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Summer is PCS season for service members and their families. The process of re-establishing a home and orienting oneself to a new duty assignment can be stressful.

But while unpacking, service members find that some of their property has been damaged during their move. Fortunately, there is a system in place to pay service members for their damaged items.

Navigating this process, however, is not as difficult as one might think.

The most common source of confusion among claimants is that filing a claim is actually a two-step process.

Within 75 days of delivery, claimants must provide a proper "notice of loss" to their carrier. Missing this first step can limit or preclude recovery for damaged items. The form for providing "notice of loss" to the carrier is very specific and is typically noted on the forms given by the carrier.

Claimants can bring their forms to the Fort Meade Claim Division within 70 days of delivery. The Claims Division will provide the carrier with the proper "notice of loss" and also keep a record for future reference.

Once proper "notice of loss" is given, all claimants should file a claim with their carrier within nine months of delivery. Claimants will receive more money by filing directly with their carrier, as they should receive full replacement value for their damaged items.

While all claimants also have the option of filing a claim through their Military Claims Office within two years of delivery, they are only entitled to receive depreciated value.

Another reason that claimants should generally go through the carrier first is that they retain the right to transfer items over to their Military Claims Office at a later date.

If a claimant is unhappy with some or all of the settlement amounts offered by their carrier for certain items, they can choose to transfer these items to their Military Claims Office within two years of the date of delivery.

For more information, visit the recently revamped Fort Meade Claims Division website at ftmeade.army.mil/pages/sja/sja_claims.html.

The website features a one-page flowchart that explains the claims process, information papers on specific topics and a step-by-step guide for filing a claim.

For more information or to schedule an appointment, call the Claims Division at 301-677-9898 or 301-677-9960.

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