Military Spouse Magazine

JAN 2019

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Page 14 of 35

ADVOCACY IN ACTION: ISSUE: POOR CONDITION OF BASE HOUSING Numerous military families have complained about health and safety concerns while liv- ing in base housing. From lead poisoning to unclean drinking water to mold and asbestos, some base housing does not offer the same qual- ity and standards that can be found in off-base neighborhoods. Complaints against base hous- ing conditions are complicated by the fact that housing is managed by PPV companies. And, because the base is federal land, the base and the private management companies can restrict access to outside organizations like the Health Department, EPA, and pest control companies. Military spouse Crystal Cornwall has be- come an advocate for military families whose complaints against base housing are not being taken seriously. She has spoken to hundreds of families from 30 different bases, and each one has already reported problems to hous- ing and their PPV. She has followed the steps above to document complaints, gather support, and help military families become advocates for themselves by using available resources. Crystal said, "We cannot continue to allow the military and PPVs to systematically poison our families and our children. We have to hold them accountable. The only way to bring about change is through legislation and litigation. When is enough sickness and death enough? Service members have to stand up for their families." ISSUE: IMPROPER BILLING Soon after the government rolled out the Resident Energy Conservation Program (RECP) in 2012, military families noticed inconsistencies in their electric bills. Older base hous- ing units were not wired individually, so some residents were charged for their neighbor's bills or even for public street lamps. When residents complained about improper bill- ing, the housing and energy companies blamed each other. Meanwhile, military families received energy bills for hundreds of dollars and had no way to fight them. In December 2016, after hearing countless complaints from military families, I began documenting and compiling evidence on my website The Seasoned Spouse. I soon had ac- counts of a systemic problem across the country, at multiple bases from all branches. With this evidence, we gained the attention of local news stations and the state congressman. Our petition to end the unfair billing practices of the RECP received over 50,000 signatures. ISSUE: POOR MOVING PROCESSES During PCS moves, it is common to encounter problems with the moving company, which can range from accidental damage to intentional theft or neglect. This summer, after hearing horrific moving stories from numerous military families, one spouse decided to do something about it. Megan Harless created a petition citing the problems with the current PCS process, including: • Moving companies not properly vetting employees. This prevented the em- ployees from accessing the base on moving day, which hindered moves. • Companies that negligently handled household goods continuing to receive government contracts for future PCS moves. • Families filing claims receiving a small percentage of reimbursement money. Since the petition launched in August 2018, it has collected over 100,000 sig- natures and gained the attention of multiple leaders in the military and in Congress. Four senators have collaborated to draft a letter calling for solutions and greater transparency in the PCS process. The petition is creating changes in legislation that will bring improvements to military families. Megan had this to say about the petition and legislation process: "Doing my research and knowing that it was a problem military wide, and that many people would care about it, I was able to open up my audience even wider. Don't expect miracles overnight. There is a way that things are done in Washington. Sometimes things move fast, but it's usually slow." H

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