The Most Important PCS Changes for 2023 and What to Do About Them (Megan Harless, Military PCS Expert)

The Most Important PCS Changes for 2023 and What to Do About Them (Megan Harless, military PCS expert)

Ready for your 2023 military PCS? Each year, the Defense Department updates the rules and regulations around military moves. Knowing and using those changes is an important part of making a successful PCS.

But learning what they are and understanding how they impact you? That’s where things get harder. In this episode of “PCS with,” military move expert Megan Harless gives us a quick view of the most important changes for 2023 and what you need to do about them. Listen now.

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The following is an edited transcript of this episode of PCS with

Amy Bushatz: Welcome to PCS With I'm your host, Amy Bushatz,'s executive editor. On this podcast, we talk about everything you need to know to make this military move season your best yet. PCS With is brought to you by Navy Federal Credit Union. Proudly serving all branches of the armed forces, veterans and their families. No matter where you are in your military career, Navy Federal Credit Union has the products and resources to help you navigate your finances. Learn more at Our members are the mission.

Now, let's get this PCS started.

Whether you are getting ready for your first PCS or you've done this what seems like a million times, one of the most important steps for getting ready for an upcoming military move is figuring out what's changed in the military move process or rules, and what the best steps are for navigating any tricky recent gotchas.

We know information systems and briefings we get from the military can be outdated despite the best intentions. So keeping your ear to the ground on this stuff is important no matter how experienced you are. Enter Megan Harless. An Army veteran and Army spouse, megan is the owner of, the author of the PCS Like a Pro book and the creator of the PCS Like a Pro binder system. We joke that she reads the military's move regulations and updates just for fun, except it's not really a joke.

Thanks to her tireless efforts, she's became a top expert in translating the gibberish of military move rules and changes into real human understandable language. Today, Megan is gonna give us the inside scoop on a few important things changing for the 2023 peak PCS season and how to best navigate the gotchas along the way.

But just a quick note here before we get rolling with Megan. In this episode, we talk about updated PCS policies for which new information is being released over time. While nothing in this episode is untrue, you might find some additional information has been released since it was recorded, and I've included all of those links in the show notes. And with that, Megan, welcome to PCS With

Megan Harless: Hi. Thank you for having me again.

Amy Bushatz: Well, this is your third time on PCS With, and we're so grateful for your expertise in sharing it with us. We start these episodes talking to our guests about how many times they've moved. So remind us, how many times have you moved in or outside of military?

Megan Harless: In military life we have PCSed 11 times and we've done two local moves in there as well. And then outside of military life, I moved a few times as a child also.

Amy Bushatz: And this is one more time than you have moved since the last time we talked to you, which was 10 if I recall. You've moved since then, right?

Megan Harless: Yes. Yes. We completed a PCS summer of 2022. From east Texas up to the Kansas City area.

Amy Bushatz: All right, so you've refreshed your personal experience. So today we wanna talk about changes to military move regulations that people need to know about and how to navigate those. Any top gotchas. So let's go ahead and start with changes. What are the top three changes military members and their families need to know about for the 2023 move season?

Megan Harless: So the first one is about lithium batteries. Uh, There's some regulations that have come out that is restricting lithium batteries in our shipments.

So the big things to know is that if you have a non temp storage shipment, lithium batteries are not going to be allowed at all. So if you have something with a lithium battery for a non-temp storage shipment, you're gonna either have to remove it and store it yourself, or consider selling and getting rid of that item.

Amy Bushatz: So non temp storage, that's when you're gonna be moving overseas and you have items that are going into like a long term i e, non temp, non temporary storage situation stateside. And they're there for however long you are overseas at your new duty station, and they're just in storage.

Megan Harless: Yes. So yeah, you're not gonna get those items right away. They're not coming to you in a couple of weeks kind of thing. As you said, OCONUS we've also seen some instances where if you had a CONUS orders uh, we've seen some non temp storage offered there. If you were going to like a schoolhouse type of thing. I had a friend, they had orders to Germany, things get switched and they ended up at a schoolhouse. So the Navy paid and allowed them to have non temp storage for the year. So in those cases, lithium battery products not allowed at all.

With your unaccompanied baggage and your household, good shipment, lithium batteries are allowed, but there are some restrictions to the size of batteries. And so there's two different types of lithium batteries that they discuss in the regulations. One is a lithium metal battery, and these are your single use batteries that are found like in watches, remote controls, handheld games, smoke detector that are single use. So for those types of batteries, the regulation state two grams or less of lithium content or one gram or less for a single cell.

The other type of lithium battery is a lithium ion battery. This is a rechargeable battery that you can find in cell phones, power tools, cameras a lot of like the robot vacuums and things like that. And so the regulations in regards to those types of batteries state a hundred watt hours or less or 20 what hours or less for a single cell.

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 wat hours to figure out the grams and the cells and all of that. And so, I see it's gonna take us all a little bit of time to understand how this is all computed and understand what exactly can and cannot go under these new regulations.

Amy Bushatz: So a unaccompanied baggage is your, items that are shipped overseas as a part of your military move, and then your household goods are stateside. So these are two different types of moves. However, both of them have the same restrictions for lithium and lithium ion batteries. Do you have any examples of what equals this gram's wattage math situation?

Megan Harless: Like we see a lot of people with like, you know, our drills because we always have drills to hang up everything. So like a Craftsman max drill battery is 20 volts, two amps that comes down to 40 watt hours. That equals one lithium cell and that's six lithium grams of content. So it's,

Amy Bushatz: How is anyone supposed to know this?

Megan Harless: Hey. Google. Google is our friend.

Amy Bushatz: Google is our friend. Very good. And my final question for you on the lithium battery change is when we say under a hundred watt hours, is that total across all of your stuff or is that per battery?

Megan Harless: That is per battery. So there's been a lot of research done out there in regards to batteries, and the size of batteries. And what they've discovered is that the bigger the size of battery, the bigger the chance that battery has to explode, which has been the big issue, which has caused this regulation change to take place.

So an e-bike could have up to a 3000 watt hour battery. That item is obviously not gonna be able to be shipped. However, the smaller size batteries, the under a hundred watt hours they've discovered that those had a much smaller chance of exploding. And so the risk factor of them is much smaller. So you could put in a thousand Apple air tags if you want. And an Apple air tag is about 0.78 watt hours. So you could put in a thousand Apple air tags and it'd be totally fine. However, you cannot ship that e-bike battery because of how big that battery is.

And I also wanna touch on real quick too, that a lot of people have concerns of, we have all these lithium battery type of products. What do we do with them now if you're state side. Going CONUS to CONUS, you probably have the ability, you could ship them to yourself or put 'em in your car and move 'em. If you're going OCONUS to or from, you probably aren't gonna have that luxury of shipping them. You can under um, the IATA, the International Air Transport Association, has some guidelines about how to properly ship lithium batteries.

However, depending on what country you're going, that may get restricted even more. Because I know Japan, they only allow you to ship lithium batteries if they are brand new in a product. So I could buy a brand new Roomba vacuum and ship it to Japan to myself, but I can't take my seven year old Roomba and ship it there.

So I have a feeling we're gonna see the lithium battery products become a hot commodity in the buy sell trade groups at the local installations everywhere. But it's just another thing that's gonna be added to our do not pack list.

Amy Bushatz: Got it. Okay. Well that sounds like a big change for people and something that they may not think about. I don't personally spend a lot of time thinking about where rechargeable batteries are in my stuff, so, that seems like a pretty, pretty big change. What's a second change?

Megan Harless: So a second change. So I'm gonna, I'm gonna loop together because they are very similar. So we hear a lot about every year during the claims process, salvaging items, and maybe there's an item that's damaged and you don't want it salvaged because it means something to you.

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. Currently, they could offer you 50% less. They could offer you 75% less for not being able to take possession of that item.

With the new rules, it's gonna be 25%. So with that, also, if it's something that's gonna be replaced, they have to offer you replacement for an item that is available where you are located. We see it a lot of times that this doesn't ship to me, but they're offering it as the replacement. They now have to make sure that item can ship to wherever you are at as your replacement.

Amy Bushatz: Got it. So this is when you move, your stuff is super broken. And the transportation service provider, which is what TSP stands for, says to you, okay, we're gonna pay you the full replacement value for this broken thing. And the rule says they have a right to then collect the broken thing.

So let's think about a chair. I have a chair. It's super busted. They don't wanna repair it. They can come get it and give me, the money to replace it. But because this chair is really important to me, like it was my grandfather's chair, I wanna keep the chair even though it's super busted and they wanna pay me to replace it .Under this new rule, they have to pay me 75% of its value to replace it and waive the right to come get it. Or, they can still come get it and I can take the 100%, but I don't get to keep grandpa's chair. Right. This is what we're saying.

Megan Harless: That is correct, yes.

Amy Bushatz: Okay. And then say the second part of the change for us again.

Megan Harless: That when they offer you a replacement item as for whatever is broken, so for that chair, they offer you a replacement chair. They have to ensure that chair that they are offering to replace the chair with can be shipped to where you are at. 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, They're unable to offer that as the replacement. They have to offer you something that is available where you are at.

Amy Bushatz: That's a big deal. OCONUS , it's a big deal here in Alaska where I'm talking to you from today. Lots and lots of places simply don't ship here. You'd be shocked actually, how many places don't ship here, or you can find a replacement for something on Amazon. It's says it's Amazon Prime, so it should ship here. And then, just kidding. It doesn't. And there seems to be no rhyme or reason with which items do and which items don't. So this seems like, like a pretty big deal for people.

What's another change? Do you have another one for us?

Megan Harless: I do. So this is gonna be a big one, especially those that are moving after peak season, starting in September, the entire program is essentially gonna be changing. We're gonna be moving into what's called the GHC the Global Household goods Contract. This is, TRANSCOM has taken the program and given it to one company to oversee, and they are going to basically run the PCS program with TRANSCOM being their oversight on it. So if you're looking at moving September 1st 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. So they're gonna be, we're gonna have a period of time where you may be moving under our current program and your neighbor could be moving under the GHC um, cuz they're going to be just slowly adding people to the GHC program as we go down the tube of getting it fully stood up.

Amy Bushatz: Yeah, man, this is, you buried the lead on this, Megan. This is of course the biggest change the PCS program has seen in any memory at all, like ever, possibly.

Megan Harless: Yes. So I think the last big change, so if you're an old timer military person, so probably like those folks that have been in 30 plus years remember when we went from the TOPS system to DPS I think that was the last big change. But they were just basically switching kind of software programs. Essentially is kind of what it was. Now it's much bigger than that, as they handing the reins of the program over to a new company, and that new company is called Home Safe Alliance. So you'll be hearing a lot about them in the news, seeing them mentioned a lot.

As we get closer to that transition period, there's gonna be more information released from TRANSCOM and from the services, more guidance put out as to what you need to do if you're gonna be under that new program. But it's just something to be aware of if you're moving in late 2023 or early 2024. That you may not be moving under our current program. You may be shifted over to that one.

Amy Bushatz: Yeah, so essentially they do, the military is great at outsourcing stuff and I use great sort of sarcastically. They love to outsource. This program, this moving system is one of the major things that happens for military families that they have simply not outsourced - yet. And now they are.

And so a job that was previously done by government employees or service members stationed in transportation offices at every base in the entire world is now shifting to an outsourced company, and that can come with a lot of pain points. So we will definitely be keeping very close tabs on this process over on in our news section, and people can of course read all of the news there on how it's going.

And of course, if you're listening to this and you are experiencing that change, It's not maybe going so well for you or you have something that you think people need to know. Please contact us at Contact me or one of my coworkers, and we would love to hear from you about how it's going for you with the new contract and with the new move system.

Just a quick pit stop here to thank our sponsor. PCS With is brought to you by Navy Federal Credit Union.. They may be called Navy Federal, but they don't exclusively serve sailors. Serving all members of the armed forces, they have the products and resources to help you navigate your finances through every phase of life. So even if you can't tell port from starboard, Navy Federal Credit Union will help you earn and save with great rates and exclusive discounts. Learn more at Navy Federal Credit Union, our members are the mission, an equal housing lender.

So Megan, can you tell us a little bit about some tips and tricks, because we wanna know what the top gotcha's military families need to do or prepare for as they get ready for 2023 season, maybe even as they look towards this major change that's coming up. Give us some life hacks. We beg you.

Megan Harless: So one is one that we already touched about and that's lithium batteries. Go ahead now, if you're planning a move, start identifying what's in your home that contains a lithium battery and start putting that to the side and start trying to figure out what you're gonna do with it.

I beg you, please do not at any cost, try to play the system and think, oh, I will just hide this in my household, my Christmas storage tote, or my underwear bag, or whatever it is. Please do not. 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. And so the moving industry is no longer willing to take that risk, which is why we have this new regulation. So I just ask you to please not try to play the system, not try to hide larger lithium battery. In your household goods to move 'em because the risk is just not worth it.

Um, and and a good reminder with that is uh, when you ship things OCONUS , cause we see this regular with standard OCONUS moves when you ship things to you and you get a receipt from the post office or FedEx or whoever, and it has that weight listed on there, you can turn that receipt into your transportation office and file a partial PPM -personally procured, move on it. And you can be paid based on the weight that you move. So if all of your lithium battery products, it may cost you 500 bucks to ship 'em, but your weight is 50 pounds. You can be paid based on that 50 pounds that you shipped, so you will see a little bit of money come back to you. It may or may not cover the full amount that you had to pay, but it's a little something that's better than nothing in a way to not be completely out of pocket on getting your lithium battery products to you.

Amy Bushatz: Does that ppm, that partial PPM rather have to be pre-approved when you set up your OCONUS move ?

Megan Harless: Yes, it should be any part of a partial or full ppm. Should be in DPS ahead of time and gone through and approved. We have seen some OCONUS offices have a little more leniency with the partial ppms when you've had to mail things to yourself, where they've accepted it after the fact without having the partial setup, but it's always good practice to make sure you have it set up ahead of time.

Amy Bushatz: So life hack here is ship your stuff to yourself, but think ahead about it. What are some other tips? Tell us, Megan, what do we need to know?

Megan Harless: So I'm gonna lump these two together because they're gonna have the same tip for them. So this year I suspect we're gonna see similar issues to last year in terms of capacity. And we've already started seeing some delayed orders happening because the Army has transitioned their system over from one thing to another. So if you hear IPPS-A thrown around in your military communities, it's the new program where they issue orders from. With the transition comes delayed orders and a backlog of all the good stuff. So we're already starting to see that happen. So because of the potential capacity issues similar to last year, and because of these delayed orders, it's highly recommended that you look at doing a PPM of some sort, whether it's through a container company, a full service company, renting the U-Haul Penske truck. You should definitely consider doing a PPM and start planning for it now and looking at what that cost is gonna be for you.

Amy Bushatz: Yeah, so what we're essentially saying guys, is don't rely on the military to move you. It might be easier this time to simply plan to move yourself. And I know when I was first in military life, when I thought about doing that, I pictured myself literally moving myself, right? Like Amy is packing boxes, Amy is putting boxes on trucks. Terrible. Not a good mental picture. But it doesn't have to be that way. You can outsource this. You can pay for a mover, a moving company that you source to do this. You can use PODS. There are a lot of ways to peel this problem and get to the other side where you've moved, and some of them actually might be, in the end, less stress and easier than dealing with the military move system, especially in the season of uncertainty. And really that's what we're going for here. So what we're looking for here is to lower the stress level on the PCS process. And while it sounds great just to chuck it at the military and let them lower the stress for you, in this season, it might be less stress for you to do it yourself.

Megan Harless: Yeah, no, absolutely. And we've seen times where those orders get cut and you have three weeks or less till you have to move. Your local transportation office can't get you movers on your requested dates because they're already booked and they're already backlogged. And so now you're looking at, do you send your service member ahead and have them take leave to come back and help move? Does the spouse and the family move it themselves and handle that piece of it, and then follow on later?

We saw a lot of that last year. So if you think you're gonna be in that boat potentially just start looking at a potential PPM. Start, go ahead and start doing a budget planning, getting some quotes, thinking about what piece of it makes you comfortable. Are you fine packing your stuff and you just need somebody to load and haul? Are you fine loading it too? Do you need somebody to come in and do it all? There are companies that will come in and do everything. So the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, FMSCA, their website has got some great tips on how to find a reputable company, what you need to look for, red flags, all of that. So visit there. If you need a full service moving company and you know, you don't have to do it all yourself. There's many ways that you can, can bake this pie of PCSing.

Amy Bushatz: Yeah. Do it yourself does not stand for do it by yourself.

Megan Harless: Yes. Like we did many years ago, we've done one PPM and it was literally me packing as my husband and father-in-law loaded, well, me and my mother packed while my husband and father-in-law loaded this Penske truck. And then driving it from West Virginia to Kansas. And it was before we had big truck stops, before they were like a big thing. So here was me in the car with our infant son, like driving ahead of my husband to find a gas station that had diesel and was big enough to fit this giant Penske truck. And then calling him to tell him what exit he needed to take.

Amy Bushatz: Yeah. This is a terrible vibe. No, I do not recommend this at all.

Megan Harless: No, do not do it that way, unless you have like, you know, a one bedroom small apartment and it's a very small truck. But no, there's many ways that you can do a PPM.

Amy Bushatz: Yeah. Yeah. Okay. Final tip for us. Like, what do we need to know? Help us out.

Megan Harless: So I'm gonna throw two things together again because they kind of go together. Um, there's a theme here, y'all. So some things that we hear a lot that people don't realize and don't know about until after they do a PCS and then it comes back to bite them in the butt.

So the first one is insurance, is that you need to go ahead, take the time and evaluate what your insurance is. Does your insurance cover your household goods in transit and in storage? Do you have a policy that will carry over and cover your stuff? Because if you sell, you're home, depending on who your insurance company is, your insurance could end the day that you close on your home. So what's gonna cover your stuff in transit and in storage?

And also to keep in mind, that the TSP, your moving company, they're only liable for $6 per pound up to $75,000. So if you have a catastrophic loss and you only had a 10,000 pound shipment, you're only gonna be paid $60,000 and it may cost a lot more than that to replace what you have in your home. So double check your insurance.

To go along with that, you should have your own home inventory of yourself. Yes, the moving companies will provide their general inventory of the boxes and the furniture. But you should have your own home inventory to know what it is that you own. In the event of a catastrophic loss, you have to itemize your shipment and send that list to your TSP and then send whatever they don't cover to your private insurance. So if you already have your own home inventory ahead of time, and it doesn't have to be like listing every fork you own individually, you can say you have a flatware set for, you know, service of eight kind of thing. You can make it as detailed or undetailed as you want, but having it in the event that there is a catastrophic loss in the event of a house fire or a tornado or some other natural disaster, you've already got it done. You've already done the heavy work and your claim and that process will just go that much quicker.

Amy Bushatz: I love talking about this stuff cuz it's such like old person stuff like, oh, the insurance and writing down everything you own. This is like, not what you talk about when you're 22, megan, we're old now, buddy.

Megan Harless: No, not, and we are. You know, but from just my own experience and seeing what happens within our community when it comes time to moving. Insurance and inventory are those two things where it's just like that insurance agents can be scary to talk to because you don't understand a lot of terms, or they seem very predatory. They're not all like that. You can shop around, you can just hang up on them. It's okay.

You know, but inventory, like, it's a lot of work upfront to do it. But it is worth in the end. At a minimum, if you are working on an inventory and you're freaking out, like, oh my gosh, we have 17,000 pounds of stuff in our house. Like this is gonna take me forever. Start with your high value items. Make your high value item inventory list.

Start with your electronics, because those are probably gonna be the most expensive things you have in your house, right? And then make the list of your furniture. So at a minimum, you've at least got that section of stuff done. You can go in later when you have time and write down every book you own by title if you want. You can go back later and write down every piece of China you have or every pair of pants that you have. You can as detailed as you want, y'all. But you can go back and do that piece later, but at least your high value inventory items, your electronics and your furniture. At least, at a minimum, have an inventory for those things.

Amy Bushatz: Yeah. Yeah. I appreciate what you're saying about, just, you know, bare minimum do this. Also, you can keep it as simple as you want. This isn't homework. No one's checking your work upfront. But if something terrible happens, boy are you, is future you gonna thank past you. All the yous together are gonna be stoked that you took this step. And so sometimes that's just how life is. Also, I would think, like if you even just went room by room and just made it as simple as possible. One, it's a good opportunity to do some decluttering, which who doesn't love that before pCS?

Megan Harless: PCS purge. That's our kind of thing. PCS purge.?

Amy Bushatz: That's right so now you have less stuff to put on that sheet. But second of all, you can go room by room and tackle this and you'll probably get better at it over time, let's be honest with that. You know, and you really don't have to list every book by title if you don't want to. And so this could be a very helpful practice later on.

Megan, thank you so much for spending time with us today on PCS With, sharing these tips, sharing the things we need to know for the 2023 military move season. We really appreciate your time and expertise. Thank you.

Megan Harless: Oh, thank you for having me.

Amy Bushatz: Thanks so much for listening to PCS With Want more PCS advice? Check out the rest of PCS With wherever you get your podcasts. A special thanks to our sponsor, Navy Federal Credit Union, proudly serving all branches of the armed forces, veterans and their families. No matter where you are in your military career, Navy Federal Credit Union has the products and resources to help you navigate your finances. Learn more at Our members are the mission.

And until next time, happy moving.

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