Disability Accessible Housing on Base
by PCSgrades Staff - August 5th, 2022
When my husband and I first moved into military housing in 2017, we didn’t know disability accessible housing was available. Floor plans for accessible homes were not on the Fort Drum Mountain Community Homes website. I was too shy to ask, and thought I wasn’t “disabled enough” to be eligible for an accessible home. At the time, all I needed was a lack of stairs, and that was available for a regular unit.
So I didn’t ask about other options.
The home we lived in at Fort Drum worked for us, but as my disabilities evolved over the years, I knew I’d have to find the courage to ask about accessible options at our next duty station.
When new orders arrived, I knew I needed to figure out housing before anything else. And in order to do that, I needed to ask about accessible housing. One story without stairs was still necessary, but there were other things I needed as well: lower cabinets, two bathrooms, etc.
I looked on the Fort Bliss housing website and again, the accessible housing options were not listed. I called the housing office and asked for a housing accommodation form. Within a week, I sent it back to the housing office and requested floor plans. The agent sent me a video walk-through of one of the homes (which she said were all identical). We were able to accept the home offered to us without additional modifications, but that is not the case for everyone.
An anecdote for you: We signed for our home sight unseen, and we knew it would not be ready for the first few weeks we were at Fort Bliss. Then orders changed, so we would arrive less than a week before our home was to be ready. And then, we got a call with news. The family currently in the house renewed their lease for an extra month, which meant hotel living for us for a good five weeks. With a three-year-old.
I won’t lie; it was hard. When we were able to move into our home, we were beyond ready. The accommodations I needed were true needs, so it was a relief to no longer have to make due with the hotel room that didn’t have them.
Here are some tips to get approved for what you need in an accessible home:
Request disability accommodations early. Let your leasing agent know you need the housing accommodation form when you submit your initial paperwork. The form differs slightly from base to base, so it is insufficient to have lived in accessible housing at a previous base. Each base’s housing office has their own.
Plan ahead. The housing accommodation form usually does ask for your PCM’s notes regarding the need for an accessible home. If you are enrolling or renewing in EFMP, bring the housing accommodation form with you. It saves you an extra appointment and streamlines the doctor’s notes for the chart.
Allow time for paperwork adjustments. Ensure that you are booked for a medical appointment time slot(s) with enough time to complete the paperwork. Go over the responses with the doctor so you avoid needing to return for the paperwork later, or having to re-do it. This is especially important when a civilian doctor who is unfamiliar with military paperwork, or a PCM who doesn’t know you or your needs well, is filling it out.
Be specific about what your family needs. Disability accessible housing is limited, both in the number of homes, and in what they offer (though changes can be made if you request them). If your family needs a one story home, make sure it’s stated. If you need a roll-in shower, make it explicit. Maintenance can’t personalize a home to your needs if they don’t know what your needs are.
Talk to your leasing agent about the next steps. Sometimes adjustments can be made before you move into your new home. Other times, the maintenance department may need to continue making changes when you are living in the home. If something needs to be done before you can move in--like a roll-in shower--let them know. Talk about it. Err on the side of over-communicating with housing. You don't need to share private medical information if you don't want to, but emphasize the importance of your family member’s needs being met.
Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP) If you are asking for disability accessible housing, you are likely enrolled (or plan to enroll) in the Exceptional Family Member Program. Ensure that the medical needs match what is written on the housing accommodation request (where applicable).
Want to know more about moving as an EFMP family? You'll find EFMP details on our article here.