Relocating your family and personal belongings due to a permanent change of station (PCS) is something that every military family encounters sooner or later. Whether you look forward to the move with eager anticipation or with feelings that are somewhat less enthusiastic, there are things that service members and their families can do before relocating to make the overall experience better. Knowing the regulations and planning accordingly can make all the difference.
1. Visit the Personal Property Office
As soon as you receive your orders, call your Personal Property Office (PPO) and set an appointment. Before you go to the appointment, do some research to make the most of your session. Even if you and your family have PSCed several times before, no two moves are exactly the same. Changes to your personal situation, your new duty station, or military regulations may greatly affect your move.
PPOs have materials available to aid you in your research. An excellent resource for explaining basic entitlements and responsibilities is the "It's Your Move" pamphlet that is also available online on various web sites, including LIFELines. General move information is available on LIFELines in the "Relocation and Housing" information area.
Still another official web site that offers a wide variety of basic PCS move information is the Defenselink site. This electronic newsletter is user-friendly and chock full of helpful hints, news, guidance, and useful links.
2. Contact Your Sponsor and New Command
Once you have PCS orders in hand, your new command will assign a sponsor to assist in your transition to the command and new duty station. If you have not heard from your sponsor in a reasonable amount of time, contact your new command to find a point of contact to help you before you arrange your move. If the command has a web site, become familiar with its contents. The information may prove invaluable throughout your decision process and save you the trouble of moving items that you'll not be able to use at your new duty station.
A sponsor is especially crucial if you'll be moving overseas or to a remote location. Along with host-country considerations that you may not otherwise know, a sponsor can fill you in on some of the less obvious nuances of your new home. For example, if you will be moving to Yokosuka, Japan, and are planning to live on the economy in non-Westernized housing, your sponsor would probably advise you to leave the majority of your furniture and appliances in storage until you return to the States. Most traditional Japanese dwellings will not accommodate the size or style of furniture that is common in American households, and your appliances would probably be incompatible.
3. Consider Moving It Yourself — Carefully
Most commonly referred to as the DITY move, the personally-procured move (PPM), is an option that you may want to consider. Essentially, the government pays you the money that it would otherwise pay a contractor to move you and your belongings. Although not for everyone, a properly planned and executed PPM has advantages that range from peace of mind in knowing your belongings are packed exactly the way you want them to be, to earning some extra cash in return for your hard work. Conversely, if you do not adequately plan or complete your PPM, you are liable for any additional moving costs or damage to your property.
4. Take Responsibility
Although you will have ample assistance along the way, you are responsible for your move. The best way to ensure that it goes well is to be involved from start to finish and play an active role throughout the process. Know the regulations and make all necessary arrangements before your moving day. That way, when moving day arrives, you and your family will be able to concentrate on the task at hand.
5. Figure Your Entitlement
Part of your entitlement is the maximum weight you can move at government expense. This pre-determined amount is based upon your personal situation and rank. If you go over your prescribed amount, you will be responsible for paying all charges connected with moving the excess weight. To estimate the weight of your possessions, you can figure 1,000 pounds per room and then add the approximate weight of your large appliances and items. While not exact, this method will help you determine if your belongings will fall within your entitlement.
6. Find Out If You Can Move That
The term "household goods" (HHG) refers to your personal effects and property for your home — anything from a snowmobile to a spare car part. Generally, if your HHGs fall within your weight entitlement, they will be moved at no additional cost to you. However, some items, such as boats, may or may not qualify as HHGs and may only be moved if you agree to share the expense. Other HHGs may not be moved as part of your PCS move because of carrier restrictions or local ordinances. The Defense Transportations Regulations (DTR) web site offers complete guidance for determining if you can ship an item as part of your PCS move.
7. Decide What to Do About Rover
While most of us consider our pets to be part of our family, it is important to note that moving them is not an entitlement. Instead, it is viewed as a privilege and you will share in the cost. The government will allow you to move a total of two dogs or cats in travel cases weighing less than 100 pounds each. Any more and you'll be required to make alternate arrangements. Other applicable restrictions and considerations are discussed in LIFELines section PCSing With Pets.
8. Prepare for Clean Up After the Move Date
When determining your actual move date, keep in mind obligations you will have after the moving van departs. If you rent, you will probably be responsible for restoring the property to its original condition. If you own, you'll want to show the property to would-be renters or buyers in the best possible condition. Estimate how many days you will need to prepare the property and set your move date to allow you ample time before your lease is up and your utilities have been disconnected.
9. Take Care of Important Papers
The paperwork that leads up to moving is as important as physically moving your property. Make sure you have adequate copies of your PCS orders placed in a safe location. Additionally, you should consider the following:
powers of attorney or letters of authorization
appraisals of high-value items
inventory with video or photo documentation
insurance policies, in addition to those provided as part of your move.
10. Lighten the Load
By P.S. Kunze