Reimbursement for storm damage to personal property is possible
November 6, 2004
SASEBO NAVAL BASE, Japan — With a typhoon seemingly churning toward Japan every week this season, base legal officials across the Pacific say receiving government reimbursement for storm-damaged personal property is possible — but recommend private renter’s insurance as a more reliable way to cover losses, even for on-base residents.
This year, more than any in recent memory, weather damage to personal property seems possible; 10 typhoons have hit Japan so far this season.
That contrasts to 2.6, the yearly average from 1951 through 2003, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency.
South Korea largely has been spared from typhoons in recent years, although earlier this summer, Typhoon Megi swept across the southern part of the country, causing minor damage to installations and cities.
Staff Sgt. Edward Luna, a legal assistance official at Iwakuni Marine Corps Air Station, said 20 claims were filed for personal property damages after Typhoon Songda on Sept. 8.
“Two involve personal vehicles. One had the paint damaged because of the typhoon and the other had broken windows, which allowed water into the car and now mildew in the interior,” Luna said. “I think those are reasonable claims.”
The Military Personnel and Civilian Employees’ Claims Act states that all servicemembers’ and civilian employees’ property damaged or destroyed by harsh weather may be eligible for repair or replacement, said Luna and Petty Officer 1st Class Brian McKie, a Sasebo Naval Base legalman.
“It only covers damage to personal property,” Luna said. “It does not cover damage to land, buildings and permanent fixtures and it must be damaged in relation to a person’s military service or employment.”
Luna said the “use or possession” of the damaged property must have been reasonable, useful or proper. “For example, if you bought and own the picnic table in the back yard of your housing unit and it is blown around and broken due to a typhoon, but you had done nothing to secure the picnic furniture during the warning period before the typhoon, that is not reasonable,” McKie said.
“If you tied it down as recommended, and the damage still occurred, then it could be covered,” he said. If property damage occurs entirely or in part because of the owner’s negligence, the claim is denied.
A recent Marine Corps news report used an example to illustrate the difference.
“It is reasonable to store a radio in your wall locker; however, storing a $5,000 stereo system in the wall locker is probably not,” wrote Marine Corps 1st Lt. Adam Workman, a legal services officer then in Iwakuni. “Whether the use or possession was reasonable, useful or proper is a judgment call that will be made by the adjudicating official.”
If all conditions for reimbursement are met, the money given for the damaged or lost property is based on repair estimates, or replacement estimates minus depreciation if repair is impossible. If repairs already have been made, receipts are required.
But even with some government protection, Luna and McKie said, buying private rental insurance remains the best option for covering personal property.
“I bought mine directly from my insurance company,” Navy Lt. Randy Vavra, officer-in- charge of Sasebo’s Navy Legal Service Office, said Thursday.
“And most major insurance companies offer various renter’s insurance plans,” he added. “In any case, the cost is not very high compared to the piece of mind it provides.”
Vavra said insuring specific objects also is possible. “I also have insurance to cover my wife’s jewelry,” he said. “It’s just a really good option to look into.”
Call your base legal services center for more information.
Joseph Giordono contributed to this report.
Filing a government claim
When filing a government claim you will need the following:
DD Form 1842: Claims for loss of or damage to personal property incident to service.DD Form 1844: List of property and claims analysis chart.Electronic funds transfer form.Photos.Two estimates of repair for repairable items.Verification of replacement price — original receipts from the BX, catalog or Internet prices, etc.Title, military registration and insurance paperwork for all vehicle claims.— Staff reports