Military News

Retirees can’t afford rent at AFRH. A plan to fix it would attract younger, female residents

In April rate increases for residents at the Armed Forces Retirement Home in Gulfport and Washington D.C. were announced. The rates are currently capped at 40 percent of their income but that will change to 60 percent. The increases will be phased in over a three-year period, the first increase taking place on Jan. 1.
In April rate increases for residents at the Armed Forces Retirement Home in Gulfport and Washington D.C. were announced. The rates are currently capped at 40 percent of their income but that will change to 60 percent. The increases will be phased in over a three-year period, the first increase taking place on Jan. 1. amccoy@sunherald.com

The crowd at the Armed Forces Retirement Home could become a little livelier if Congress approves a plan to try to get the home back in the black.

Residents unable to pay a rent increase of up to 106 percent are leaving, wiping out the waiting list to get in the homes for enlisted men and women at Gulfport and Washington. Occupancy at Gulfport last week was 86 percent.

Retired Maj. Gen. Stephen T. Rippe, the chief executive officer of the homes, wants to change that.

“Our average age is 83 and we’re 90 percent male,” he said in a teleconference last week. “Most individuals wait until their spouse expires before they come here.

“We wanted to give our veteran enlisted population the opportunity to come here and enjoy the lifestyle here while they’re younger and more vibrant and can enjoy their married life here. Our goal is to drive that age down to 75 or 76 the next few years.”

Residents of the Armed Forces Retirement Home in Gulfport must decide to stay or leave after a substantial rate increase was announced in April. The increase will be phased in over three years with the first increase on Jan 1.

As it stands now, husbands and wives can live together at the home provided both are eligible. Residents must be at least 60 years old and have 20 years of active duty service, a service-related disability or service in a combat zone and are unable to earn a living.

A dwindling number of women also are eligible because they served a women’s component such as the Women Accepted for Volunteer Military Services or the Women’s Army Corp.

If the bill passes (the conference report with the AFRH changes has passed the house and awaits action in the Senate), Chief Operating Office James Branham and the administrators of the two homes could allow some spouses to join their husband regardless of military service.

Public Affairs Office Christopher Kelly said the Gulfport home has six couples — two in special suites for couples, two in adjacent rooms and two in separate rooms that are in separate levels of care.

There are no couples living in D.C. where the rooms are much smaller.

World War II veteran William Allen married Jamie Simpson Shubert on Sunday, November 20, 2016, at the chapel on the grounds of the Armed Forced Retirement Home in Gulfport. The couple shares how they first met before taking their vows.

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