New study shows every PCS can set a military family back $5,000.
Utility deposits, eating in restaurants because your kitchen is in boxes, having to buy everyone in the family a winter coat because you moved from Florida to Colorado in February (just me?) -- military families know that whether you do a full HHG or a full DITY move, or something in between, moving can be expensive. But until now we didn't know quite how expensive.
The Military Family Advisory Network just released survey data that shows that every PCS move can set a military family back by an average of about $5,000. That's money they'll never be reimbursed for and will never recover. Considering that military families move, on average, every two to three years, it sheds some light on one reason why it's so hard for military families to save money and build wealth. Eighty-four percent of active duty respondents to the survey said they had moved within the past two years.
Included in that $5,000 figure are things that families have to pay to move themselves and the cost of loss and damage to items over and above the reimbursements they receive through the claims process. This PCS season the added chaos of COVID-19 promises to only make moving more hectic and more expensive.
"We're struggling because of it. You have to spend your money for the expenses, THEN get reimbursed afterwards. We're skipping my birthday and Thanksgiving … maybe Christmas because it's not wise to spend any unnecessary money at this time," said the spouse of an active duty airman in Hawaii.
Respondents reported that, on average, their unreimbursed, out-of-pocket expenses during a move were almost $2,000 and that their average financial loss over and above claims for lost and damaged items during the move was almost $3,000. And, 68% of respondents said that their possessions—furniture, keepsakes, and other items—were damaged during the move, and some of those items could not be replaced.
"Movers lost one leg of a table and reimbursement tried to just pay us the value of that leg, which is silly. It rendered the table unusable," said the spouse of an Army active duty member in Washington.
Numerous respondents reported dissatisfaction with the professionalism of the movers.
"They know they can take and break whatever they want, and nothing is really done about it. They will also mark damage that actually isn't there on the paperwork so they can avoid claims for when they do damage things. They dropped our daughter's dresser out of the truck and just laughed about it," said the spouse of an active duty soldier in Texas.
The moving costs data is part of MFAN's larger 2019 Military Family Support Programming Survey, presented by Cerner Government Services. The full survey report will be released Tuesday, June 23 at 3 p.m. during a one-hour interactive release event.
Earlier this month, senior Department of Defense officials said the PCS-freeze put in place because of the pandemic is beginning to lift and that 30 to 40% of military personnel moves are already happening. Officials said that as regions of the country get labeled "green," meaning that service members and their families can move to and from that region, more service members will be allowed to move. In order to be "green", the region must have decreasing trends in COVID-19 diagnoses and symptoms, and local authorities must have eased stay-at-home and shelter-in-place restrictions.
Once a region is determined to be "green," the Service Secretary, Combatant Commander or the DoD Chief Management Officer (CMO) will make a determination if the installations within that region have met additional criteria that include:
- Local travel restrictions have been removed
- The upcoming school year is expected to start on time and sufficient childcare is available
- Moving companies are available to safely move individuals from the community they're leaving and to the one they're going to
- Local services, such as water, sewer, electricity, are safely available
For many military families, moving is both a blessing and a curse. Living in a new place can be exciting and fun, but uprooting your whole life and starting over somewhere can be overwhelming. Add all the extra costs in, and it's no wonder that orders to move are often met with dread. Moving is one of the most stressful and expensive experiences in military life, even without the confusion caused by the pandemic. And this year promises to be crazier and costlier than ever.
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