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PCS Moves and Your Personal Property: Fact & Fiction

PCS move

PCS Move Fact and Fiction

A permanent change of station move, also known as a PCS move, is complicated. You must pack your entire life into storage containers and move somewhere else. This is a tough process at the best of times, and if you feel overwhelmed by it, you are not alone. There are some things to learn and remember about a PCS move that can make all the difference. When planning your move, keep the following things in mind.

Inventory Your Belongings

PCS Move Fact:

Documenting your belongings with photos, serial numbers, and a description of the item’s pre-shipment is very important. You can verify a damage claim with pre-shipping photographs, and the movers will NOT photograph your items during the packing process.

PCS Move Fiction:

Photographic evidence is always suitable for loss or damage claims. This is not necessarily true. Your photography should include a date stamp for verification purposes. If it is missing this information it may not necessarily be enough to prove loss or damage.

The Movers Will Remember Your Instructions About Not Packing Certain Items

PCS Move Fact:

If you do not want something packed for shipment in your household goods, you must physically remove it from the home. Put your important documents in a safe place–the locked trunk of your car, a safe deposit box you can access later before you leave the local area, with a trusted relative, etc.

PCS Move Fiction:

The movers will know the difference between what you mean to have packed and shipped and what you plan to take with you. Don’t expect a moving crew to know the difference–even if you have clearly marked a box with “Do Not Ship”.

Your moving crew has too many other details to worry about without trying to read your mind about what stays and what goes.

PCS Move Fact:

The movers will pack and ship anything they find in typical cases; there are horror stories in non-typical cases where trash and debris were packed up alongside actual belongings.

Do not allow the movers ANY physical access to your PCS orders, passport, and other official documents you need for travel. Assume that if these items are in the home, they are subject to getting packed.

The Movers Can’t Make Judgment Calls About What Ships And What Doesn’t

This issue is most relevant for those shipping household goods to or from an overseas duty location. Americans tend to forget (until reminded officially) that other nations have strict laws about what can be brought into or taken out of the country.

What Americans consider to be harmless entertainment is often viewed as something closer to pornography in some countries. The reason that’s an issue? Many countries do not allow the import or export of adult-oriented books, magazines, videos, DVDs, or even digital media. If the mover is in doubt, the items may not get packed.

PCS Fact:

Your movers are not Customs agents; they can’t make a judgment call about what ships and what doesn’t. Are you trying to pack firearms, alcohol, or tobacco in your household goods?

Your movers may have strict instructions on those items, and if you don’t know what the rules are, you may be at a disadvantage on packing day.

PCS Fiction:

Firearms are always prohibited in household goods shipments. That is a smart assumption, but it’s not always true.

Some regulations cover the shipment of firearms in household goods the same as there are also instructions on shipping pro gear. Some may need to ship firearms, and if you make a CONUS-to-CONUS move you may find the process is simpler than shipping to an overseas assignment where the restrictions may be more complicated.

Household Goods Weight Allowances

PCS Move Fact:

You have a weight allowance for your household goods determined by rank and whether you have authorized dependents.

The weight limit is technically a serious issue, and you may read advice on this written by people who don’t fully understand the process. For example, some bloggers warn “if you go over your weight limit YOU WILL PAY”, and theoretically this is true.

But estimating the weight of your household goods isn’t easy for someone who doesn’t work in the moving industry. You can get estimations of typical weights and shipment size based on the size of your home and the number of occupants.

But unless you are shipping an unusually large household goods shipment, don’t expect to get a massive bill from the contractor for a couple of extra pounds of overage.

PCS Move Fiction:

The above will always be true. Don’t assume that the “pass” you may have gotten on a slightly larger PCS shipment will always apply.

PCS reforms have made it possible for a single company to manage the PCS move process and the rules may adjust over time as these reforms continue to change the process. On your latest PCS move, be sure to ask what has changed since you last packed and moved. If you need advice on shipping household goods, Military OneSource is a DoD-funded site with resources you may be able to use to make estimations and learn more.

Damage Claims

PCS Move Fact:

Uou can get reimbursed for lost or damaged household goods items. But this line must be immediately followed by an entry in the PCS Fiction column. Why? Because you should NOT assume you will get the full replacement value of the damaged item as though it were brand new. Your moving company may look into options including having the damage repaired.

Don’t expect a PCS settlement to run similar to an auto insurance settlement where your items are “totaled” like a car. Expect the settlement to try for the lowest-cost reimbursement option that still restores your items to something close to their previous condition.

PCS Move Fiction:

A damage claim will not be disputed. This is not true, and the higher-value claim you make, the more the contractor may seek to avoid or reduce their financial liability for the damage.

PCS Move Fiction:

Damaged goods may be replaced at their actual value. This is NOT necessarily true. A painting or a piece of jewelry with inherent value MAY be considered for compensation at current prices. Still, the reality may be quite different for goods that are more common but highly prized on the secondary market.

For example, items such as collectibles (comic books, vinyl records, stamps, collectible cards, etc.) may NOT be compensated at the current secondary market value. A starter pack of Magic: The Gathering manufactured in 2022 sells for $10. But the comparatively rare and collectible starter pack from 1992 sells on the secondary market for over $1000.

DO NOT expect to be paid that $1000 if you ship such an item and it gets lost or damaged. You will likely be reimbursed the retail value of the starter pack, which would be $10 in today’s market.

As mentioned above, there may be certain considerations for high-value items like paintings or sculptures (these must typically be appraised before PCSing in order to file a claim on the other end). Still, the federal government’s rules get a bit murkier when it comes to items like trading cards which have a retail price but a different, higher price on the secondary market.

It’s best to ask what current regulations say about these items prior to moving day.




About the author

Editor-in-Chief | + posts

Editor-in-Chief Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter/editor for Air Force Television News and the Pentagon Channel. His freelance work includes contract work for Motorola, VALoans.com, and Credit Karma. He is co-founder of Dim Art House in Springfield, Illinois, and spends his non-writing time as an abstract painter, independent publisher, and occasional filmmaker.