Commentary | July 29, 2021

Moving Delays? You might qualify for an Inconvenience Claim

By Kathy Murray, MyCG Writer

Over the past 25 years, Cmdr. Kristen Serumgard and her husband have moved 18 times, most recently at the height of the pandemic with their six-month-old baby in tow.  

So, Serumgard, who commands the Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw, is no stranger to relocation headaches. Still, she’s been struck by the sheer volume of complaints she’s heard this season. Huge delays in getting stuff picked up or delivered. Movers missing appointments or canceling at the last minute. Moving companies arriving without a truck or a packing crew. Or showing up after the service member already had to fly to their new station.   

“It’s a pretty awful time to PCS,” she says. “With the shortage of workers and equipment, so many people are being left in the lurch.” 

Indeed, because of the high demand for moves nationwide, and ongoing shortages, the Department of Defense (DoD) is now advising military personnel to expect to wait four to six weeks or more for a moving crew. And while the United States Transportation Command (USTRANSCOM) can’t force movers to come on time, if the pickup or delivery of your household goods is delayed, you may be due compensation. 

All you need to do is file an inconvenience claim. 

What’s an Inconvenience Claim?  

The purpose of an inconvenience claim is to reimburse the out-of-pocket costs you incur setting up your household while you’re waiting for your household goods to arrive on a delayed shipment. This is different from the claim you would file if property were damaged or lost during a move. But the goal is the same: to prevent your family from suffering financially because contracted movers didn’t meet their obligation. 

You qualify for an inconvenience claim if you have experienced any of the following: 
Your transportation service provider (TSP) fails to pick up your shipment on the agreed-upon date. 
You’re available and in your new residence and the TSP fails to deliver by the required delivery date (RDD). 
If your TSP placed your shipment in storage in transit (SIT), without telling you. 
If the TSP cannot deliver your SIT shipment within seven business days (10 days during peak season from May 15 to August 15) of the date you first contacted them requesting delivery. 
You request a delivery date for your SIT shipment more than seven business days in advance and the TSP can’t deliver it within two days after that. 

How to file an Inconvenience Claim 

Your first step should be to contact your TSP. Movers are required to notify you in advance when a pickup or delivery is missed or delayed. They should also provide you with an inconvenience claim form and instructions on where to send it for reimbursement. You can file a claim as soon as there has been a verifiable delay.  

Don’t purchase anything before talking to your TSP.  Make sure you know what they will cover. Some TSPs may have a “lending closet” with some of the items you need. If you believe a certain item is necessary, but aren’t sure if it is covered, ask. Decisions about exceptions are made on a case-by-case basis. 

Keep receipts, too. For the first seven days, you won’t need to file them as long as your expenses don’t exceed your daily per diem rate. But if you go over that, or you’re still without your shipment on day eighth day, you’ll need documentation. For unaccompanied baggage receipts, only actual costs are reimbursed. 

The TSP should fill in the top of the form for you. If you have questions, contact your local shipping office.

What will an Inconvenience Claim Cover? 

The amount you receive will be based on two things: your per diem or baseline payment and the actual cost of the temporary items that you need to buy to set up your home in the meantime. 

Covered expenses may include, but are not limited to:  

  • Lodging, meals, and groceries 
  • Purchases of air mattresses, towels, linens, pillows, cookware, dinnerware, disposable dining products and other kitchen items 
  • Furniture or appliance rental 
  • Laundry service 
  • Fees for unaccompanied baggage (UB) shipments 

For the first seven days, you will receive the baseline payment, which you can calculate here. You are not required to include receipts unless your actual expenses exceed the per diem. If actual expenses are greater, lodging, meals, and groceries will NOT be covered, unless the TSP’s inability to pick-up or deliver your shipment is the cause. In rare cases, the TSP could be required to pay lodging or meals for a short period provided the costs are reasonable. 

 And keep in mind that the TSP can reclaim the goods you purchased once your shipment arrives. 

Are there instances where TSP’s don’t have to pay an Inconvenience Claim? 

TSPs are not responsible for inconveniences when: 

  • You or your representative cannot accept delivery of your shipment on the first date TSP offers, as long as it is prior to the required delivery date (RDD). 
  • The delay is caused by events that are not the fault of the TSP, i.e., acts of nature, strikes or government transportation issues. However, the COVID-19 pandemic is NOT an excuse for TSPs to delay shipping. 

Coast Guard leadership, along with our DoD sister services, recognize the challenges the moving industry is facing with labor shortages. Even with the challenges this year, TSPs are being held accountable for missing these contracted dates. 

  • Your shipment is turned back due to the discovery of mold.  
  • Your shipment consists entirely of alcohol.

How long will it take to get reimbursed? 

Your TSP must acknowledge receipt of your claim within five government business days. Customers should receive reimbursement within 30 calendar days from contact. Remember, prior to making an inconvenience claim, communicate your intent with your TSP. If there is a disagreement, the member should contact their local transportation office. Also, be mindful, that even if a TSP agrees to reimburse you for the items needed to establish a household, the TSP can also rightfully request the items once the delivery of the shipment is complete.

Keep in communication with your command

Senior leaders across the Coast Guard and DoD’s Personnel and Logistics communities are aware of the issues and are exploring options to solve relocation-related problems for military families. This can even include adjusting reporting dates. 

“This is a difficult assignment year to PCS, particularly with ensuring your beloved and hard-earned possessions make it safely to your next unit,” Serumgard said. “It doesn’t always go smoothly, so if you face challenges and delays, reach out to your command. There are programs and policies to ease the burden. You shouldn’t be paying out of pocket because someone didn’t meet their contractual obligation. 
 
Resources:

  • Local Transportation Office  
  • Coast Guard Customer Service (833) 551-0887 
  • USTRANSCOM Customer Support Center (833) MIL-MOVE (645-6683) 
  • Official DoD Customer Moving Portal: Inconvenience Claims
  • Official DoD Customer Moving Portal: Filing an Inconvenience Claim Handout
  • Inconvenience Claims Flyer
  • AY21 PCS Update - HHG Scheduling and Inconvenience Claims ALCOAST 269/21