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Armed Forces Retirement Home


Armed Forces Retirement Home

In 1991 Congress incorporated the U.S. Naval Home (opened in 1834) and U. S. Soldiers' and Airmen's Home (founded in 1851) into an independent establishment of the Executive Branch of the Federal Government named the Armed Forces Retirement Home (AFRH) Agency. In 2002, the names of the two homes were officially changed to The Armed Forces Retirement Home - Gulfport and The Armed Forces Retirement Home - Washington.[1]

Both Homes are model retirement centers, where residents can maintain an independent lifestyle in an environment designed for safety, comfort and personal enrichment. Military veterans from all service branches can live at either Home. Over one thousand men and women, with an average age in the eighties, currently reside at the homes.[2] Residents are free to come and go as they please. Meals are served in the Dining Halls three times daily. The Wellness Center offers medical, dental, optometric and podiatry service on site. Extensive on-site recreational facilities (swimming pool, gym, movie theatre, computer game room, etc,) are available. While residents are welcome to park and use private vehicles and RVs at the Homes, in-house transportation is offered to local hospitals, military commissaries, exchanges and shopping. As residents age, “Independent Living Plus,” "Assisted Living" and “Long Term Custodial Care” are available in-house when necessary. Complete eligibility rules for entrance to the Armed Forces Retirement Home can be found at . Career military personnel have priority. Enlisted and Warrant Officers with a minimum of twenty years of service at age 60, veterans incapable of earning a livelihood because of a service-connected disability incurred in the line of duty, veterans who served in a War Zone or Hostile Fire Zone and are later found to be incapable of earning a livelihood, and women veterans who served before 12 July 1948, may be eligible.[3]


  • History 1
    • The English Roots 1.1
    • Naval Home Timeline 1.2
    • Soldiers Home Timeline 1.3
  • Quality of Life 2
    • 1834 2.1
    • 1851 2.2
    • Homicide at the Naval Home 2.3
    • I.G. Report - Old Soldiers Home 2.4
    • Today 2.5
      • Gulfport 2.5.1
      • Washington 2.5.2
  • Funding 3
  • AFRH and the Department of Veterans Affairs 4
  • Notable Buildings 5
    • Anderson Cottage 5.1
    • Scott Building 5.2
    • Sherman Building 5.3
    • Stanley Hall 5.4
    • Sheridan Building 5.5
    • Grant Building 5.6
  • Notes 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8


Para 42. Individual members of the profession of arms are distinguished from those of other professions by the "unlimited liability" they assume in their oaths of office. While members of some professions engage in dangerous tasks daily, only members of the Armed Forces can be ordered to place their lives in peril anywhere at any time. The obligations they undertake, risking life and well-being for the greater good, are in many ways extraordinary.
- U.S. Army Field Manual – 1

The English Roots

The colonial settlers brought with them from Britain ideas about the responsibilities of the individual towards his community, and of the community towards the volunteer soldier: "It was in the reign of Elizabeth, not long before the beginning of English colonization in America... What to do with...soldiers returning from her wars…. Able bodied and unemployed were given to riot, violence, theft. The disabled and maimed became vagabonds and beggars. The feudal system had been destroyed. Parliament passed the first statute …for relief of Souldiours (sic) " in the 1592-93 session. ....The Honor of our Nation, that such as have since the 25th day of March 1588, adventured their lives and lost their limbs... be relieved and rewarded...that others may be encouraged to perform the like." [4] During the 1680’s the restored Monarchy introduced a standing army of professional regiments. Rather than pay these troops a service pension upon retirement, King Charles II had erected an invalids home in 1690, now called the Royal Hospital Chelsea .[5]

Throughout the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries from New England to the Carolinas, laws were passed by the colonies to provided for the injured and wounded volunteer colonial soldiers back from the Indian Wars on the frontier. During the American Revolution both the states and the Continental Congress made provision for disability pensions,[6] but Congress was reluctant to fund so-called half-pay-for-life service pensions for commissioned officers, because they wanted no part of “Standing Armies,” or “Career Soldiers” and had no money in any event. In the end, Congress agreed to pay the Officers the equivalent of five years pay at the end of their service, and enlisted people got $80 dollars.[7] Following a peace treaty with Britain the Continental Navy was disbanded, and the Continental Army reduced to 80 men.

From that time until 1885 there were no retirement pensions for either Commissioned Officers or enlisted personnel. Finally, in 1885, retirement plans were provided for enlisted Army and enlisted Marines.[8] Navy enlisted had to wait until 1899 for a retirement pension.[9] The absence of retirement pensions drove efforts to establish homes for the disabled and decrepit soldiers and sailors.

Naval Home Timeline

In response to attacks by Barbary Pirates in the Mediterranean the new Federal Congress passed legislation in 1794 to build a small Navy,[10] and then as part of responding to French Privateer attacks on U.S. Merchant Marine shipping during the Quasi-War of 1798-1800 Congress passed a bill in 1798 for the establishment of doctors and marine hospitals at port cities to care for merchant sailors.[11] This Merchant Marine doctor & hospital service eventually evolved into the U.S. Public Health Service. The following year, 2 March 1799, an act of Congress authorized U. S. Navy Seamen admission to the Merchant Marine hospitals. Twenty cents per month was deducted from the Seamen’s pay and paid to what was then the “Naval Hospital Fund” for the purpose of medical care and hospitals for U.S. Naval personnel. In addition, all proceeds from fines or forfeitures charged misbehaving sailors and officers were added to the Naval Hospital Fund.[12] Today, all active duty personnel contribute Fifty cents a month to the “Armed Forces Retirement Home Trust Fund,” and fines and forfeitures are still deposited to the Trust Fund.[13]

On 26 February 1811 Congress passed an act authorizing construction of U.S. Naval Hospitals which included the phrase “…to provide a permanent asylum for disabled and decrepit navy officers, seamen, and marines.”[14] The addition of an “Asylum” (meaning “refuge” in 18th Century English) was in lieu of a retirement or service pension for naval personnel. This act eventually resulted in the purchase of the Pemberton Estate in 1826 for $17,000,[15] which came with a large mansion to be used as a hospital, and the decision to construct a new building for an asylum. William Strickland was selected as Architect and Contractor to build the Philadelphia Naval Asylum. What was to become Biddle Hall was completed in 1834. “The entire cost of the building, excluding the finishing of the attics, was $195,600: about four-ninths of which came from the Treasury directly, the remainder from the Hospital Fund.”[16] These Treasury funds were required because the Hospital Fund had gotten into trouble in the 1820’s when the Trustee’s[17] elected to invest fund assets in private equities rather than Treasury Bonds. From that time to the present, Naval Home Trust Funds have only invested with the U.S. Treasury. When the U.S. Soldiers’ Home and Trust Fund was created in 1851, some of its funds were invested in bonds issued by the states of Virginia and Missouri, from which little or no interest was received during the Civil War,[18] and in the future the Soldiers’ Home Trust Fund would also only be invested with Treasury.

Biddle Hall Today

Biddle Hall was used to house not only the home for pensioners, but the Asylum staff, a Naval Hospital, an insane asylum and a School for Naval Midshipmen, the predecessor of the

  • AFRH website
  • Gulf Coast News Sep 2006 article on the future for the Gulfport MS AFRH [2]
  • Steve Phillips (April 23, 2009). "Progress evident at new Armed Forces Retirement Home". WLOX. Retrieved 2009-04-27. 

External links

  • Goode, Paul R., The United States Soldiers’ Home, A History of its First Hundred Years, Privately Published, 1956, ISBN 9781 446 513477
  • Glasson, William H, Ph.D. Federal Military Pensions In the United States, Oxford University Press, New York, 1918
  • Kelly, Patrick J. Creating A National Home, Building the Veterans Welfare State, Harvard University Press, Cambridge MA. 1997
  • Hatch, Louis C., The Administration of the Revolutionary Army, New York, Longman Green & Co, 1904
  • Stockton, Chas H. LCDR, USN, “The Naval Asylum and Service Pensions for Enlisted Men,” Proceedings of the United States Naval Institute, Vol. XII, 1886, pp 51–67
  • Clark, Robert L., et al, “Privatization of Public-Sector Pensions,” accessed 20 Oct 2012
  • Mansfield, Edward D, “Life and Services of Gen Winfield Scott,” AS Barnes & Co. New York, 1852 (Note: a digitized Google Book – this appears to be a campaign biography for Gen Scott in the 1852 election)
  • Eisenhower, John S. D., “So Far From God: The U.S. War with Mexico, 1846-1848”, Univ. of Oklahoma, 2000
  • Davis, George B. BG, U.S. Army JAG, “A Treatise on Military Law of the United States,” New York, John Wiley & Sons, 1908
  • ”Opinions of the judge advocate general of the army: April 1, 1917 to December 31, 1917, Volume 1” By United States. Army. Judge Advocate General's Dept, United States. Judge-Advocate General's Dept. (Army), United States. Army. Office of the Judge Advocate General, Washington, GPO, 1919
  • Military Compensation Background Papers, Sixth Edition, May 2005, DOD, accessed 23 Oct 2012

NAPU Public Domain Reprint, ISBN 9 781146 069601

  • American Institute of Architects, A Guide to the Architecture of Washington. New York: Frederick A. Praeger, 1965.
  • Forman, Stephen M., A Guide to Civil War Washington. Washington, D.C.: Elliott and Clark, 1995.
  • Washington, D.C.: The A Guide to the Nation's Capital, Revised edition, Randall Bond Truett, Editor. New York: Hastings House, 1968.
  • Toll, Ian, Six Frigates: The Epic History of the Founding of the U.S. Navy [Kindle Edition] ISBN B000YJ66BO, W. W. Norton & Company (March 17, 2008)
  • Laws Relating to the Navy and the Marine Corps, and The Navy Department, July 1, 1865,


  1. ^ 24 USC CHAPTER 10 SECTION 411-ARMED FORCES RETIREMENT HOME, 01/03/2012 (112-90)
  2. ^ Summary of Performance and Financial Information (FY 11) pp 6-7; Accessed 21 Sep 2011
  3. ^ Armed Forces Retirement Home website;
  4. ^ Glasson, William Henry, Federal Military Pensions in the United States, Oxford University Press, New York, 1918, pp 9-11
  5. ^ Glasson, pg 11
  6. ^ Glasson, pp 13-19
  7. ^ Glasson, pp 23-4, pg 41; also see Hatch, L.C., The Administration of the American Revolutionary Army, Harvard Historical Studies Vol. X, New York, 1904
  8. ^ Act of 14 Feb. 1885 (23 Statue 305)
  9. ^ Act of 3 Mar. 1899 (30 Statue 1004)
  10. ^ Toll, Ian, Six Frigates: The Epic History of the Founding of the United States Navy, Norton & Company, New York, 2006, ISBN 978-0-393-33032-8, pp 39-43
  11. ^ U.S. Public Health Service, History: accessed 24 Sep 2012
  12. ^ Laws Relating to the Navy and Marine Corps, and the Navy Department, July 1, 1865, GPO Washington, 1865, pg 18
  13. ^
  14. ^ Laws…, pg 22
  15. ^ Stockton, Chas H. LCDR, USN, The Naval Asylum and Service Pensions for Enlisted Men, Proceedings of the United States Naval Institute, Vol. XII, 1886, pg 54
  16. ^ Stockton, pg 56
  17. ^ Clark, Robert L., et al, “Privatization of Public-Sector Pensions,” accessed 20 Oct 2012
  18. ^ Goode, pg 87
  19. ^ Stockton, pg 58
  20. ^ Naval Appropriations Bill 1923, 67th Congress, 2nd Session, Washington, GPO, 1922, pg 734
  21. ^ Stockton, pg 59
  22. ^ Goode, Paul R., Col. USA Ret. Deputy Governor, United States Soldiers’ Home The United States Soldiers’ Home Privately Published, 1956, pg 24, ISBN 9781 446 513 477
  23. ^ Goode, pp 18-19
  24. ^ Goode, pg 19
  25. ^ Goode, pg 19-26
  26. ^ Davis, George B. BG, Us Army JAG, “A Treatise on Military Law of the United States,” New York, John Wiley & Sons, 1908, pg 633
  27. ^ Goode, pg 26
  28. ^ 23rd Congress, 1st Session, House of Representatives, Doc No. 419, Regulations—Naval Asylum Near Philadelphia
  29. ^ Goode, pg 48
  30. ^ Rules and Regulations for the “general and internal direction” of the Military Asylum, instituted by an Act of Congress, approved March 3, 1851. Found in: Executive Documents – Message and Annual Reports for 1865, General Assembly of Ohio, At the Regular Session, Begun and Held in the City of Columbus, 1 January 1865, Part I, pp 18-27.
  31. ^ Homicide at the Naval Asylum on 18 November 1854. New York Times on-line archive, 20 Nov 1854
  32. ^ Goode, pg 244
  33. ^ Hearings before the Committee on naval affairs of the House of Representatives By United States. Congress. House. Committee on Naval Affairs, United States. 60th Congress, 1st session, 1907-1908. House. Pg 28
  34. ^ Clark, Robert L., et al, “Privatization of Public-Sector Pensions,” accessed 20 Oct 2012
  35. ^ The Civil War: The Origins of Veterans’ Health Care
  36. ^ Goode, pg 255


Begun in 1911, the Grant Building was built as a barracks, mess hall, and recreation center.

Grant Building

Grant Building

This building, begun in 1883, was built as a dormitory. It has three stories and is built of red brick.

Sheridan Building

Built in 1834, this was a recreation center and is now the Home's Chapel.

Stanley Hall

Stanley Hall Chapel

Built by Barton S. Alexander, the Sherman Building is connected to the Scott Building by a central annex. Its exterior is unfinished white marble.

Sherman Building

Begun in 1852 and completed in the 1890s, Scott Building is named for General Winfield Scott. The initial design for the building was in the Norman Gothic style. It housed 100-200 residents. Its castellated clock tower was used as a watch tower during the American Civil War, especially during General Jubal Early's raid on nearby Fort Stevens. The building is currently closed due to damage from the 2011 earthquake. The clocktower will require extensive repairs; the U.S. Congress has appropriated partial funds for the needed work.

Scott Building

Built initially in 1843 by the banker Major Robert Anderson it housed the first residents of the home. It is now known as President Lincoln's Cottage. The brick house has a stucco exterior.

Main article: President Lincoln's Cottage

Anderson Cottage

The Soldiers' Home has had many interesting historic buildings, some of which survive to the present day:

The Soldiers' Home occupies a campus in N.W. Washington, D.C.. It sits adjacent to two historic cemeteries, Rock Creek Cemetery and United States Soldiers' and Airmen's Home National Cemetery (the forerunner of Arlington National Cemetery).

Scott Building

Notable Buildings

“When the Civil War began on April 12, 1861, it is estimated America had 80,000 Veterans from previous conflicts, some of whom were treated at a handful of Veterans homes scattered across the nation. The Civil War added more than 1.9 million Soldiers, Sailors, and Marines to the rolls.”[35] The U.S. Soldiers Home and the Philadelphia Naval Home were completely inadequate to this challenge: thus the “National Asylum for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers,” a system of eleven homes with attached hospitals that were build across the country between 1865 and 1930. These institutions, the foundation of the Dept of Veterans Affairs, today have the mission of “hospitalization and rehabilitation and return, as soon as possible, of veterans to civilian life….” The Department of Veterans Affairs provides representatives to sit on the “Armed Forces Home Trust Fund.” Otherwise, the Armed Forces Retirement Home, an agency of the Dept of Defense, has no connection whatever to the VA, beyond the historical one, and is today primarily a retirement home.[36]

AFRH and the Department of Veterans Affairs

Funding for the Armed Forces retirement homes has always been based upon the principle of no cost to the public. But when wars happen or economic calamities happen or natural disasters happen, the funding system has failed. That is why the first item of the list above ("...Such amounts as may be transferred to the Fund") is included. This refers to the expendature of public monies appropriated by Congress. The original Naval Asylum required public monies for construction following an adventure by the trustees of the Naval Hospital Fund into private equity Investment. They invested in private bank stock, intending to get a higher rate of return, but in the 1820’s the bank lost money, and so did the trust fund committee of the Secretaries of War, Navy, and Treasury. [34] The Gulfport home required public funding for a new home after Hurricane Katrina destroyed the old home. The Washington home is receiving public help to rebuild after the earthquake of 2011 damaged the Sherman building. But in general and for most of the time the system of self funding has worked.

FY 2011 Budget FY 2011 Budget

Other sources of income have been used in the past. At one time a small percentage of the Prize Money awarded for the capture of enemy war ships and pirate vessels, was awarded to the Naval Home Trust Fund. A notation in the “Congressional Record for the Navy Affairs Committee” in 1907-09 notes that the Naval Home Trust still had a balance of $14,000,000 partly from the capture of Prize Vessels, per an Act of 1870, and from suits for depredation of timber belonging to the United States.[33] It is plain the Navy had an interest in the nation’s timberlands when the Navy was still equipped with wooden sailing ships, but why this was true in the 20th Century is unclear.

  • Such amounts as may be transferred to the Fund.
  • Moneys deposited in the Fund by the Chief Operating Officer realized from gifts or from the disposition of property and facilities.
  • Amounts deposited in the Fund as monthly fees paid by residents of the Retirement Home under section 414 of this title.
  • Amounts of fines and forfeitures deposited in the Fund under section 2772 of title 10.
  • Amounts deposited in the Fund as deductions from the pay of enlisted members, warrant officers, and limited duty officers under section 1007(i) of title 37.
  • Interest from investments made under subsection (c) of this section.

The current legal basis for funding of the Armed Forces Retirement Home Agency is contained in 24 USC § 419 - Armed Forces Retirement Home Trust Fund


Nine hole golf course and driving range (Carts provided for residents) Two fishing ponds for crappie, bass, bream and catfish, Professionally equipped fitness center and physical fitness programs, Walking trails, Two extensive print, audio and video libraries, Individual work areas for ceramics, woodworking, painting and other hobbies, Auto hobby shop, Bowling, Card, game, and recreation rooms Computer center, Garden plots, Fully equipped 667 seat theater for movies and live entertainment, Bus tours to area attractions.


Outdoor swimming pool (lap swimming and water aerobics) Professionally equipped fitness center and physical fitness programs Library (print, audio and video) Individual work areas for arts & crafts, woodworking, painting and other hobbies Bike shop, Bowling and Bocce center Card, game, and recreation rooms, Computer Classroom and Computer center. Fully equipped media room for movies and presentations Multi-purpose area for live entertainment and dances Spacious grounds with basketball, horse shoes and walking paths, bicycling Bus tours to area attractions


Below are recreational activities available without cost:

Many work positions, both paid and volunteer, are open to residents. For example, residents run the home libraries under the supervision of a professional Librarian. Many positions, such as the wood shop and bicycle shop, are run entirely by residents.

Alcoholism: In 1951 the Governor of the Soldier’s Home adopted a policy requiring proof of good “dry” behavior by men identified as alcoholics. After two failures, men were disallowed reentry to the home. Today applicants with an alcoholic history must show evidence of a long period without alcohol. The homes have open bars that sell beer and hard liquor, but “public intoxication” is prohibited. The smoking of tobacco inside buildings on the grounds of the homes is prohibited. Outside smoking is allowed.[32]


"There is a known lack here of all occupation or recreation..." Brig Gen David Sackett, I.G., Army of the Potomac

New York Times Archives 4 Feb 1884 "The Soldiers Home"

I.G. Report - Old Soldiers Home

”At 11 o’clock this morning, Anthony Prussock, a marine, was arraigned before Alderman Kenny, on the charge of causing the death of Wm. C. Riggs, at the Naval Asylum, on Thursday evening. We learn that Captain Andrew Hull Foote was Officer in Charge at the time. Foote later became Commodore Foote and worked closely with U.S. Grant at the Battle of Fort Donaldson. Alcohol was involved in the fight. White men and black men were living and working together at the Home.”[31]

New York Times Archives 20 Nov 1854

Homicide at the Naval Home

“Military Asylums” were created (the name was changed to U.S. Soldier’s Home in 1859). Disabled or wounded veterans from the War of 1812 forward would be admitted. US Marines who served in Mexico and were otherwise qualified by wound or disability would be admitted. The rules at the U.S. Soldier’s Home were similar but not identical to the Naval Home. Inmates would surrender any disability pension, work when able, and obey the orders of those appointed above them. Like the sailors, they were “paid” a dollar a month for spending money. The inmates referred to this as “the monthly dollar.” General David Twiggs wrote that as soon as the men got their dollar they got drunk and stayed drunk until their money was gone, usually a week later, “as whiskey of a sort could be gotten for a ten cents a quart.”[29] A “Guard House” (the Navy calls them “Brigs”) was built at the Soldiers’ Home to confine inmates “absent without leave.”[30]


The 1834 Naval Regulation for governing the Philadelphia Naval Asylum set forth living conditions for the inmates. The asylum will provide a chaplain and medical care, living quarters, clothing, and food similar to a naval ration at sea , except that the “grog” ration would be replaced by tea, tobacco and pickles. The inmates would surrender any disability Navy pension to the home. They would also work at the asylum “as much as they are able.” The inmates would be subject to “all the laws and rules of the naval service” and “shall be under the general government of the officers placed over them.”[28]


During the 19th and most of the 20th Centuries the U.S. Naval Home and the U.S. Soldiers’ Home, while having identical purpose for being (the welfare of the old and decrepit soldier or sailor) , were not identical in regulation, funding, administration or tradition.

Quality of Life

In 1851, Senator Jefferson Davis of Mississippi sponsored a bill to establish “at a suitable place or places, a site or sites for the Military Asylum.”[27] The bill passed both Houses and was signed into law by President Millard Fillmore the same day. The new Board of Commissioners decided to establish four homes, one each in New Orleans, LA; East Pascagoula, MS; Harrodsburg, KY; and Washington, D.C.

  • Article 58 of Articles of War, 1806: All public stores taken in the enemy's camp towns forts or magazines whether of artillery ammunition clothing forage or provisions shall be secured for the service of the United States for the neglect of which the commanding officer is to be answerable.[26]

On 14 September 1847 General Winfield Scott received the surrender of Mexico City, and accepted a “contribution” of $150,000 in gold from the Mexico City fathers “in lieu of pillage.”[24] General Scott spent part of this on shoes and blankets for his troops. Another portion went to a “Spy Company” he employed on the march from Vera Cruz to Mexico City. The remaining $118,791.19 he had deposited in a New York bank with the notation “for Army Asylum.” This action outraged the Secretary of War: he accused Gen. Scott of larceny under Art. 58 of the Articles of War, but Scott refused to turn the money over to the Treasury, and in the end he won.[25]

The United States Soldiers’ Homes was authorized by Congress in 1851.[22] In 1827, while the Naval Asylum was under construction, Secretary of War James Barbour recommended that an Army Asylum be constructed for soldiers. For the next twenty years people like Major Robert Anderson (of Fort Sumter fame) promoted the idea of homes for retired soldiers, without success. The problem was to develop a system of funding a Soldiers’ Home that would not involve any expenditure of public money. In 1846, he wrote to all the regiments in the active army, asking for information on fines and forfeitures from Court-Martial’s. He got answers from about half the regiments, added the twenty cents a month for the hospital fund received from the 9,438 enlisted soldiers then on active duty, and was able to estimate the annual revenue from both sources at $42,642, which turned out to be on the low side. “He computed the annual cost of each member, using the Army clothing allowance of that year of $15.36, and the annual cost of one year’s ration at the prevailing rate of ten cents a day, to arrive at an annual cost for each member for these two items, of $51.86.” He also went to the trouble of obtaining per annum inmate costs at five different East Coast insane asylums, and five different East Coast poor houses, which he reckoned at $43.80 per inmate, and sent the results, along with signed petitions from many of the Officer’s Corps as the Army marched off to Mexico. Congress noted that “it does not ask for any contribution from the Treasury.”[23]

Soldiers Home Timeline


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