Retirement Home for Veterans Facing $15M Lawsuit for Unpaid Bills

A Washington, D.C. landmark that serves retired military veterans is facing a $15 million lawsuit from the District's water and sewer agency.

A copy of the suit, which was filed in D.C. federal court this week, accuses the Armed Forces Retirement Home of failing to pay water and sewer bills since 2004. 

The Armed Forces Retirement Home operates a retirement housing program for 375 people on a large federal site on Rock Creek Church Road in Northwest Washington, a retirement home spokesman told the News4 I-Team. The retirement home is an independent federal agency. 

In its lawsuit, the DC Water and Sewer Authority said it notified the Armed Forces Retirement Home in January 2004 that it would begin charging the agency for sewer services on the retirement home's Washington, D.C. campus. According to its suit, the DC Water and Sewer Authority said the home "refused to pay for the sewer services billed by DC Water" beginning in June 2004.

The suit said the water agency and the retirement home entered a series of agreements between 2004 and 2010, but said the Armed Forces Retirement Home has breached its contract with DC Water by failing to pay bills between 2010 and the present.

The suit said the bills due since 2010 total $15,000,000. 

In a statement to the News4 I-Team, a DC Water and Sewer Authority spokesman said, "DC Water has been working for several years to resolve the billing issue with AFRH. This suit was filed to preserve DC Water's rights. We are hoping to resolve the issue amicably.” 

The Armed Forces Retirement Home declined to comment on the suit. 

But according to federal documents reviewed by the News4 I-Team, the AFRH had an agreement with D.C. government for free water service since 1938 in exchange for access to an aquifer on its property. In 1990, according to the Armed Forces Retirement Home Congressional Budget Justification,  the DC Department of Public Works said it would honor the agreement. However, DC Water challenged that when it formed in 1996, later deciding to bill the property for sewer service beginning in 2004. According to the report, negotiations to resolve the dispute between AFRH and DC Water stalled.

According to the Armed Forces Retirement Home's newsletters, the average age of its residents is 84.

Federal officials first created the home and agency after the Mexican-American War in the mid-1800s to serve aging veterans. 

The Armed Forces Retirement Home’s handbooks and newsletters said the agency offers continuing care, meals, rehabilitation and activities for elder military veterans, including bible study, recreational, educational programming. The oldest current resident is 99, according to the most recently posted newsletter.

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