Health Care, Communication Top Retiree Concerns

Article excerpt

Chiefs Retiree Council

Health care continues to be the highest priority for both current and future retired soldiers, according to the Chief of Staff of the Army (CSA) Retiree Council. The Council's 50th meeting was held in April at the Pentagon. After the meeting, the Council cochairmen met with the CSA to report the top retiree issues.

The Council, chaired by LTG Frederick Vollrath, U.S. Army retired, and SMA Jack Tilley, U.S. Army retired, is made up of seven retired officers and seven retired noncommissioned officers. At their annual meeting, they reviewed 32 issues submitted by installation retiree councils, nine of them dealing with health care.

Council members represent retired soldiers, families and surviving spouses worldwide. Today that population tops more than 1 million. The CSA Officer and Enlisted Retiree Councils were created in 1972, a time when the Army was drawing down from an active strength of more than a million soldiers and the number of retired soldiers was greater than 300,000.

The CSA retiree councils were created because of the action of two retired soldiers. In February 1971, GEN Bruce C. Clarke, U.S. Army retired, and BG Hallett D. Edson, U.S. Army retired, met with Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel LTG Walter T. Kerwin Jr. and suggested that the Army should take more interest in retiree affairs and that retiree councils should be established. That November, Vice Chief of Staff LTG Bruce Palmer Jr., acting for Chief of Staff GEN William C. Westmoreland, approved the establishment of the officer and enlisted retiree councils.

The councils, which had their first meeting in June 1972 at Fort McNair, Washington, D.C, met twice a year until 1985, when they switched to an annual meeting with a midyear meeting of the CSA and chairmen.

GEN Westmoreland welcomed the councils to their first meeting, saying, "I think the fact that we have finally organized a group of retired officers and noncommissioned officers to serve as an advisory group to the Chief of Staff - and to act as a communication link between the active leaders of the armed forces and the retired community - is an important step." GEN Westmoreland talked to the councils about the challenges facing the Army, the events of the Vietnam War over the previous seven years, continuing budget pressures and the problems of moving to an all-volunteer Army.

The first councils' report recommended the establishment of installation retiree councils and passage of a law creating a new Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP), which became law in 1972. The councils asked that the Retired Army Bulletin (later known as Army Echoes) be increased from quarterly to bimonthly publication. Not only was the publication frequency increased, the July issue gave an update of the councils' meeting, and in October, announced the new SBP. In 1972, the councils reported that DoD had proposed to study the possibility of diverting a large portion of the retiree medical workload to civilian facilities with legislation sought to minimize retirees' cost share under CHAMPUS to 5 to 10 percent. Today health care leads the Council report.

Health Care

In its 2010 report to the CSA, the Council praised ongoing health-care initiatives including preventive health care, case management, quality outcomes and consistent communication, saying they would enhance health care for all retirees and their families. These initiatives were briefed by Army Surgeon General LTG Eric Schoomaker and TRICARE deputy director Navy RADM CS. Hunter. Briefings from members of DoD, ^e Army, and other leaders and pre-meeting research are the tools the Council uses when preparing its report.

Stating that attempts to reduce the level of benefits of the military health-care system raise concerns that the earned entitlement will be eroded due to budgetary constraints, the Council made the following health-care recommendations.

* Sustain the viability of the military health-care program by fully resourcing DoD health programs. …