By Karen Jowers
The Fisher House Foundation has eliminated all daily room charges for families staying at any Fisher House comfort home, effective Oct. 1.
Some 34 comfort homes are located near military and Department of Veterans Affairs medical facilities, and four more are under construction or being designed.
Under federal rules, veterans and their families have never had to pay to stay at VA Fisher Houses. Families of service members hospitalized as a result of duty in Afghanistan and Iraq also have not been charged fees since the beginning of operations in those countries.
But the military services have been allowed to charge other guest families a modest daily room fee � $10, on average � to offset the cost of operations. The Fisher House Foundation is now picking up the tab for those room charges, expected to be about $750,000 a year.
Once the Fisher House Foundation builds a home, it is turned over to appropriate military service, which operates them as a nonappropriated-fund entity.
"The public has been very generous with their support to Fisher House Foundation, and while building new Fisher Houses are our highest priority, we consider support to the existing network of Fisher Houses also to be important," said Fisher House spokesman Jim Weiskopf in announcing the elimination of room fees.
He said checks have been sent to each Fisher House to cover costs through December.
Foundation officials estimate that in 2005 alone, Fisher Houses saved families more than $7 million in lodging, food and transportation costs because of their minimal room fees, close proximity to medical facilities, and extensive kitchen facilities.
The average length of stay is 45 to 60 days for families of patients hospitalized as a result of service in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Since the first Fisher House opened in 1991 at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., about 70,000 families have spent more than two million days at the Fisher Houses, which generally are fully occupied.
"Holidays, birthdays & anniversaries have been celebrated with tears and smiles with people who truly understand what the other person is experiencing."
- Kamryn Jaroszewski