High winds are common at White Sands Missile Range during this time of year and can cause costly damage to automobiles and other personal property. This article is designed to explain Army policy involving damage to personal property and answer questions regarding the type of claims which are payable by the White Sands Missile Range claims office.
Army guidance provides that most vehicle damage is payable only if caused by fire, flood, hurricane, or other unusual occurrence. The Personnel Claims Act provides limited protection for extraordinary hazards, broadly categorized as losses due to abnormal climatic conditions. High winds and blowing sand, however, are common in the White Sands area. Thus, damage to the paint or exterior trim of a vehicle caused by sand and debris blown by the wind are not generally payable as it is considered "gradual deterioration" rather than the result of an unusual occurrence.
In contrast, claimants suffering damage (other than paint and finishes) to vehicles or other personal property will be compensated when the damage occurs as a result of an unusual occurrence. For example, if the winds are so strong that the installation meteorologists confirm it to be an unusual climatic occurrence, then proper claimants would be compensated. The White Sands claims officer would accept claims for compensation based on that event. The damage most commonly associated with high winds at White Sands Missile Range is automobile glass breakage.
Army regulations and Federal law, specifically identify who may be compensated for damage to property. Proper claimants are soldiers on active duty, civilian employees of the Department of the Army, civilian employees of the Department of Defense, and NAF employees (payable through NAF channels). The White Sands JAG Office will also accept claims from service personnel with the Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps and forward them for consideration to their respective claims authorities. Note that employees of government contractors are not proper claimants.
If your vehicle or other personal property is damaged by high winds you can obtain a claims packet from the Staff Judge Advocate Office. This packet contains instructions and all of the necessary forms to file a claim. You need to first file a claim for damages with your insurance company before you file a claim with the government. The government will then reimburse you for any portion of the deductible that you pay. Claimants will also need two estimates of repair, except in cases involving coverage from an insurer that only requires one estimate.
Therefore, to adequately be protected against loss, White Sands Missile Range residents and employees are advised to purchase the necessary insurance with affordable deductibles. Automobiles should be parked in garages when possible, and outdoor property should be stored indoors or properly secured if left exposed to the elements.
For more information or assistance in filing a wind damage claim, please contact the Claims Division at the Staff Judge Advocate Office at (575) 678-1263.