Q: What is the Armed Forces Retirement Home?
A: The U.S. armed forces have provided retirement homes for veterans since the beginning of the republic. One was first established in Philadelphia in 1811 for Navy veterans, supported by a 25-cent pay deduction, along with fines and forfeitures, from active-duty personnel. In the late 1960s the Naval Home moved south to Gulfport, Miss.
In 1991 Congress combined the Naval Home on the Mississippi coast and the U.S. Soldiers and Airmen's Home, located in Washington, D.C., since 1850, into one federal entity and later renamed it the Armed Forces Retirement Home.
Everyone in the military except the Coast Guard now contributes 50 cents a month to help cover expenses for the two facilities.
Q: Where is it?
A: There are two campuses, one right on the coast in Gulfport, Miss., and one in the heart of Washington, but the Gulfport campus was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The residents were evacuated to the Washington campus, although some made other arrangements. The federal government plans to reconstruct the campus within the next three to five years.
Q: What are the benefits?
A: Residents are free to come and go in the gated community, are given comfortable rooms, three meals day, medical care and access to a full-service bar and lounge with large-screen televisions, a campus pharmacy and entertainment and cultural programs. The Washington campus features a nine-hole golf course, a bowling alley, a ceramic studio and a fitness center.
Q: What's the historical interest?
A: The Washington site is also home to history: The large house on the grounds now known as the "Lincoln Cottage" was the summer White House for U.S. Presidents Chester Arthur, Rutherford B. Hayes, James Buchanan, and Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln spent one-fourth of his presidency at the home, which is on higher ground from the White House and benefited from cooler breezes during oppressive summer months. The Lincoln Cottage is being restored and is projected to open to the public in September 2007.
Q: Who qualifies?
A: Veterans are eligible to become AFRH residents if their active-duty service in the military was at least 50 percent enlisted, warrant officer or limited duty officer, and they are:
_Veterans with 20 or more years of active duty service and are at least 60 years old, or
_Veterans unable to earn a livelihood due to a service-connected disability, or
_Veterans unable to earn a livelihood due to injuries, disease, or disability, and who served in a war theater or received hostile fire pay, or
_Female veterans who served prior to 1948.
Married couples are welcome, but both must be eligible in their own right.
Q: How much does it cost?
A: Resident fees for Armed Forces Retirement Home—Washington:
_Independent-living residents: 35 percent of total current income, but not to exceed $1,107 each month.
_Assisted-living residents: 40 percent of total current income, but not to exceed $1,660 each month.
_Long-term care residents, 65 percent of total current income, but not to exceed $2,767 each month.
Source: Armed Forces Retirement Home, http://www.afrh.gov/
(c) 2006, McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.
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