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Why rent is about to double for vets at the Armed Forces Retirement Home in Gulfport, DC

Veterans living at the Armed Forces Retirement Home in Gulfport will see a rent increase later this year, officials announced Monday.
Veterans living at the Armed Forces Retirement Home in Gulfport will see a rent increase later this year, officials announced Monday. amccoy@sunherald.com File

Rent will double for some veterans who live at the Armed Forces Retirement Home in Gulfport and in Washington, D.C., beginning Oct. 1, to help cover the $22 million annual deficit to operate the homes.

Residents were informed in a meeting Monday that their rent, currently capped at 40 percent of their income, now will be capped at 60 percent.

That means rent will go from a maximum of $1,458 a month to a high of $3,054 a month, which the AFRH says is the actual cost of care.

About 10 percent of residents in independent living are expected to pay the new maximum fees, according to administration at the AFRH.

No residents in assisted living, long-term care or memory support are expected to pay maximum fees, and their rent will decrease from 80 percent of their income to 70 percent.

Rent for independent living includes a private room in the building in Gulfport that overlooks the Mississippi Sound, all meals, a wellness center, a doctor on site or on call, dental, vision and other medical care, all medication and transportation.

Even with the fee increase, AFRH CEO retired Army Maj. Gen. Stephen Rippe said he believes it is as good as any retirement community at any cost in America.

He took over in November after the AFRH fired its COO for not pursuing revenue-generating strategies.

The cost is right at the national average for independent living in a home, he said, and also includes all medication, activities and transportation. There is no entrance fee or contract.

Every resident was given a letter informing them of the new fee structure based on their income. Rippe said the business manager will work with each one personally.

The retirement home is open to veterans regardless of income, so while some residents with very limited income may pay as little as $400 a month under the new guidelines, 20 percent have income of more than $60,000 a year and Rippe said they can afford to pay more without being subsidized by taxpayers.

If plans for increasing revenues and cutting costs materialize, there's a chance that rent for veterans could go down, he said.

AFRH can accommodate 1,056 residents at the Washington and Gulfport campuses, but it currently has 858 residents.

In recent years, Congress has covered the shortfall for operation of the home, but has directed the AFRH and Department of Defense to increase revenue and cut costs.

“We're really trying to run this home like a business,” Rippe said. They also are pursuing opportunities to develop 80 acres of valuable land at the home in Washington into mixed-use, he said, along with renting at market rate several buildings on the property to increase revenue.

John Witt visits Lola for the first time at her new adopted home with Liz and Thanos Kosmopoulos in Biloxi on Tuesday, August 1, 2017. Witt had to find a new home for Lola after moving into the Armed Forces Retirement Home, which does not allow pe

Mary Perez: 228-896-2354, @MaryPerezSH

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