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Military Families with Disabilities Deserve Better

For over 25 years military families with disabilities have had their rights violated. In 1996, the US government moved to privatize military housing with the Military Housing Privatization Initiative (MHPI). Private companies formed Limited Liability Companies (LLCs) in coordination with the US government. The lands were leased for the housing units they were overseeing from the government as well. These Public Private Venture (PPV) companies also receive financial assistance from the US government in the form of loans and grants(subsidies).Military residents of these PPV-run military housing communities who have a disability may request what is known as a "reasonable accommodation." Reasonable accommodations may be requested if the resident's housing unit does not meet the safety and livability needs that are necessitated by the resident's disability. Since the inception of the MHPI, there have been many documented cases of these PPV companies refusing reasonable accommodation requests or approving but then forcing the residents to pay for them.

Under the Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, it is unlawful to refuse to make reasonable accommodations to rules, policies, practices, or services when such accommodations may be necessary to afford persons with disabilities an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling and public and common use areas. Reasonable accommodations also include any structural changes that may be necessary. Under Section 504, reasonable accommodations must be provided and paid for by the housing provider unless providing them would be an undue financial and administrative burden or a fundamental alteration of the program. In such cases, the provider is still required to provide any other reasonable accommodation up to the point that would not result in an undue financial and administrative burden on the particular recipient and/or constitute a fundamental alteration of the program.Also under section 504, a housing provider falls under the requirements if they are a "recipient of federal financial assistance." Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 broadly defines federal financial assistance to include "grants and loans of federal funds, the grant or donation of federal property and interests in property, the detail of federal personnel, the sale and lease of, and permission to use, federal property or interest in such property without consideration or at a nominal consideration, and any federal agreement, arrangement, or other contract which has as one of its purposes the provision of assistance."

Since PPV companies lease the government land for the housing communities, receive federal loans and grants, and/or have formed a federal agreement with the provision of assistance, they must abide by the laws set forth in Section 504.

The law is clear, yet the PPV companies and the DOD refuse to acknowledge it. Every time, over the last 25 years, that these PPV companies have refused or forced military families to pay for reasonable accommodations, they were violating the law. The questions must be asked, why do these companies get to pick and choose which laws to abide by? When will the DOD start protecting their military families' rights? Especially their most vulnerable, military families with disabilities. Readiness starts with a safe home.

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