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WASHINGTON — New shipping policy changes for servicemembers with permanent change of station orders will mean more money to replace damaged goods and, defense officials hope, better service from moving companies.

The new policies, which go into effect in October, will do away with the depreciation table currently used to reimburse troops and their families for items damaged during a move, according to Cullen Hutchinson, spokesman for the Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command.

The replacement cost changes were mandated by Congress in the 2004 National Defense Authorization Act.

For example, a 5-year-old television worth $300 might lose half its value under the current depreciation standards. Hutchinson said instead of a $150 damage allotment, servicemembers could request the full $300 replacement cost under the new policy.

“That’s what commercial practice is now, but it’s more important than that,” he said. “When stuff gets busted, you end up taking money out of your pocket. This way, the servicemembers aren’t going to be pulling money out of their pockets to make them whole again.”

Moving companies will have an opportunity to fix the item before paying the replacement costs, Hutchinson said. The policy won’t change payout caps for catastrophic losses, where multiple items or entire shipments are destroyed.

Servicemembers also will be able to file their claims online for the first time, instead of traveling to claims offices to obtain the right paperwork.

“When I first PCSed from Germany back to the United States, I had to drive 50 miles to file a claim,” Hutchinson said. “A lot of folks end up not filing one. It just becomes a pain to do it.”

Officials anticipate only slight cost increases with the new policies because of new screening programs designed to shift more business to less error-prone movers. Hutchinson said troops will be asked to complete a post-move survey to help officials evaluate the shipping companies.

“Our intent is to reward the carriers who do the best by giving them more business,” he said.

The National Military Family Association praised the changes earlier this week, calling it an important quality of life improvement for troops and their loved ones.

The command coordinates moves for more than 500,000 servicemembers and families each year.


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