
- Clean and organize your home for packing. Fumigate for insects, wash the dishes and do the laundry beforehand.
- Move all your personal belongings out of storage areas such as attics, basements and crawl spaces.
- Unplug any appliances that will be moved.
- Appraising any priceless or expensive items you own may be worth your while. If they end up missing or damaged, you can collect from the military. At the very least, take pictures or videos of all your valuables (especially furniture) so that you will have proof of their condition prior to transport.
- You must be, or have someone, at your home between the hours of 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. while the movers are packing your belongings. If you cannot be at your home while the move is taking place, the person you designate to be there must be stated in writing.
- Be sure that every carton and loose item the movers pack is properly labeled, your inventory papers are thorough and correct, and that every item in the house has been packed.
Preventing Property Damage or Loss
You can save yourself any extra headaches by preparing well in advance for your PCS move. One huge preparation that you must undertake is adequately protecting your valuables. The following tips may help you avoid damaging or loosing important or expensive items:
- Carry your cash, jewelry, professional and personal documents, stocks, deeds and sentimental items like photo albums on your person during a PCS move. Do not pack and ship these items as household goods. Neither the military nor the moving company will compensate you for loss of or damage to these items.
- Take a video or close-up photos of your belongings, making sure to show the current condition of these items.
- Get an appraisal of any expensive artwork, heirlooms or collectibles.
- Write down the serial numbers of any electronics you are moving and keep these serial numbers in a safe place.
- Make sure you agree with the condition of the furniture the movers assign on their inventory sheet.
If Property Damage or Loss Occurs
After you receive your property shipments at your new home, check for missing items and check all your belongings for damage. If you find any problems, immediately note them on the Joint Statement of Loss or Damage of Delivery. The other side of the document allows you to note damage that you find at a later date.
You will receive these forms upon delivery of your property, as they act as your receipt. If you have lost items or property damage, complete and return the form to your local claims office as soon as possible. Failure to do so will result in you forfeiting any claims to monetary compensation.
DD Form 1840 is only a notice of damage, not an actual claims document. You must file a formal claim at your local claims office within two years of the delivery of your belongings. You are only entitled to $40,000 of compensation from the military for a single claim. You may want to consider purchasing extra insurance. For PCS moves within the continental United States and Alaska, the military offers both additional and full-replacement coverage.
Additional help and resources are available online at the Department of Defense Special Report: It's Your Move website
So, you've got all your belongings packed and now it's time to clean. This is an important step in the moving process. Both private and base housing left in less than desirable conditions can leave you with burdensome and expensive charges. Use the following guidelines to keep yourself out of undue debt:
Cleaning Your Home
- Pack first, then clean. Cleaning will be easier and more efficient if there isn't a bunch of stuff lying around.
- If you live on base, your base housing office will inspect your former home after you move. Be sure to finish all the tasks on the checklist the housing office provided to you.
- Clear out any “extras” you may have around your home or yard. Take down any nails, hooks and light fixtures you may have installed inside your home. Outside, remove any flowers and shrubs you planted, and take down any playground equipment, sheds or fences you may have erected.
- Clean each room from top to bottom using the appropriate cleaning tools. Be sure not to overlook the appliances and furniture you are leaving behind. Make sure the appliances are clean and that the furniture is free of smoke or pet odors.
What to Expect From Personal Property Shipping Movers
Movers have certain responsibilities. Be aware of these responsibilities and hold the moving company to them, should any negligence be apparent. The movers should:
- Use new, clean packing materials for linen, clothing and bedding.
- Pack mirrors, pictures and glass tabletops properly.
- Roll and protect rugs and rug pads. Only small throw rugs should be folded.
- Each carton or box should be labeled.
- Professional books, papers and equipment should be in separate cartons, labeled as such and weighed.
- Install appliances at new location.
- Make sure that no packing materials are left behind.
StorageThe military will pay for temporary and non-temporary storage of items.
Non-temporary storage—Items that cannot be moved overseas or that service members elect not to take with them are stored for the length of their tours of duty.
Temporary storage—Service members moving into permanent housing at a new installation may have their belongings stored up to 90 days.
With temporary storage, you can request to have your belongings stored for an additional 90-180 days in total. Service members retiring from the military are also entitled to have their belongings stored at the military's expense for a year after their official retirement date. Any belongings in storage one year after the entitlement ends will be subject to fees at the military rate.