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January 17, 2020 5:00 PM, EST

Audit Says Household Goods Shippers Often Too Slow on Military Moves

Servicemember holds house illustrationGetty Images

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A U.S. Department of Defense Inspector General audit has concluded that the nation’s household goods shippers too often do not pick up and deliver soldiers’ personal goods in a timely manner during domestic and international moves.

More than 40% of the nearly 10,000 military personal property shipments in fiscal year 2018 were not delivered in a timely manner, causing soldiers to incur lodging and other living expenses, according to the audit, made public last month.

Auditors said that DOD is the single largest customer in the personal property shipping industry, representing approximately 15% of all domestic and international moves.

“Many DOD military families have complained about unexpected delays in pickups or delivery of their household goods,” the audit said. “There also have been complaints about the moves themselves, which have resulted in loss and damage for some families.”

As of October 2019, over 107,000 individuals had signed a petition on Change.org to hold moving companies accountable for losses and damages incurred during the DOD military move process, according to the audit.

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“The DOD program is the largest single customer for the HHG industry, but not the biggest segment,” John Becker, interim president of the American Moving and Storage Association, said in a statement to Transport Topics. “But depending on the year, the market percentage of the DOD varies from 15 to 20%.”

Auditors said that for fiscal year 2018, the four Joint Personal Property Shipping Offices looked at 9,852 shipments, costing $102.3 million, that were delivered at least five days past the required delivery date and had at least one claim filed for damaged or lost household goods.

“We selected a statistical sample of 311 shipments from these four joint shipping offices, costing $3.3 million, to review,” the audit said. “The DOD members claimed a total of 3,575 damaged or lost household goods, valued at $24.5 million, on the 311 shipments reviewed.”

Of the 3,575 damaged or lost household goods, auditors reviewed 662 finalized damaged or lost household goods claims, valued at $8.5 million to determine if the DOD member received a replacement household good, a repaired household good, or the entitled compensation allowed under the Defense Transportation Regulation and U.S. Transportation Command, the military group responsible for administering the Personal Property Program.

Defense Personal Property System data showed that 21% of all domestic household goods shipments had at least one damage claim filed during FY 2018, the audit said.

But AMSA’s Becker said the dollar value in the IG’s audit report is not accurate.

“It is based on service members’ initial value claims when damage occurs, but isn’t the actual settled amount,” Becker said. “The problems identified in the report for late shipments are not accurate because there are problems with the Defense Personal Property System used for the Defense Personal Property Program,” Becker added. “If companies don’t enter the data on the day of delivery, the DPS doesn’t allow for entering the information beforehand or back-dating.”

Of the seven IG recommendations for corrective actions addressed to the USTRANSCOM Commander, four were unresolved and three were resolved but will remain open until further actions are taken, the audit said.

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In response to the recommendations, the chief of staff for USTRANSCOM agreed with the ultimate goal to improve service for customers of the DOD Personal Property Program, but also stated that a comprehensive approach must be taken to achieve reform.

He did not agree with the IG that the military should update the Defense Transportation Regulation to issue warnings or letters of suspension to the moving companies within 14 days of missing the delivery date or the agreed-upon delivery date from storage location.

The IG audit noted that four U.S. senators and the House Committee on Armed Services sent letters to the commander of the U.S. Transportation Command asking officials to address the problems with permanent change of station moves.

The senators requested that USTRANSCOM enhance the transparency and accountability to the DOD members with a timely review of the contractors used to move their household goods across the globe.

The House Armed Services Committee was concerned about the large number of military families who experienced poorly executed household goods moves, and raised the concerns in the Change.org petition where the DOD members and families reported problems with delays in pickups and arrivals, and breakage or loss of household goods during permanent change of station moves, the audit said.

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