POV Damage--just what is a proper claim?
Story by: Legal Administrator Parry S. Preuc
Question: A hit-and-run driver dented my car while it was parked at my barracks on Fort Riley , so the Army will reimburse me for the damages - right?
Answer: Well, not necessarily. There are a number of questions that need to be answered before deciding whether a claim is cognizable and meritorious. The Personnel Claims Act (PCA), found in Army Regulation (AR) 27-20, Chapter 11, is a gratuitous payment statute that is designed to compensate a certain class of people for losses or damages to personal property that occurred incident to their service. It is not intended, however, to compensate for ordinary hazards of life or replace the requirement and need to have personal insurance.
The first issue is determining whether you're a proper claimant as defined by the PCA and AR 27-20. The PCA authorizes compensation only to: Soldiers on active duty; members of the U.S. Army Reserve or Army National Guard engaged in active service or inactive duty training; civilian employees of the Army or the ARNG; or Department of Defense employees who are not employees of the Air Force, Navy, or Marine Corps. Obviously, if you do not fall within these classes of people, your claim is not compensable.
Next, does the claim fall within the category of claims the Army considers payable? Or, does it fall within the non-payable category? Both categories are well articulated in Department of the Army Pamphlet (DA PAM) 27-162, paragraphs 11-5 and 11-6, respectively. An example of a non-payable event is a hit-and-run collision. Therefore, based on the above scenario, the Government will not provide compensation for the damage to the POV.
Notwithstanding this scenario, there are many intricacies of the PCA of which everyone should be aware before deciding to make a claim. A few are discussed below.
For instance, it is mandatory under the PCA that if you have personal insurance (i.e. renter's or comprehensive coverage), you must first file with your insurer. The failure to do so could result in your claim being denied outright. The only exception is if the loss stems from a Government sponsored transportation or storage.
As for claims arising from theft or loss to a vehicle or the contents of the vehicle, the PCA requires that the vehicle be "properly located" on the installation. Properly located means the vehicle is properly registered and insured in accordance with local regulation and state law. If these requirements are not met, the vehicle is not properly on the installation and the claim could be denied.
Another component of the PCA is to look to the claimant's behavior. That is, did the claimant contribute to his/her loss? For example, did the claimant leave his/her vehicle unlocked? The bottom line - a claimant's own negligent or reckless behavior could jeopardize his claim. Also, vehicles are not for property storage. While many soldiers keep large numbers of CD's in their cars, and have expensive stereos, the amount of claims payable is very limited in these areas--$120.00 maximum for CD's. Each case must be examined, but the bottom line is: a vehicle must be secured, located on post, and properly registered and insured.
In the case of vehicle damage or vandalism, the military police must be notified immediately. Do not move the vehicle before they arrive (unless it is causing a safety hazard). The MP's must investigate the incident to substantiate that the incident occurred on Fort Riley . If you move the vehicle you may not have that needed evidence.
If your POV is damaged by a Government vehicle, or a vehicle operated by a Government employee in the scope of their appointed duty, you may be eligible to file a Tort claim against the government. These types of claims are based on liability issues, rather than gratuitous. Report the incident to the MP's or local police (depending upon the location of the accident), as appropriate, and contact the Claims Office for further instructions.
Soldiers, Department of the Army employees, and others should understand that the Army Claims system is not intended to be a universal Government insurance policy; it is limited as to what it can pay. Therefore, it is vital that both military and civilian personnel take measures to protect their own property against the ordinary hazards of daily life and work, whether on post or elsewhere. Should you have any questions about the Army Claims system, please call the Claims Division, at 239-3830 or visit us at our office.