October 06, 2023

Warren, Tillis Seek Answers from DoD Following Reports of Inadequate Housing within Military Program

“DoD must act to address remaining challenges, including ensuring that data collected by the private housing partners is accurate.”

Text of Letter (PDF)

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) sent a letter to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin raising concerns that Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP) families had to pay out of pocket to modify their homes to meet their families’ needs and asking for additional information about DoD’s oversight of the program.  Senators Warren and Tillis previously wrote to private military housing companies in 2020 and DoD in 2021, raising concerns over the lack of accessible and adaptable housing, and the continued lack of oversight of EFMP.

“There is a clear need for additional actions by DoD as well as oversight from Congress in order to address concerns about the EFMP program raised by residents, surveys, Government Accountability Office reports, and Congressional investigations and testimony,” wrote the lawmakers. “The incremental improvements and continued oversight challenges make the lives of servicemembers and their families difficult and raise questions about morale and readiness which also impact retention.”

Originally started in 1979, the EFMP was created to provide support to U.S. military families who have a family member with “a physical, emotional, developmental, or intellectual disorder requiring specialized services.” However, numerous media reports, military family surveys, Congressional investigations and hearings, as well as GAO reports have revealed the need for extensive improvements to the EFMP.

Based on reports and information provided by the DoD, the lawmakers raised the following outstanding concerns:

  • Some EFMP-designated families are forced to pay out of their own pockets to make their housing meet the standards under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Data DoD provided revealed that several Army installations reported families funding ADA accommodations. This included a tenant paying for the installation and removal of a therapy pool. 
  • DoD should centralize and standardize housing waitlists and wait times for families. DoD’s ability to track and maintain housing waitlists and wait times is necessary to ensure that military families are able to move in a timely manner and obtain appropriate housing, and to ensure Military Housing Privatization Initiative (MHPI) companies are complying with disability statutes. Military Housing Offices (MHOs) for the Army and Marine Corps reported they didn’t have access to companies’ wait list information. Only some Air Force andNavy installations could report wait times. 
  • DoD must improve the accuracy of tracking the availability of ADA housing and housing-related complaints from servicemembers. EFMP offices for the Army and Air Force do not track this information. While the Navy and the Marine Corps EFMP offices collect request information, they do not track complaints, leaving DoD unable to monitor if MHPI companies are ADA-compliant, and ensure servicemembers and their families receive the housing they deserve.
  • DoD processes raise concerns about individual privacy. Survey respondents revealed that the housing process is “outrageous” and entails an extensive amount of paperwork that requires “an uncomfortable amount of information” pertaining to their health status. In response to questions about this concern, DoD failed to adequately address these concerns.

The letter also requests more information on processes to identify disability-accommodation needs, remedies available to families, and processes to standardize EFMP policies across the services by October 19.

Senator Warren has long fought to secure safe and accessible housing and protect the rights and wellbeing of military families.

  • In June 2023, Senators Warren, Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), and Representatives Sara Jacobs (D-Calif.) and Stephanie Bice (R-Okla.) reintroduced the bipartisan Military Housing Readiness Council Act, which would provide a platform for oversight and accountability of privatized military housing to give military families a voice and bring together experts to ensure military families have the safe housing they deserve.
  • In December 2022, Senators Warren, Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), and Tim Kaine (D-Va.), all members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio.) sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin expressing concern over reports that military families are being forced to sign non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) with privatized military housing companies in order to receive compensation for poor housing conditions.
  • In February 2022, during a Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) hearing, Warren pressed Pentagon nominees for tough oversight as they improve military housing conditions.
  • In January 2022, Senator Warren requested Secretary Austin for his public commitment to respond and make a priority to her requests about military housing issues during a SASC hearing.
  • In July 2021, Senator Warren announced improving military housing as one of her key priorities for FY 2022 NDAA. 
  • In March 2021, Senators Warren and Tillis sent letters to Department of Defense (DoD) Secretary Lloyd Austin and Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Marcia Fudge seeking information regarding the availability of accessible housing and accommodations for military families with disability-related needs living in on-base installations owned and managed by private military housing companies.
  • In January 2021, Senator Warren asked Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin III for his public commitment to respond to her requests regarding military housing issues and to pledge that he will make fixing this problem a priority. In response, the Secretary committed to doing both.
  • In December 2020, Senators Warren and Tillis sent letters to top executives at six major private military housing companies requesting information about the on-base housing units they developed and manage to determine whether military families are being denied access to Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant housing.
  • In February 2020, Senator Warren and then-Congresswoman Deb Haaland sent a letter to DoD urging the agency to use the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's (CFPB) Consumer Complaint Database as a model when implementing its new military housing quality database for servicemembers and their families. The new required housing quality database results from an amendment led by Senator Warren to the Fiscal Year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) in response to widespread reports of substandard, privatized military housing for servicemembers.
  • In July 2019, Senator Warren and then-Congresswoman Deb Haaland announced that several provisions from the Military Housing Oversight and Service Member Protection Act which the lawmakers introduced in April 2019, passed the Senate as part of the FY2020 NDAA.
  • In May 2019, Senator Warren released the findings from her three-month long investigation of the deeply flawed Military Housing Privatization Initiative (MHPI) and of five private companies that have contracts with the military services to provide on-base housing under the program.
  • In February 2019, Senator Warren sent letters to five of the nation's largest private military housing developers to request information about their partnership agreements with the Department of Defense (DoD). The senator’s letter follows a series of disturbing new reports that reveal unsafe and unsanitary conditions in privatized, on-base housing for military personnel and their families.