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Max out your payment for do-it-yourself moves

Jun. 28, 2010 - 09:40AM   |   Last Updated: Jun. 28, 2010 - 09:40AM  |  
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If you've come down on reassignment orders and are thinking of a do-it-yourself move, there are things you need to know about getting reimbursed by the government.

Weigh your options carefully before taking that plunge — you may find the financial incentives for a "personally procured move" aren't what they used to be.

Ironically, that's because the military's new household-goods moving system, the Defense Personal Property System, is unexpectedly saving the government money — a broad average of about 15 percent to 20 percent compared with the old system.

That translates into less money for service members moving their own household goods, because reimbursement is based on what the government would pay to move your goods.

You'll still get 95 percent of the "best value" that the government would pay, but since the government is now paying less, you won't pocket as much money for all your hard work.

For example: A move that would've cost the government $3,000 under the old system now costs 20 percent less, or $2,400. Do-it-yourselfers would be reimbursed $2,280 — 95 percent of $2,400. That's $570 less than what DIY-ers would have received under the old system — 95 percent of $3,000, or $2,850.

"It's a savings to the government, but is it an incentive for the service member to do the work?" said Roland Amos, chief of the functional and requirements branch for the Defense Personal Property System at U.S. Transportation Command.

Chances are service members wouldn't realize that the reimbursement is less unless they've made the same move with the same weight before.

Steps to follow if you're considering a personally procured move:

• You can get more information — and in most cases arrange the move — at http://www.move.mil/">Move.mil. The site will walk you through the steps, and you can find contact information there for your transportation office if you have questions.

• Get an estimate of how much you might be reimbursed.

• Check out different options, such as rental trucks or trailers. Some companies will provide a truck and driver, and you do the packing.

You could also hire a full-service mover and negotiate the price. Make sure you're dealing with a reputable company; check the http://www.bbb.org/us/">Better Business Bureau complaint site and with consumer protection agencies.

The American Moving and Storage Association has a ProMover program to certify that member companies have passed a background check and agree to uphold a code of ethics.

Another option is a partial move — part government, part personally procured.

Amos reminds military families that you can be reimbursed for items you take in your personal vehicle, such as valuables and documents. You just need to follow the instructions for weighing your vehicle before and after loading.

Another program, Actual Cost Reimbursement, pays service members the cost of preapproved special handling, such as assembly and disassembly, and packing fragile items. But the cost can't exceed the government's "best value" pricing.

When a government-furnished moving service is not available, the Actual Cost Reimbursement will pay the actual cost for the entire move, but it must be preapproved by the service headquarters.

• Follow all the instructions on http://www.move.mil/">Move.mil and from your transportation office to get the reimbursement you're entitled to.

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