If you've got a permanent change-of-station move coming up, you might be considering moving your household goods yourself.
These shipments used to be called DITY, or do-it-yourself, moves, but now go by personally procured moves, or PPMs. You'll need to know that term as you're checking information and regulations related to the move – they are available at Move.mil but too numerous to list here, as initial PPM guidance for the Army alone runs 31 items over 14 single-spaced pages.
The basics: You can make the move yourself and get reimbursed for the expenses, up to 95 percent of what it would have cost the government to move the property. Your payment will be based on the weight allowance for your rank, and if your expenses are more than 95 percent of what it would have cost the government to move you and your family, you won't be reimbursed for the difference.
Service members who do go under that 95 percent mark can pocket that difference. It's a decision that requires a lot of planning, especially if you have a lot of household goods, but if you want control, flexibility, and the ability to have your stuff the minute you arrive at your new destination, it's worth considering.
Talk to your household goods/transportation office for counseling on a PPM move, and to receive prior approval. You can move all or part of your household goods yourself using a variety of methods: Equipment rentals, hiring a commercial company to pack and transport your goods, or taking the "you load, they drive" approach.
You can pay your costs up front and get reimbursed from the Defense Department, or you can draw an advance or PPM incentive payment based on the estimated weight for your household goods. If your shipment is less than estimated, you must reimburse the government the excess amount, according to information at Move.mil.
Also read: Military moves 2017: System concerns, mover shortages make early scheduling critical and Military Moves 2017: 13 tips for your next PCS
KNOW YOUR PPM
Baseline rules for PPMs are set out in the joint travel regulations that lay out overall entitlements, but the services have different policies based on funding, said Air Force Lt. Col. Todd Jensen, director of the personal property program for Surface Deployment and Distribution Command.
That's where your household goods/transportation office personnel come in, Jensen said, and where service members "need to be aggressive in asking questions" to avoid being on the hook for PCS problems.
Even the best-laid plans can fall flat: The Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society has had requests for assistance from some service members who run into trouble during their PPMs.
"All of a sudden they realize there’s no gas for the U-Haul," said Cheri Nylen, director of that relief society’s casework division.
And while the group won't "let any sailor or Marine be left in the lurch," Nylen said, some problems could've been avoided if service members sought reliable information from their local household goods/transportation office, or official websites such as Move.mil and MilitaryOneSource.mil.
In some cases, service members didn't read orders that included a comprehensive overview of various elements of the move, Nylen said.
"In several instances, we've helped them interpret the information on their orders and point out they could have avoided problems if they hadn't relied on the sea lawyer they were berthed next to," she said.
YOUR CHEAT SHEET
Check with your local household goods/transportation office to find out about procedures you'll need to follow, such as providing certified weight tickets for the empty truck and the loaded truck. That office can also provide assistance with advances – or PPM incentive payments – if they are available in your service branch.
The weight tickets must be submitted within 45 days of the start of the move. The office can advise you on the location of government and commercial certified scales in the area.
Aside from military discounts, the most common questions fielded by Penske Truck Leasing from military families involve weight-related issues, said Jeff Werner, the company's director of commercial rental.
Penske Truck Rental created a specialized military call center in 2014 to help reduce the stress of do-it-yourself moves for military families, he said, and offers a variety of discounts to active-duty troops and veterans.
Don't forget to explore what your branch of service offers. For example, the Marine Corps has a website that lets Marines see when PPM claims are being processed, so they can anticipate when they might get their reimbursement – learn more here.
"They're very responsive," Nylen said. "For example, I checked on March 29 and they were processing claims from March 10."
More tips, from Penske and others in the industry:
- Make sure you have insurance to cover your household goods.
- Pack carefully. Consider going room by room and taping and labeling all boxes.
- Store electronics and computers in their original boxes, if possible. Use plenty of padding materials, starting padding at the bottom of the box. Wrap electronics tightly with more material, then top the box off with more padding.
- Wrap pictures, glass and mirrors in furniture pads and place them in a flat box, always standing the box on edge. Don’t lay it flat.
- Secure dresser drawers and appliance doors with packing blankets, rope and tape.
- Load the heaviest items toward the front of the truck. If there are stairs at your destination, unload enough items to allow you to move the heaviest items first, before you get tired.
- If you stop at a hotel overnight, lock the storage area of the truck and make sure you’re parked in a safe, legal parking spot.
- Find out what documents you’re required to provide when submitting your reimbursement claim. Save all receipts associated with the move. These could include receipts for rental vehicle payments; packing materials; moving equipment such hand trucks and dollies; gas and oil expenses; highway tolls; weight tickets; and other transportation expenses directly related to the move.
Karen Jowers covers military families, quality of life and consumer issues for Military Times. She can be reached at