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JBSA Legal News For Soldiers: Army changes policy on claims payments for unusual occurrences

By Jim Tripp | U.S. Army North (Fifth Army) and Army Support Activity Office of the Staff Judge Advocate | July 11, 2019

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas —

The Military Personnel and Civilian Employees Claims Act (Title 31, United States Code, section 3721, also known as the Personnel Claims Act, or “PCA”), authorizes payment of claims for the fair market value of personal property lost, damaged, or destroyed incident to service.

The PCA is not insurance, nor are payments conditioned on tort liability. Rather, payment are “gratuitous,” which means they are made to improve morale by lessening the hardships of military life.

When Congress passed the PCA, it gave the head of each federal agency the authority to issue policy for settling such claims.

The Army implements the PCA in Army Regulation 27-20 and Department of the Army Pamphlet 27-172.

Until recently, claims resulting from unusual occurrences were generally payable under the PCA when the unusual occurrence resulted in losses at quarters, damage to vehicles while properly on post or while being driven for the convenience of the Government, or other types of loss or damage to a proper claimant’s property while the claimant was acting incident to their service.

Depending on the circumstances, an “unusual occurrence” could include damage caused by fire, flood, hurricane, earthquake or weather phenomena that were unusual for the location of the loss.

Then-Secretary of the Army Mark T. Esper modified the Army’s policy on the PCA in Army Directive 2019-21 May 29. The Army will no longer pay claims for unusual occurrences under the PCA when the damage is caused by flood, hurricane, earthquake or other acts of nature or weather phenomena.

Per the language in Army Directive 2019-21, the policy change “encourages individual responsibility for personal property. Soldiers should ensure they maintain private insurance against personal property losses caused by adverse weather and other hazards insurance normally covers.”

There are other types of unusual occurrences that will still be covered by the PCA, such as contamination of clothing and other items by toxic chemicals. Contact your installation claims office for more information.

Note that the Air Force has not adopted the Army’s policy regarding the PCA. For personnel assigned to Joint Base San Antonio, this could result in compensation for Air Force personnel, and denial of compensation for Army personnel, for similar damage from the same unusual occurrence.

JBSA Legal News For Soldiers is a publication of Soldier Legal Services at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, 2422 Stanley Road (building 134), JBSA-Fort Sam Houston, Texas 78234-7755, 210-221-2282.