In 2018 we saw the summer peak season roll along with issue after issue. It seemed that the good stories were few and far between, and nothing was being done to stop or fix the issues. Families were left standing with broken and missing household goods, not being fully reimbursed on a tedious claims process, and excessive delays. It was the year a family newly relocated to Hawaii successfully filed charges and had a crew member arrested in Florida for stealing their iPad during the packing phase after the iCloud photos showed his picture taken by a child, and moving companies made national headlines.
It was also the year that I wrote an open letter turned change.org petition turned viral. It expressed a general military family’s grievance on the PCS process calling for better accountability of what was happening, transparency, and for our elected officials to do better for all of us. It was a call for help that something needed to change, and that now (2018) was the time for it. Rock bottom was hit.
The US Transportation Command, US Congress, local media across the nation, and moving companies everywhere took note to what families were starting to say. At first my goal was just to get it seen by those in position to make changes, but after about the 3rd interview, a call from US Transcom and an email from a defense fellow working on capitol hill I realized that there was more to this problem than I first thought. It wasn’t isolated to one branch of service, it wasn’t isolated to one geographical region or base, and wasn’t an issue with just one company. The issues were seen, and the pain was being felt across the board.
Changes needed to happen. Good, positive changes needed to be made. From there I made the decision that I would see this through to make sure that families would not be given just lip service, but that the meaningful change that was so desperately needed would be implemented.
In 2018, Transcom created what would become known as the Personal Property Relocation Advisory Panel that I would sit on. This would become the place where we would discuss the PCS process in depth, identify the pain points of the moving process for families, and examine possible solutions and initiatives that could be implemented.
In 2019 the various initiatives that would be put into place due to the hard work of myself and the panel would include:
- Increase in CONUS shipment crating: Previously was limited to 6% of all moves, was increased to 12% that included shipments 7,500 pounds or less
- Increase is Quality Assurance Inspections: Previously were only required to inspect in person 25% of all shipments inbound and outbound.
- Transcom 24/7 hotline: Provides customers a place to call with issues when other communication channels failed, or afterhours.
- Increase in liability coverage: Previously was $4 per pound up to $50,000 and is now at $6 per pound up to $75,000.
Additionally, the US Army would reinstate allowing families to request advance Dislocation Allowance in 2019 which would overturn a 2014 policy change.
In 2019 when the announcement of Transcom wanting to move to a single source move manager concept known as the Global Household Goods Contract (GHC), myself along with 2 other spouses worked together with members of Congress to have language approved for the 2020 NDAA. That language would call for a Government Accountability Office (GAO) investigation of the proposed GHC process to determine if it was a feasible program. The NDAA also called for the creation of an advisory panel at the Office of the Secretary of Defense level to give insight and input on the GHC process.
In 2020 more initiatives from the Transcom PPRAP group would be implemented:
- Background checks for all employees interacting with customers: Previously only had background check for accessing a military installation.
- In Transit Visibility: Families will now receive notification within 24 hours of when their shipment arrives or leaves a location and if there will be any delay to their estimated arrival.
- Extended claims filing timeline: Customers will now have 180 days to file.
- Per Diem baseline inconvenience claim: The new change will allow the assigned provider to pay a flat payment of the service member only for meals and incidentals for up to 7 days without receipts. If the amount is insufficient, they can save receipts and submit under the current regulation.
- Customer right to choose repair or replace: Currently the assigned provider will chose if they will pay a repair or replacement cost for a damaged item, in the update the customer will be able to choose if they receive the repair or the payment of the repair cost.
- Advance Delivery Notice: The TSP is now required to provide 24 hours’ notice before delivering your HHGs into storage. Additionally, they must have 2 documented unsuccessful calls that are 4 hours apart before putting HHGs into storage.
- Automatic Reweighs on Heavy Shipments: All Shipments that within +/- 10% of their weight allotment will be automatically reweighed.
In the summer of 2020, the Army also established the Army Relocation Advisory Council (ARAC) where I provide family feedback work on improving the Army process of PCSing. Working with the Army, we created the new “Army PCS Move” app.
Throughout the entire two years, I have worked closely with members of the moving industry through their various associations and moving companies directly. This effort first focused on learning all sides of the PCS process and finding probable solutions to various tedious processes. Another goal was to also work on providing the industry more insight into what families experience through a PCS. During peak seasons, I have reached out to numerous companies in the course to help families get more resolution on their experience when things went less than desirable.
As our current PCS program moves closer to becoming the GHC program, I will continue to work with Transcom, the Department of Defense, the moving industry and Congress as needed to ensure the reform that is needed continues to be implemented. As progress is made, I will be sure to update here!
We ask so much of our military families already, that the least we could do is ensure their household goods and memories show up on the other end of a move.