Back in 1811, our young nation made a "Promise" to care for its older and disabled veterans. This would be repayment for their sacrifices in defending liberty.
In 1811, the US Navy urged Congress to pass legislation to create a Home in Philadelphia "for destitute Navy sailors and Marines". An interim Naval Hospital opened in the former country mansion of the renowned Pemberton family in Philadelphia. This Hospital offered state-of-the-art care to our former seamen.
The permanent Naval Asylum opened in 1834. "Inmates" at the Naval Home were expected to work to earn their keep. Many had light duty jobs in machine shops. With permission many would ship off on leave for months at a time.
For 142 years this facility served America's former sailors. In 1976 the Naval Home relocated to Gulfport, MS on about 40 acres of prime waterfront land sitting on the Mississippi Sound. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina destroyed the AFRH-G building, and the Residents were transferred to the Washington community. Plans for a new building were soon approved with the support of the US Congress. By October 2010 a modern new complex opened to hundreds of residents.
By 1851 momentum had grown to fund a Soldiers' Home in Washington, D.C.. General Winfield Scott was a hero in the Mexican-American War. He was paid reparations in lieu of ransacking Mexico City. So, Scott promptly paid off his troops and gave the rest to Congress-petitioning it to open a home for old and infirm soldiers.
The Old Soldiers' Home began with just one "inmate". Before long, more soldiers moved in, and they outgrew that cottage. So a larger "Scott" dormitory was built.
Inmates were expected to work to earn their keep. The Soldiers' Home had a 300-acre dairy farm, so inmates could cultivate food and remain self-sufficient. In the 20th Century, the Home evolved with the times as the focus shifted away from work toward leisure. As the military evolved, the Soldiers' Home would go on to admit airmen-and women. And, the cow pastures became a nine-hole golf course and resident gardens.
Both asylums were self-sufficient in the 1800s. All inmates were expected to work and contribute to the daily operation of farms that supplied all their needs. Uniforms were issued, reveille was called at 0500, and inmates marched to supper. Through the 1900s and after World War II, the two Homes evolved with the times with an emphasis on leisure and recreation. In 1991 both Homes joined forces and became the AFRH.
That would be a nice story to tell, except that like almost all other things related to military personnel now days, and specifically military retirees, it has been decided that military retirees don't pay enough of their retirement costs.
Active duty military enlisted members and warrant officers contributed $6.8 million to the AFRH in 2015 through paycheck deductions of 50 cents per month. However, that does not cover the cost of operating the homes.
So now many residents at the AFRH ? particularly those with higher incomes? will begin paying higher monthly fees in October as officials look to cover more of their operating costs, shore up AFRH finances and decrease the need for taxpayer dollar bailouts.
According to an email TREA has received from a resident in the Gulf Port home, "For independent residents, on October 1, 2018 it has been announced the fee will increase 50% to 100% !!! From 40 to 60 % of gross income with a maximum of $3,054 from a maximum of $1,458 (over 100% increase))."
And those increases will not be phased in, they will jump immediately.
Now we want to be clear. Living at one of the AFRH homes was not promised to every military retiree. However, the possibility of living there was available to every retiree.
But just like so many other things involving military retirees these days, polititicians and military leaders trip all over themselves to praise veterans and military personnel, exept when it comes to supporting them financially because, well - they're just too expensive. "They don't pay enough for what they get, whether it's prescription drugs or other medical services, or for using the commissaries, and now, for living in one of the AFRH homes" seems to be the prevailing attitude.
This is outrageous and TREA is continually fighting to stop these benefit cuts. We will be looking into what is happening at AFRH and see if there is any way of changing this new policy.