Senators outraged by testimony about living conditions on military bases

Unhealthy conditions found at military bases

Washington — The Senate Armed Services Committee got an earful Wednesday from military families who are forced to live in unhealthy conditions. The plague of problems on bases across the country includes mold, lead paint and even rats.

Senators were outraged to hear testimony about the conditions in some of the 200,000 homes that are on military bases and managed by private contractors. Marine spouse Crystal Cornwall spoke of issues she had at Camp Pendleton, as well as issues other families had at Camp Lejeune.

"I have felt the helplessness of a fellow Marine Corps. spouse as she held her new baby and sobbed while we stood under a collapsing, moldy ceiling in her home in Camp Lejeune," she said.

Cornwall helped organize a Facebook group that now has nearly 2,000 members who have shared their horror stories. Airman Josh Saindon and his wife, Lacy, have lived in a house at Ft. Meade in Maryland for over two years.

"We started noticing issues from almost the very beginning," he said.

Appliances started breaking and siding on their eight-year-old house was warped. They suspected mold growing on the floor and walls was affecting their children's health.

Families complain of mold, lead paint, rats in military housing ahead of hearing

The Saindons' rent is covered by the Air Force, which pays a basic housing allowance of nearly $2,200 a month directly to contractor Corvias Military Living.

Its CEO was at Wednesday's hearing, one of several housing company executives grilled by senators.

"We let down some of our residents. I am sorry and we are going to fix it," said Corvias CEO John Picerne.

Shannon Raszadin, a Navy wife, collected complaints from more than 7,000 tenants across the nation through her group the Military Family Advisory Network.

"They shared stories of black mold, of lead paint, of rats, roaches, bats," she said.

She said many service members don't have any recourse.

"They don't have the opportunity to withhold a rent check. They don't have the luxury of going to look at housing before they move," Raszadin said.

In 2016, the Defense Department's own inspector general cited "pervasive" health and safety hazards at housing facilities. A Department of Defense spokeswoman told CBS News that the military and its housing partners "continue to work together to review housing conditions" and "evaluate policies and procedures."

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    Jan Crawford is CBS News Chief Political and Legal Correspondent. She is from "Crossroads," Alabama.