The summer of 2018 was infamously bad for military members going through a Permanent Change of Station (PCS) move. So many people complained about lost or destroyed household goods that investigations were ordered, Congress stepped in and systemwide changes were made or put in motion.
Watching it all was Army veteran and spouse Megan Harless, whose online petition demanding change went viral and sparked much of the work that has since been done. Military.com named her the 2020 Military.com Changemaker of the Year for her efforts advocating for PCS reform.
Listen now: Understanding PCS Rules and Building the Best PCS Binder Ever (Megan Harless)
Since then, Harless has become a PCS expert, leveraging her own experience and inside view on the military move system to help other families. She's even created a PCS filing binder system that helps families stay organized. Harless joined us for an episode of the PCS with Military.com podcast to share what she's learned and some of her favorite tips.
Know the PCS rules. Like all military policies and regulations, the rules around military moves are far from light reading. But understanding them, Harless said, is the best way to make sure you not only get everything you need to create a smooth moving experience, but know how to advocate for yourself if the process falls apart.
"Know the regulations, review them, and if you don't read them, know where to find them and how to reference them. That way, you can help yourself, protect yourself and have them there to use," she said. "Just letting stuff happen to you is not how you should go about doing things."
Know what you own. While coming up with an inventory of everything you own can seem like a daunting, monumental task, it's worth it, she said. If you know what you own, you easily can know what's missing at the other end of your move and file an accurate compensation claim with the moving company or Defense Department.
"It does require some good time investment upfront to create it if you don’t have one already done. But then just updating it yearly, or every six months ... doesn't take very much time," she said. "But the importance of having your own inventory is, should a box go missing, you're able to easily identify what was perhaps in that box."
Create and use a PCS binder or organization system. Harless leans on her PCS binder system as her top way to create a smooth PCS, she said. Stacked with tabs, pouches and folders for everything she needs over the course of a move, her binder system lets her stay organized and gives her a spot to stash all paperwork and related receipts.
"I'm old school; I like a three-ring binder," she said. "A lot of people, depending on your organization method techniques, prefer an accordion-style type of file thing. Some folks prefer a zip binder of some sort ... whatever it is that you have, just use that."
Harless said she keeps in it copies of her spouse's military orders, their pack-out inventory, hotel reservations for their drive, current lease and residency information, a moving checklist, a pocket for related receipts and more. She's spent so much time perfecting her binder that she sells versions of it on her website.
Be your own PCS advocate. Knowing the regulations will empower you with information on what should be happening -- but you also have to take an active role.
"You have to have a hand in it. You have to play an active role in your move. It is your stuff that's being moved," she said. "If you feel something is wrong, it's OK to stop them and ask a question and to verify what it is that they are doing, why they are trying to do something. It could just be that maybe you don't understand something, and what they're doing is the right way to do it. It could be that maybe they're trying to cut corners."
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