WASHINGTON — One of the largest providers of privatized military housing is accused of continuing to put the health and safety of military families at risk, even after the company pleaded guilty to fraud in a federal investigation, according to a new report released by a Senate subcommittee Tuesday.
The report from the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations looked into complaints against Balfour Beatty Communities, LLC., which operates more than 43,000 on-base homes in 26 states, according to the report.
The focus of the investigation was on Balfour Beatty’s management of military housing at Fort Gordon in Georgia and Sheppard Air Force Base in Texas.
“PSI’s inquiry found numerous examples since late 2019 of poor conditions in Balfour’s military housing and disregard of safety concerns and environmental hazards that put military families at risk,” the report said.
Captain Samuel Choe and his wife and three kids used to live in military housing at Fort Gordon run by Balfour Beatty.
Choe testified before the Senate subcommittee about how mold and mildew led to serious rashes and health problems for their daughter.
“There is negligence across the board here,” said Choe. “She is diagnosed with a condition called severe atopic dermatitis to the point where it’s potentially fatal. Unfortunately, the basis of her condition was founded upon what she was exposed to while we resided on post at Fort Gordon.”
Choe said the damage has been life-changing for his family.
“The literal scars of her experience haunt her and plague her to this day,” said Choe.
The report said Choe’s experience is sadly not uncommon.
It found Balfour Beatty’s leadership repeatedly “failed to properly respond to both repairs and environmental hazards.”
It pointed to cases of water leaks, collapsed ceilings and flooring and concerns about asbestos.
“Neglect, misconduct and abuse that persisted even after Balfour Beatty plead guilty to a scheme to defraud the United States between 2013 and 2019,” said Sen. Jon Ossoff, Chair of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.
“These men and women should expect to live in conditions that will not damage the health and safety of themselves and their families,” said Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.), Ranking Member of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.
The report said federal agencies will “need to conduct more robust oversight” of Balfour Beatty, but some witnesses called for the company to stop providing military housing altogether.
“Service members have lost their faith in companies like Balfour Beatty due to their continued disregard for the health and safety of our military families,” said Rachel Christian, Chief Legislative Officer for Armed Forces Housing Advocates. “We believe that ending the partnership with Balfour Beatty is the only way to ensure the readiness of our service members.”
In a statement, a spokesperson for Balfour Beatty Communities said: “We are disappointed that the PSI’s report 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 report, which was released before the hearing, includes multiple inaccuracies and mischaracterizations, which the company tried to correct before it was issued and will address again following the hearing. While we continually seek to improve, as an operator of 43,000 residences we are inevitably going to have to deal with challenges. 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.”
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