Army Launches Registry for Troops, Families With Housing-Related Health Issues

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File photo of housing at the U.S. Army base at Fort Benning, Georgia. (Army Photo)
File photo of housing at the U.S. Army base at Fort Benning, Georgia. (Army Photo)

The Army has launched a health registry to track service members and families with illnesses or conditions that may be related to living in substandard military housing.

Army Surgeon General Lt. Gen. Nadja West sent a letter last week to 900 Army families who have filed work requests for their homes over health and safety concerns. According to the memo, first reported by Task & Purpose, U.S. Army Medical Command is establishing a "Housing Environmental Health Response Registry" and asking residents to respond.

"This registry is currently available to anyone and provides an opportunity to pursue further information and support regarding any health and safety concerns that may not have been addressed," West wrote in the letter, dated April 8.

The database will allow the Army to provide additional information on environmental health hazards in housing and assist residents in obtaining medical care for housing-related illnesses or concerns, according to West.

Military housing residents are invited to call the registry at any time. Callers will receive a questionnaire that lets them catalog information about their house or previous home, the type of housing and whether any family members experienced health problems related to the housing environment.

Army Public Health Center officials said the service wants to hear all residents' concerns "so we can make sure they are properly addressed."

"We have a team of trained professionals standing by to assist all callers," said John Resta, director of the U.S. Army Public Health Center. "They will document the caller's concerns and assist them with access to medical care if needed as well as referring any housing related concerns to the appropriate installation Department of Public Works."

Reports of mold and unsanitary conditions have plagued the Defense Department's privately managed base housing programs sporadically since 2011. In 2018, however, an extensive investigation by Reuters revealed problems that included widespread mold, faulty wiring, flaking lead-based paint and pest infestations.

An online survey by the Military Family Advisory Network found that of 14,558 respondents, 56 percent said they had negative or very negative experiences with their houses.

The scandal prompted the Army to inspect 100% of its privatized housing and pushed Congress to hold oversight hearings with military families, top military leaders and executives from the housing companies.

Spouses who spoke at the hearing and those who contacted Military.com attribute health problems -- including respiratory illnesses like asthma and bronchitis, gastrointestinal conditions and seizures -- to conditions in their homes.

Army officials said any service member who has lived in an Army home is welcome to contact the registry.

"The notification letter is intended to ensure that previously identified residences with work orders are the highest priority and the occupants of those homes are award of the creation of the registry," said Doug Holl, a spokesman for the Army Public Health Center. "The letter is not intended to isolate communication to only this audience."

The phone number for Army troops and families to call is (210) 295-3700 or (800) 984-8523 in the U.S. and overseas, DSN (312) 421-3700.

The Air Force and Navy did not respond by press time to questions about their outreach to affected families.

-- Patricia Kime can be reached at Patricia.Kime@Military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @patriciakime.

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