Military spouses will be part of new working group to oversee privatized housing problems

WASHINGTON, D.C. — From long deployments overseas, to operations in the U.S., active-duty service members make major sacrifices to serve.


Because of those demanding commitments, it’s often their spouses who run things at home.

“The spouses, we’re tough,” said Breanna Bragg, whose husband is in the Army. “I feel like you have to be tough to be a military spouse.”

READ: Lawmakers press DOD for answers about poor quality military housing

The Braggs used to live in privatized military housing on a base in Virginia with their two kids.

We told you how they dealt with mold, sewage and dead animals in the wall cavities and were displaced for months.

They have been in ongoing legal battles with the housing company over its handling of these problems.

The family rejected a settlement offer last year that would have required a non-disclosure agreement prohibiting them from talking to anyone about their experiences.

“What happened to my family, it should never happen to any other family,” said Bragg.

Now, the 2024 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) includes some new military housing reforms aimed at helping families.

A big change for the families is the creation of a military housing working group, which will include Defense Department officials and military spouses – giving the spouses a seat at the table when discussing what needs to be done to address housing problems.

The working group will include the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Energy, Installations, and Environment, one member from each military branch, one spouse of a member of each branch, and other DoD officials.

According to the NDAA, the housing working group will “review and make recommendations to the Secretary of Defense on policies for covered military housing, including inspections practices and resident surveys” among other housing issues.

READ: ‘We’re calling out for help:’ Military families demand accountability for housing problems

The housing working group will be required to meet at least two times a year and will submit annual reports to Congress.

“The input from a spouse who has gone through a housing crisis is vital,” said Bragg. “We’re normally the ones who are writing up the reports of what was going on in our homes. Sending out the emails. Reaching out to Congress.”

The creation of the new housing working group comes after multiple investigations in Congress that focused on unsafe living conditions at privatized military housing on bases around the country.

Last year, a Senate report revealed one of the largest providers of privatized military housing was accused of continuing to put the health and safety of military families at risk, even after the company pleaded guilty to fraud.

A government watchdog report last year also uncovered some military families living in privatized housing still did not have the ability to dispute concerns over living conditions, despite requirements in the law for this process to be in place.

Sen. Jon Ossoff (D-GA) launched a bipartisan inquiry into the health impact on military families in unsafe living conditions.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) led a letter that called on the DoD to stop the use of NDAs for military families offered settlement agreements over housing problems.

While Bragg said the military housing working group is a positive step forward, she argues more work still needs to be done.

“The verbiage was interesting because it said the [housing working group] can give recommendations for policy change, which is great, but you know families who are in crisis need more than just recommendations. Sometimes they need immediate support,” said Bragg. “I think there really needs to be a regulatory body that can monitor military housing issues.”

READ: Report reveals poor living conditions at military barracks are impacting readiness, mental health

Bragg also wants the NDAs, like the one her family was faced with, banned altogether.

The 2024 NDAA does include a provision that requires landlords presenting a proposed NDA to notify the tenant of their right to seek legal counsel to review the terms and implications of signing the agreement within 10 days of presenting the NDA.

“Until concrete legislation and policies are made for it to never happen again, it’s just going to keep happening to families unfortunately,” said Bragg.

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