Jarl Bliss: Lincoln Military Housing Enacting Improvements
October 23, 2019
We agree fully with the Sept. 24 editorial published in The Virginian-Pilot and Daily Press, officials and most importantly, our servicemen and women the quality of their housing and customer service must get better. That’s why we at Lincoln Military Housing have instituted a series of reforms to improve service and are working with our military partners and congress on programmatic reforms. Our strategic plan is focusing on four key areas identified by residents:
- Greater communication/transparency
- More accountability and oversight
- Clear protocols/procedures to address mold, pest, and other issues
- Dispute resolution
To improve communication, we created another oversight position exclusively accountable to residents to ensure all homes are of good quality. We expanded resident advocate roles, where residents who do not work for Lincoln intercede to improve communication and facilitate resolution.
We have also met with many families, the Military Officers Association of America and the National Military Family Association, to gather recommendations for improvements.
Lincoln also offers to residents a mobile app to simplify placement and track service requests.
To encourage feedback, we now offer residents an anonymous service survey at LMHSERVICE.com in addition to surveys conducted at move-in, work order completion and at move-out.
We have also instituted a door-to-door outreach program where our employees connect with residents to gauge satisfaction multiple times a year. If residents are away, they are invited by letter to contact Lincoln staff with any concerns or suggestions.
To increase accountability and contractor oversight, we have boosted staffing to better respond to resident requests and work orders including regional maintenance trainers, senior customer service representatives, quality control managers, and senior facilities managers.
We accelerated our survey process so work order surveys are delivered the same day a work order is completed. Those results are then shared with our government partner for added insight and oversight.
We have strengthened oversight and quality control for work being performed by Lincoln, our subcontractors and vendors. If contractors or maintenance employees do not perform according to our high standards, either for quality of work or the way in which they treat residents, they are dismissed or removed from approved provider lists.
We want to implement clear protocols and procedures for mold, pest, and other household issues.
We retained a third-party mold remediation expert to review protocols and procedures to ensure best practices and customer satisfaction and confirm our current processes exceed industry standards and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency guidelines.
Our maintenance staff, technicians and outside contractors are all required to meet industry standards for training, education, licensing and accreditation for the particular services they provide.
All new employees are required to take mold, asbestos and lead-based paint training within the first week of their employment and annually. In addition to the standard environmental hazard training mentioned above, each Lincoln maintenance employee is required to pass a rigorous mold training course annually.
If a certain mold situation requires it, higher-level mold professionals and industrial hygienists are retained to conduct the remediation process and ensure issues were addressed properly.
Lincoln has engaged with local installation and service branch environmental teams to assist in pest control issues impacted by areas around housing.
We monitor pest control service requests performed by vendors and follow-up to ensure effective resolution.
Finally, Lincoln has established a formal and independent dispute resolution system in Hampton Roads where professional mediators are helping resolve disputes expeditiously and fairly.
When a maintenance situation requires a family to be dislocated, we pay for that family’s hotel stay or provide them with temporary housing on the base at no charge to them if it is available. We also pay for personal items to be cleaned or replaced as necessary.
We work with residents and the military service partner to ensure any charges are justified and give service members a number of options to meet the terms of the agreement.
Feedback from residents has been generally positive. Many of these reforms were instituted last spring, and since then we have received over 2,000 resident surveys where the average score from families has ranged from “superior” to “exceptional.”
We realize we have more work to do to regain the trust of many residents, but we are committed to transformational change and providing a high level of satisfaction to the military families we have the honor to serve.
Jarl Bliss is the president of Lincoln Military Housing.