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Insurance Guide 2017: Tips for taking inventory -- better records can speed claims process

March 20, 2017
Hopefully every item will make it unscathed through your military move. But if there is loss or damage, filing a claim will be easier if you have a thorough inventory – one that’s not stored with your belongings and lost in the same theft or fire.

A good first step: Some quality time with your smartphone:  

Take pictures of each room and email them to yourself. “It’s easy to pull that up and provide to us,” said Catherine Reese- Woodard, USAA’s executive director of claims operations.

Don’t just keep your receipts and appraisals, Reese-Woodard said – take pictures of them “so that if something happens to the file cabinet, you’ll have everything at your fingertips.” 

Mike Nixon, vice president of insurance operations for Armed Forces Insurance, suggested some documentary filmmaking: Walk around your house and videotape your belongings as you give a description of the higher-value items.

Relying on the cursory inventory done by movers can create problems. If a box is destroyed or lost, your details will help back up your claim to the moving company. 

Doing it yourself via a partial or full personally procured move? You’ll want a full inventory as well to support any claims made  through your own insurance company.

Nixon said AFI and other companies have services that let customers store inventory details online for free. One such tool, the Know Your Stuff app from the Insurance Information Institute ( lets users upload photos, details and receipts to document belongings; create and manage inventories; download charts, tables and graphs that show inventory value; and store and manage all your insurance policy details, including contact information. 

Karen Jowers covers military families, quality of life and consumer issues for Military Times. She can be reached at

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