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Senate report details ‘ongoing mistreatment’ of service members and their families living in privatized military housing

<i>Eric Lee/Bloomberg/Getty Images</i><br/>Sen. Jon Ossoff
Bloomberg via Getty Images
Eric Lee/Bloomberg/Getty Images
Sen. Jon Ossoff

By Jessica Dean, CNN

A new bipartisan investigation by a Senate panel alleges one of the nation’s largest military housing companies put the health and safety of military families at risk even after the housing company, Balfour Beatty Communities, pleaded guilty in December 2021 to committing fraud against the United States from 2013 to 2019.

The new report from the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations under the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee alleges “ongoing mistreatment” of US service members and their families and mismanagement by Balfour. The report, supported by thousands of documents and nearly two dozen interviews, uncovered what the subcommittee officials describe as systemic issues and patterns across the country at military housing units operated by Balfour.

Balfour currently serves approximately 150,000 residents across 43,000 on-base homes at dozens of Army, Navy and Air Force bases in 26 states, according to the report. The inquiry focused on two bases, Fort Gordon in Georgia and Sheppard Air Force Base in Texas, where officials say they found very similar situations.

Sen. Jon Ossoff, a Georgia Democrat, chairs the subcommittee, which authored the report, and Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin is the subcommittee’s ranking Republican member.

The report details numerous examples of “disregard of safety concerns and environmental hazards that put military families at risk.” Generally, the investigation revealed homes were in disrepair when military families moved in, things in the home were broken and requests for repairs, including those for families with children with preexisting health conditions, were ignored, according to subcommittee officials. The report also found omissions and inaccuracies in the Balfour database, which officials believe affected what the company was awarded by military services. These types of behavior “bear striking similarities to the types of conduct which Balfour admitted to in its December 2021 guilty plea for actions it took between 2013 and 2019,” officials write in their report.

A Balfour Beatty spokesperson said the company was “disappointed” in the report because it “does not accurately reflect the company’s level of commitment to its military residents and their families or acknowledge the significant steps that have been taken to address the small number of complaints that were discussed.” The spokesperson said the report contained “multiple inaccuracies and mischaracterizations,” and that the company tried to correct them before the report was released on Tuesday.

“While we continually seek to improve, as an operator of 43,000 residences we are inevitably going to have to deal with challenges,” the spokesperson said. “The company remains focused on the safety, health and wellbeing of its residents and on providing quality homes supported by prompt and effective customer service and maintenance support.”

In one instance detailed in the report, an Army captain’s daughter was diagnosed with eczema after living in one of the Balfour housing units. After a dozen visits to an allergy specialist, the doctor ultimately told the family the eczema was likely caused by untreated mold growth in the family’s home. The report says Balfour “suggested” its inspections hadn’t revealed mold and also failed to document the family’s repeated complaints about the mold in the company’s internal system. After the family moved out, Balfour sent the Army captain a collection notice for hundreds of dollars, which Balfour finally determined was a “clerical error.”

Other families who had family members with preexisting medical conditions requested repairs that were frequently ignored by Balfour, causing unsafe conditions, according to the report.

In one case, a family made two dozen requests to get Balfour to repair a roof leak in their bedroom and mold growth in their home. The service member’s wife had a preexisting immune condition and suffered increased respiratory symptoms she believed were caused by mold. Balfour eventually repaired the roof and dealt with the mold. And while its own records reveal the presence of mold, its internal database, which is used by the military to access the company’s award fees, showed no record of a mold work order during the period in which the family made multiple requests, according to the report.

On Tuesday, Balfour executives are answering questions about the report during a Senate hearing that will also include testimony from military families affected by the company’s alleged negligence. The goal of the hearings is to bring more attention to the issue and highlight the evidence discovered in this investigation, according to subcommittee officials.

This story has been updated with additional developments Tuesday.

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