[EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW] For the first time on camera, Heather Beckstrom shares what she believes is to blame for her children’s health issues. After moving to Fort Bragg with her family, three of her children developed severe health issues. At her 20-week ultrasound, she learned her unborn child had numerous birth defects. Her son was diagnosed with cancer. And then her daughter started getting severe headaches and seizures. Beckstrom was invited to D.C. where she testified before a closed-door hearing. Her story is now part of a Congressional investigation into privatized housing on military bases around the country.
Click here to read the Reuter’s investigation that sparked it all.
Then in February of 2019, the Military Family Advisory Network conducted a report on the living conditions of families in privatized military housing. Heather’s family is profiled on page 12. Click here to read.
At Fort Bragg, the largest military base in the United States, a tenant petition to “hold Corvias accountable” for neglecting homes has gained 3,900 signatures and counting.
In Part 2 of this story, we focus on the Carolinas. The bases here are at the center of this massive housing investigation on U.S. military bases. We have one of the largest military footprints in the country with both states home to eight bases, representing every branch of the U.S. military. While Congress investigates the deplorable conditions facing some soldiers and their families, we wanted to know what's being done for our servicemen and women.
The Department of Defense is proposing a new Tenant Bill of Rights. It's intended to increase the accountability of privatized housing companies by putting more oversight authority, in the hands of local military leaders.
March 9, 2020 [UPDATE] General "Gus" Perna -- the Commander of the U.S. Army Materiel Command -- is one of only about a dozen four-star generals on a mission to fix the problem of military housing for so many military families affected."We are responsible, and we are going to lead our way through this," Perna said. "We are not going to abdicate our responsibility to the partners."Those "partners" are the CEOs of the seven private companies that own and run the base housing. Perna has monthly calls with them.In the last year, Perna said he has inventoried concerns in all 87,000 Army privatized homes, tracked issues and their fixes, and monitored displaced families.Photos from bases are hard to look at. They show the disgusting, and sometimes dangerous, conditions military families face inside their homes.So in order to ensure a safe future, the Army has to counter problems revealed in data that WCNC Charlotte has been digging through. The data shows specifics about issues reported on each base across the country. For example, in Fort Bragg, 67% of the people who responded to the survey said they had issues with maintenance, and 45% reported concerns about mold.
Military leaders hope will make a difference for families on bases is the newly signed Tenant bill of rights. The Secretary of
Defense, along with the heads of each service branch, signed the document.
"It's not going to happen overnight," Perna said. "A year is a long time, but this didn't happen in one year. This happened over numerous years. We have to continually build their trust and confidence in us."
The department commits to providing the full benefit of the rights by May 1, 2020. They include things like the right to live in a home that meets health and environmental standards, and the right to report concerns without fear of retaliation.