Household goods covered

Karen Jowers
Courtesy of the Air Force Times

Starting this fall, most servicemembers and families making moves will get a long-awaited benefit − full replacement value coverage for lost or destroyed household goods.

Servicemembers making domestic moves − including the lower 48 states and Alaska − will get full replacement value coverage starting Nov. 1, defense transportation officials said.

The coverage starts Oct. 1 for shipments to and from overseas areas. Hawaii is included in the overseas definition because household goods go there by sea.

The coverage will roll out for permanent storage shipments and some special types of shipments by March 2008.

In addition, servicemembers and Defense Department civilian employees making permanent change-of-station moves now are required to fill out customer satisfaction surveys afterward. As defense officials move toward a system of choosing companies that provide the best moving service, these surveys are critical, officials said.

The Defense Department’s plans would beat a March 2008 deadline, set by law last year, requiring all moving companies to provide the full replacement value coverage. The exception will be shipments within overseas areas, where coverage will start April 1.

With full replacement value coverage, lost or destroyed items will be replaced, or service members will be paid the replacement cost of the items.

Military families have been asking for an improvement over the current system, which pays only the depreciated value of lost or damaged items.
“This is great news. We’ll be really happy when it starts,” said Joyce Raezer, chief operating officer of the National Military Family Association.

“We hope they keep to that timeline,” she said, noting numerous delays in the past.

According to Scott Michael, vice president for government traffic for the American Moving and Storage Association, the coverage is being provided earlier because the dates coincide with the start of new rate cycles for domestic and overseas moves.

Congress authorized the full coverage benefit years ago, but had tied it to the Defense Department’s efforts to re-engineer its household goods process. That effort, now dubbed “Families First,” is still underway after some 13 years.

So lawmakers passed a new provision last year setting a deadline for launching full replacement value coverage, regardless of the status of other parts of the program.