VA to Get 3 New Fisher Houses for Families of Troops Needing Medical Care

Col. John A. Smyrski III, commander, William Beaumont Army Medical Center, John Ost III, di-rector, Army Fisher House Program, Alice Coleman, manager, WBAMC Fisher House, and Command Sgt. Maj. Donald George, command sergeant major, WBAMC, cut the ribbon to the newly renovated Fisher House on the WBAMC campus, May 12, 2017. (Marcy Sanchez/U.S. Army)
Col. John A. Smyrski III, commander, William Beaumont Army Medical Center, John Ost III, di-rector, Army Fisher House Program, Alice Coleman, manager, WBAMC Fisher House, and Command Sgt. Maj. Donald George, command sergeant major, WBAMC, cut the ribbon to the newly renovated Fisher House on the WBAMC campus, May 12, 2017. (Marcy Sanchez/U.S. Army)

As early as next year, families of veterans undergoing treatment for medical crises at Department of Veterans Affairs facilities in Michigan, Colorado and Nebraska will have a free place to stay.

The VA announced Feb. 14 that the Fisher House Foundation will build new, 16-suite facilities in Ann Arbor and Omaha and replace a home in Aurora, which will bring the number of Fisher Houses supporting VA medical centers to 40.

The Defense Department has another 42 Fisher Houses in 25 locations nationwide.

A Fisher House is a home located on or near military or VA medical campuses that provides temporary lodging, free of charge, for family members and caregivers supporting active-duty and retired personnel and former service members receiving medical treatment.

Since the first Fisher House was built in 1990, the homes have served 368,000 military and veteran family members.

Construction of the new homes will start within the next six months, according to the VA, and take roughly 12 to 15 months to complete. The homes then will be transferred to government ownership, where they, like all Fisher Houses, will be staffed by federal employees and volunteers.

For many, Fisher Houses have provided a safe cocoon in times of stress and sorrow. The Fisher House at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, for example, was built specifically for families of the fallen to stay in while their loved ones' remains are transferred from overseas.

The first DoD Fisher House opened at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, in 1991. The VA's first home opened three years later in Albany, New York.

"VA has a great and longstanding 25-year partnership with the Fisher House Foundation and is pleased to expand support of their important mission," VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said in a release. "Staff and volunteers serve passionately with gratitude in a welcoming 'home away from home' for families."

In 2018, VA Fisher Houses served 28,000 families, saving them more than $18 million in lodging expenses, according to the department.

-- Patricia Kime can be reached at patricia.kime@military.com. Follow her on Twitter @patriciakime.

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