Military service members and their families are no strangers to change of addresses – but the process just became more complicated. As of May 1, 2023, the United States Postal Service (USPS) rolled out a new process with the intention of streamlining its change of address (COA) process. The idea sounds good on paper – for those who change their address in person, the ID cards will be scanned in addition to the postal card completed. For those who complete the COA online, the fee stands as verification. However, due to this change in the system, COAs are not being completed in the typical 2–4-week timeline that military families are used to. In fact, the COA process is taking several months to complete.
For those using the online service, go to the MoversGuide section on the USPS website to complete the form. The verification of identity is completed by sending a one-time passcode or verification link to a mobile phone number and charging $1.10 on a credit card as a verification fee. The online change of address does not take effect for 7-14 business days.
For those using the in-person verification, once the card is completed, the USPS employee will need either a US Passport, a military ID card, or a state-issued driver’s or non-drivers license ID. The identification may be scanned. A secondary form of identification of a lease, mortgage or deed, voter or vehicle registration card, or home or vehicle insurance policy can be used. The change of address does not take effect for 7-14 business days.
Once the mail-forwarding is completed, your old mail carrier is supposed to pull your mail to be sent to the Central Forwarding Service, CFS. Once there, CFS affixes the forwarding address label and sends it to the next address.
What To Do If…
As one can imagine, with a change in policy at a government entity, the change in the COA process has led to a big slowdown. The CFS is backlogged, and as told by two USPS employees through their Customer Service line, they do not have a timeline for mail forwarding. Their recommendation is not to do mail forwarding at all but to change addresses with each business that has their address. However, changing the address does not help those who held mail while they did not have a forwarding address.
Tip: Keep a list on a Google Sheet or Excel Sheet of every business you receive mail from – banks, mortgage companies, insurance companies, etc. with their website and phone numbers. Use this list to change your address as soon as you are able versus doing mail forwarding to avoid missing mail. This helps streamline the process when you spend hours on the computer changing each address.
Don’t Do Mail Hold
If you are a military family moving and do not have a forwarding address, consider forwarding mail to a trusted family member or friend. This prevents mail holding, which cannot be forwarded for months due to the backlog.
If It Takes Over Two Weeks
There is an “at least seven days” processing for both online and in-person, which is being extended to 7-14 business days. If no mail is being forwarded and it is over two weeks, submit a service request at the USPS site here, making sure to select the reason for inquiry as a change of address. Your previous post office should reach out to correct the issue within 72 business hours.
What If Mail Still Isn’t Forwarded
If your mail isn’t forwarded after multiple attempts to resolve it through the local Post Office, or if you are concerned that there is fraud, theft or destruction of your mail, the USPS has an Office of Inspector General (OIG), to route the concern to here. This form is not for customer service complaints. The website also states it is not to be used for delivery problems with mail, however, if speaking to the previous local post office multiple times leads to no forwarded mail, then theft or gross negligence is a concern, and the OIG office can address this.
If you are still without a resolution after reaching out to the OIG, consider writing a letter to your representative if it has been more than two months.