A big part of pulling off a successful permanent change of station (PCS) move is to be aware of the new rules the Defense Department rolls out each year.
After all, despite the best of intentions, local briefings from your base transportation office aren't always up to date.
Army veteran, Army spouse, 11-time PCSer and military move expert Megan Harless rounded up some of the biggest changes for 2023 and what you need to do about them in an episode of the "PCS with Military.com" podcast. Here's what she said.
New Rules for Lithium Batteries in Household Goods Shipments
The Defense Department won't allow any lithium batteries into long-term -- aka "non-temporary" -- storage of household goods, and it announced new size limits on the batteries in typical PCS shipments starting this season.
"If you have something with a lithium battery for a non-temp storage shipment, you're going to either have to remove it and store it yourself or consider selling and getting rid of that item," Harless said.
The new rules call for PCSing households to know the difference between lithium metal batteries (generally single-use) and lithium ion batteries (generally rechargeable) and to set them aside for the movers if you think you're allowed to take them based on the size limits. Lithium metal batteries can contain up to 2 grams of lithium (1 gram for a single cell in a multicell battery); and lithium ion batteries may perform at 100 watt-hours of power (20 watt-hours for a single cell in a multicell battery).
"So the big piece that comes into play here is that we have to be able to identify, first, what is a lithium battery product? Second, how do we calculate all of these things as well? Because you have to know the formulas between the volts and the amps and the watt-hours to figure out the grams and the cells and all of that," Harless said.
She advised people not to try to hide oversized lithium batteries in their shipments "because the risk is just not worth it," she said. "We've seen this regulation come down the pipeline because, over the last several months, there have been cases of lithium batteries just combusting in shipments. And so it puts that shipment at risk, it puts other shipments at risk, it puts people at risk."
Higher Rate Paid for Broken Items You Don't Want to Replace
Whereas movers assigned by the military -- known formally as transportation service providers, or TSPs -- have to pay the full replacement value of items they damage, they have to do so only if they're allowed to take the item away.
In past years, Harless said, if a PCSing household decided they wanted to keep the broken item, such as for sentimental reasons, the TSP would have had to pay only 50% of the full value to replace it.
However, in 2023, that number is going up.
"So if you want to have the TSP waive their salvage rights and not take possession of something that they may pay full replacement value for, they will be allowed to offer no more than 25% less than the FRV amount" -- in other words, no more than 75% of the full replacement value.
In a related change, Harless said, if the TSP wants to replace the item with another one, it will have to check to make sure the item can be shipped to your location.
"So if you're stationed in Japan and that chair is broken, but Pottery Barn still makes that chair, if Pottery Barn doesn't ship to Japan, [the TSP is] unable to offer that as the replacement. They have to offer you something that is available where you are."
Privatized Process Starting in September
Starting in September, U.S. Transportation Command will hand off the running of PCS moves to a private company under the new Global Household Goods Contract, or GHC, Harless said. TRANSCOM will then provide oversight.
"This is going to be a big one," Harless said. "The entire program is essentially going to be changing. ... If you're looking at moving Sept. 1 or later, there's a good chance you could be under the GHC. The current goal is that by peak season 2024, everybody is moving under GHC."
The new company, HomeSafe Alliance, will take on many of the functions previously done by the base transportation offices.
"There's going to be more information released from TRANSCOM and from the services, more guidance put out as to what you need to do if you're going to be under that new program," Harless said.
-- Amanda Miller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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