In the military, two things are constant: you can never make plans and you’re going to move, again. As families PCS from one duty station to the next, there is a vicious cycle that starts with movers packing and loading precious belongings, and then once household goods are unloaded, the claims process begins along with replacing broken items and fighting with the company for an acceptable value for those things.
I’ve spent the past year working closely with Megan Harless, the expert PCS-advocate, and together we have seen things, y’all, but this PCS season has been a dumpster fire — and we mean that quite literally.
PCS dumpster fires
Of all the things that could happen to household goods, the one thing that you wouldn’t expect would be to have them catch fire. That’s exactly what two military families experienced this PCS season, and to make matters worse, one family can’t prove where along the way the fire happened, so they’ve been battling with the hauler and the storage facility as neither will take responsibility for their burned boxes. Through the process, this family also lost an entire 6-foot leather couch, patio furniture, a bedside table and a Roomba vacuum.
Meanwhile, the Deppa family lost everything. When the truck hauling their household goods caught fire, it wasn’t just a couple boxes that they had to replace while the companies involved tried to pass the buck. It was their entire life.
“I called on Wednesday to ensure delivery was still scheduled as I had not heard anything else from the company. I was told that it would be Friday instead. On Thursday, my husband received a call from the San Diego office of the company informing him that there had been a fire on the trailer carrying our stuff in Nebraska and likely at least 50% of our things were gone. Still, he didn’t tell us then that the fire happened the day before and they didn’t bother to tell us,” Jennifer Deppa explained.
Unbelievably, it even gets worse.
“We also found out that no transportation office was tracking our move. The transportation office at Lewis should have because we were in their region, but they weren’t aware of us. The transportation office at Leavenworth set up our move but did nothing more with us because they were not our origin office. So, during this incredibly frustrating time when I was reaching out for help, no one wanted anything to do with us and assumed someone else would deal with it. We were alone and without support during one of the worst times in our life,” she added.
The Deppa family also found out that their damaged household goods had been left out in the elements in a dumpster waiting for them to salvage what they could for nearly seven days, and that the remainder of their items were in an unsecured trailer. Both the dumpster and the trailer were left in an unlocked storage yard.
As of today, they are still fighting to get a settlement. While the process is failing them, the Army community has stepped in by offering food, replacement items, money and prayers.
Ponyo’s (unwanted) adventure
Moving is a very stressful time for pets, so when Olivia Soule’s cat went missing in action, she assumed that the cat slipped by the movers while the door was open. Ponyo didn’t return home the day after the movers were there, which prompted Soule to start posting on Facebook in hopes that someone had seen her cat in the area. When none of the neighbors had seen her and she still hadn’t turned up five days later, Soule contacted the moving company to ask them to search in the furniture drawers of their shipment.
“That Monday we called the moving company and they said they would check. They called us back a day later and said they checked and said no cat. My husband was persistent and said to please check again and check the drawers, specifically the top drawer of our children’s bunk beds, and they said they would. The company called us back two days later and said they pulled everything out of the crates and checked all the drawers, and there was no cat,” Soule wrote.
A month later when their belongings were pulled out of the climate-controlled storage and delivered to their new home, Ponyo was found by Olivia’s husband, nearly dead within the drawer attached to their children’s bunk bed — the same drawer the family asked the company specifically to check. Thankfully after a trip to the vet, Ponyo will survive.