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    2021 PCS Season News and Updates

    Military families about to start their PCS journeys have a few things to look forward to this moving season. Better reimbursement choices for damaged items, approved use of private rental housing companies like Airbnb, and a streamlined way to choose moving dates that actually stick are just a few of the upgrades. Most take effect May 15, 2021, if not already activated. 

    After the mess 2020 created for transitioning military families, every little update and improvement to the moving system will be relished.

    2021 PCS Season Updates

    PCS Covid-19 Travel Restrictions

    As of early March 2021, more than half of the country’s military bases have removed travel restrictions, just in time for the PCS season to kick off. The Marine Corps and Air Force are leading the way with 88% and 73% of lifted base travel restrictions, respectively. The Army falls next with just about half of their bases opened, and the Navy has the lowest number, allowing just 11% of their installations to have lifted travel restrictions. 

    With more vaccinated military families on the move, the hope is to put travel limitations in the rearview mirror, but as flares of the virus spike from location to location, there's a chance for travel restrictions to reoccur. 

    Portrait of a happy family of four sitting in car trunk while on picnic

    Senior leaders on base have the authority to manage restrictions as needed according to metrics calculated in the state or county where the installation is located. These are in addition to military criteria, such as a health protection condition. 

    Military OneSource has a PCS/Travel Restriction guide to help you navigate moving if travel restrictions have impacted your PCS. 

    Transportation Service Providers (TSP)

    This year, the PCS movement is forecasted to return to typical summer numbers compared to 2020. Relocations can start as early as mid-March, but typically stretch at the highest points from mid-May until mid-August. 

    Delivery man grabbing a package from inside a mailbox

    The U.S. Transportation Command (TRANSCOM) had hoped to outsource the shipping of household goods to a private company in 2021, but the process was derailed due to bid protests after the contract was awarded to American Roll On Roll Off Carrier Group. 

    TRANSCOM intends to reopen the bidding process for future PCS seasons. The expectations are that by contracting to a single company, military families will receive better customer service and have a simpler time navigating the moving system. 

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    6 PCS Changes to Know About 

    1) What is the Spread Date Window?

    New this year, military families are given more assurance about their pack and pick up dates through the Spread Date Window. This guarantees the moving companies arrive within seven days of the date you’ve requested.  

    Cute daughter unpacking moving boxes with her mother in their new home

    Here’s more clarification from move.mil’s FAQs:

    What are ‘Spread Dates?’ Why is this a new rule?

    ‘Spread Dates’ refer to the window (7 calendar days) within which your moving company must pick up your shipment. We included the use of spread dates to provide more certainty for customers when scheduling their move.

    How are spread dates calculated? Do I have to do anything special to establish my spread dates?

    Your spread date window is calculated from the preferred pick-up date you list in DPS when scheduling your move. The 7-day spread is always AFTER your preferred pick-up date—not before.  Example: If you list June 1st as your preferred pick-up date, your moving company is required to schedule your pick-up between June 1st and June 7th.

    Workplace with tablet pc showing calendar and a cup of coffee on a wooden work table close-up

    2) Sealed Crates and Inventory Stickers 

    Both domestic and overseas moves now require tamper-evident seals on crates. Although the numbered seals are improvements, allowing for matches at departure and reception points, there’s still accountability issues with reasons why the crates could be opened without your presence. 

    Some examples: if the crate is damaged, if the moving facility or truck cannot store crates, only boxes, or customs inspect the items. You should be able to determine ownership of the problems through the documentation on who opened the crates and for what reason. 

    Take advantage of these 10 PCS Hacks to ensure a smooth move. 

    3) Changes in the Claims Process

    The Defense Personal Property System (DPS) offers more choices than in the past. If servicemembers are authorized total replacement value, they can now either receive direct payment for the lost or damaged item or request the company purchase the item, including taxes and shipping costs. 

    If a total replacement is not an option and a partial replacement offer is made, servicemembers are now guaranteed seven days for the company to counter offer. Typically this back and forth requires weeks’ worth of time and energy and is a burdensome process. 

    Moving companies now have 20 days to respond to claims about repairs. And, military families are no longer required to hold onto broken items indefinitely. If, after 45 days after the inspection, the adjuster hasn’t decided to salvage anything, the items can be thrown out. 

    4) Tipping and Feeding Your Moving Crew

    Likely one of the most talked-about changes, or reiteration and clarification of policy, has to do with hospitality and monetary compensation for your move and pack crew during a PCS.Breakfast, Sandwich, A Sandwich, Toast, Snack

    Extensively discussed on social platforms and within military spouse and family groups, the answer to whether or not to provide food, drinks, and cash varies widely. Some families insist that lunch and drinks are the right things to do, while others tip in cash and still others simply have cold water on hand. 

    Officially, the Pentagon’s Joint Travel Regulations discourages tipping and feeding your crew, but the truth is, most military families participate to some degree. The concern stems from the notion that the moving company’s employees won’t do a good job unless compensated in some way, which puts many families with smaller incomes at a disadvantage for receiving quality service. Tipping a crew $20-$40 per person plus money for meals adds up quickly.

     Here’s the official word from move.mil:

    Am I required to tip and supply meals to my packers or mover at any time during the move process?

    No. Supplying meals or refreshments is never required. Moreover, providing monetary tips is discouraged. If your TSP requests either, please let your local transportation office know.”

    5) The Use of Alternate Lodging Options Such as Airbnb and VRBO

    Another confusing policy for military members encountered was the ability to be reimbursed for Temporary Lodging Expense (TLE) lodging at a house operated by a private rental company such as Airbnb. Renting an entire home makes sense for many families who require more space or need accommodations for pets, but the guidance wasn’t clear if TLE would cover their expenses.Many military families need long term lodging during a PCS move. After the Joint Travel Regulations updates issued Nov. 1, 2020, these costs are covered if you obtain a letter of non-availability from the government lodging stating that there no rooms available. 

    Worried about transporting your pet across the ocean? Check out Options for Transporting Your Pet Overseas.

    6) More PCS Improvements  

    Each improvement and update makes a difference in a military move! These are a few you should know about.

    moving checklist

    Personally Procured Moves (PPMs)  are now reimbursed at 100%, up from 95%. This was initially a temporary policy to offset any Covid-19 transmission, but it ultimately allows the servicemember to retain more money and have more flexibility within the move process. Read more about a PPM here

    Increased communication with moving companies. Moving companies are now required to have Saturday hours 8am-5pm during the peak season to accommodate questions and concerns. Wait times should not exceed 20 minutes. 

    Real home protections. These are installed to mitigate damage to the house during the move. Protections include floor coverings in high-traffic walkways and furniture padding that preserves entrances. 

    Covid-19 Precautions during the move. Movers are required to undergo screening that states they have negative coronavirus tests and are without symptoms. They are also required to wear masks in accordance with federal military regulations. 

    You may file an inconvenience claim if your delivery is delayed. Your movers must deliver by the Requested Delivery Date (RDD), or you are eligible for compensation. 

    With the ever-changing circumstances brought on by Covid-19, be sure to connect with your outgoing and incoming bases to monitor their restrictions. Also, bookmark move.mil to refer to over and over--especially useful are the Helpful Links

    You’ve probably already begun to prep for your 2021 PCS, but let MilitaryByOwner simplify the information gathering. We've created resources for every PCS topic, including ebooks on how to buy and sell a home and tips for finding the perfect rental

    Bloom Where PCS Plants You E-book

    Dawn M. Smith


    Dawn M. Smith

    Dawn is a real estate and military life writer who has a serious HGTV habit. When she is not writing, her teen daughter, Army husband, and golden retriever keep her busy through chauffeur duties, travel planning, and long dog walks. Dawn is pleased to share her experiences with MilitaryByOwner readers who are hoping to simplify military family journeys of all kinds. Follow Dawn on Pinterest for more ideas and resources and visit her site at Dawn M. Smith Custom Content Creation.

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