GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - There's a big change coming to the Armed Forces Retirement Home due to a $22 million a year budget shortfall. Currently, residents at the Armed Forces Retirement Home pay either a maximum fee of $1,458 a month for independent living or 40 percent of their gross income. But come October 1, the maximum fee will be $3,054 for independent living or 60 percent of their income, whichever is less.
Residents learned Monday morning their resident fees would go up in the Fall. While some residents said the increase is reasonable, others said it makes the Gulfport campus unaffordable.
Eighty-two-year-old resident Susan Meckley said she sold the boat she lived on in Hawaii to move to the home a year ago. She said the change to resident fees isn't something she can afford.
"I've thought, they've gotta be joking. It couldn't be true. I'm paying $1,400 and something now and they want $2,100 and something. And I will not have enough money left over to pay for my car and insurance and whatever," Meckley explained.
Unless Meckley can figure out a way to pay up she said she'll have no choice, but to move out. Armed Forces Retirement Home CEO Stephen Rippe said the rate increase is still less than most nursing facilities. And he said it is still a bargain for residents who get three meals a day, free transportation and free long-term medical insurance.
"This is one of the most difficult things I've had to do because we know that this causes angst among our residents. No one wants to pay more," said Rippe.
Eighty-five-year-old resident Wayland Webb said the increase, which is more than double what he's paying now, isn't a deal breaker for him.
"It's still a good deal as far as the home goes. It's okay with me. I've still got a lot of money left. If you go out to a nursing home outside, you're going to pay about twice that. It's a beautiful place. It's like a resort more than anything else," said Webb.
Seventy-seven-year-old resident Chuck Pinney said though he can afford the new rate, the change still surprised him.
"I knew something was coming, but I didn't realize it would be that exorbitant amount. A lot of the WW II veteran guys in here, they don't make that much," Pinney said.
"We are the only independent group in the federal government. All enlisted people, me and every enlisted person past, present and in the future are going to pay into one trust fund. We should be able to make a decision. And the leadership from the past 10 years caused us to be in the financial difficulty that we're in today," said resident Raymond Ross.
Rippe said he's been tasked to figure out ways to close the gap in the budget deficit. Some of those ways include looking at charging a fee for weddings in their wedding chapel and charging a fee for VA parking.