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MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — Airmen in the Pacific now can file personal property claims in their pajamas.

Instead of meeting with a paralegal to document damage to household goods during a government-sponsored move, airmen can just sit at a computer.

The Air Force Claims Service in Dayton, Ohio, officially opened March 23, though some bases were using the center sooner.

The change is part of a servicewide streamlining initiative called Smart Operations 21.

Air Force officials estimate the center will save about $60 million over the next 10 years while returning 200 personnel positions back to the service to be used elsewhere.

They also say it allows airmen to submit various claims at their convenience while shortening the time it takes to be paid for a claim.

But it also means a bit more work on airmen’s part.

“There’s a little more for them now, because they’re going to actually sit and do the upload (of documents),” said Tech. Sgt. Kimberly Pfender, noncommissioned officer in charge of claims.

Airmen will have to download copies of their orders, shipping inventory and other papers, while also submitting digital photos of claims for damage of more than $100.

But, Pfender said, “the nice thing is they can do it from home; they don’t have to do it during their duty hours.”

Paralegals — a mouse-click or DSN phone call away — are available 24 hours a day to assist airmen with claims processing.

The center consolidated about 90 individual claims centers and is staffed with more than 100 airmen and civilians, according to a news release.

Pacific Air Forces bases began using the center March 1, and the entire Air Force is to be linked up by Oct. 1, she said.

“This is strictly for the Air Force,” including Defense Department civilians on Air Force bases, Pfender said.

The claims process still begins with a stop to the legal office, where airmen drop off DD Form 1840/R — the “pink form” listing damage discovered upon unpacking — within 70 days after delivery of household goods.

The legal office gives a copy to the airman and submits the original to the moving company.

It’s then that the online work begins.

Airmen first must obtain a user ID and password from a government computer by logging on with their Common Access Card to https://claims.jag.af.mil.

With this information, they can log on to a personal computer at home to complete the process.

‘Photos are worth a thousand words’

Facts and tips about filing personal property claims online:

¶ Take a photo of any damage. Though only required for damage over $100, “photos are worth a thousand words,” said Tech. Sgt. Kimberly Pfender, noncommissioned officer in charge of claims at the 35th Fighter Wing legal office, Misawa Air Base, Japan. “Even if it’s a $10 mug, you’ve got it documented right there.”

¶ Photographs can be scanned and uploaded into the Air Force Claims Service Center Web site, along with other required documents. Check with your legal office about using a scanner if you don’t have one at work or at home.

¶ The claims center site provides a link that lists local repair shops near each Air Force base. Estimates are needed for items that can be repaired.

¶ Get estimates in a foreign language translated before submitting them. Check with your legal office. Estimates in foreign currency can be converted online through the claims center Web site.

Money paid for claims can be deposited electronically only. Check out http://legalassistance.law.af.mil/claims for more information.

— Jennifer H. Svan

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Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.
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