Facing your first permanent change of station, or PCS, move can be daunting. Despite briefings, PCS checklists and binders (and the firsthand advice you've gotten from friends), it's still overwhelming. Surely, you can find the answers on your own or just wing it, you might think.
But at some point, you realize there's a lot you don't know and then feel like you can't go back and ask. (Sort of like when you meet someone, then forget their name but can't go back and ask it again.)
To save you from the embarrassment of having to ask those questions, we've gathered up some common PCS questions -- and their answers.
1. Will the military ship my car from New York to Florida?
No. The military ships vehicles only to overseas locations, and only one car at that. However, there's almost always an exception. In this case, it applies if your spouse is in the Navy, and they are doing a homeport move in conjunction with your PCS.
2. Will the movers actually pack my underwear?
Yes. Movers pack everything they can get their hands on, which is why seasoned spouses talk about their "No Pack Room" so much. When moving overseas, you may find the movers leave your clothes in the drawers as they pack up your furniture. But for most moves, they're going to take everything out of drawers and put it in boxes.
Helpful Hint: Pack your "unmentionables" (wrapped in tissue paper, if you'd like) and put them into a two-gallon Ziploc bag. Now, the movers are just touching the plastic bag.
3. Will we be reimbursed for lodging (gas, mileage, weight moved in your car)?
Yes. Take it from former me, who stayed in cheap and nasty motels before I knew the answer. The military allows you to put these things on the government travel card, or you can be reimbursed for them on an authorized PCS. There are specific things it reimburses for, but those include mileage, lodging, per diem and the weight moved in your car.
4. What do I do when the Navy breaks my stuff?
When it comes to damaged items, you'll be dealing with the transportation service provider, or TSP. Megan Harless of PCS Chronicles said, "When items show up damaged from a military contracted move, you need to notate any noticeable damage on the proper forms at delivery. And when you are finished unpacking, file your claim on Move.mil within 180 days of delivery. When both parties come to an agreement on the settlement amount, the TSP will send you a check in the mail."
It sounds easy, but you've probably heard it may be a little more complicated, mostly because websites don't always work and the TSP may offer a very low value for your damaged items.
Helpful Hint: Do not wait until the last minute to file your claim.
5. How long will my stuff stay on the truck after it arrives?
Truck drivers want to keep rolling, so they're not going to wait long before off-loading your household goods. Ideally, they can deliver the day they arrive in your new town, or possibly the following day. But if you're not there, or not ready to receive your household goods, it all goes into storage. This can be a good thing if you're waiting to close on a house or don't have one yet. But it does mean another set of hands moving your things from truck to storage back to truck, before it reaches your house. The military will store your household goods at no cost to you for 90 days, though you can ask for another 90-day extension after that, if necessary.
Helpful Hint: As soon as you know when you're able to receive your household goods, call to schedule delivery. It could take a few weeks.
6. Will they unpack and put my things away or will we walk into our new home with the living room filled with boxes?
Both. Everyone is authorized a full unpack, but it's up to you what you'd like. Some prefer it, some ask for a partial, and some just want the movers out the door. Here's the biggest thing to remember: They will unpack and place things on the nearest flat surface. So your options are boxes everywhere or stuff everywhere. If you choose to unpack yourself, the moving company should return when you call to pick up the boxes and packing material. But you'll probably find another family who needs boxes to pick them up instead.
Helpful Hint: Make things as clear as possible for where you want the movers to put them.
7. Will the Air Force ship my dog for me?
Yes and no. Here's what you need to know about shipping a pet overseas: First, it's completely your responsibility. You need to figure out what forms, bloodwork, quarantine papers or anything else you may need to take your pet to another country. Then, you must pay for it yourself. If you're traveling on the Patriot Express, you may be able to ship your pet with you on your flight, but there are several limitations and absolutely no guarantee. It's best to make solid backup plans.
Learn more about pets on the Patriot Express here.
8. There's a weight allotment? We have to pay if we're over?
Yes, each move has a weight allotment. For most of your moves, you can use this site to find out what your family's weight allowance is. However, with some overseas moves, you may find you are allowed less weight than listed here. For those locations, the things you choose to leave behind to meet your restricted weight may be placed in non-temporary storage.
If you go over your weight allowance, only the transportation office can give you the amount that you will owe, because there is no set charge. The cost per pound is determined by location. It will cost more if you're moving from Alaska to Florida than it will from Georgia to Florida.
Helpful Hint: Keep your household goods under that weight allotment if at all possible!
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