Once a Soldier Always a Soldier

Article excerpt

The Army Chief of Staff's Retiree Council closed its 44th meeting with a report to the Chief of Staff, Army (CSA), identifying health care and communications with and education of retirees as the council's primary concerns.

The CSA Retiree Council, cochaired by Lt. Gen. John A. Dubia, U.S. Army retired, and SMA Robert E. Hall, U.S. Army retired, is made up of 14 members-seven retired officers and seven retired enlisted soldiers. Prospective members are nominated by their installation retiree councils and approved by the CSA. At its annual meeting, the council reviews issues forwarded by installation councils and determines which should be reported to the CSA and which to address at the installation level. Of the 39 issues submitted this year, 14 concerned health care.

The council also sought support for the efforts to take care of surviving spouses by eliminating the Social Security offset to survivor benefit plan (SBP) benefits and eliminating the dependency and indemnity compensation offset to SBP, and to support retirees who have paid SBP premiums for 30 years or more by accelerating the date for the paid-up provision, of SBP from 2008 to 2004.

The council also supported concurrent receipt of military retired pay and disability compensation; receipt of reserve retired pay before age 60 based on the number of years of service beyond 20; direct deposit of retired and annuity pay to foreign banks; and authorization of retirees to purchase all items sold in military clothing sales stores.

The council stated that TRlCARE for Life (TFL) and TRICARE Senior Pharmacy have met many beneficiaries' expectations, but that other improvements still need to be made. They added that the DoD needs to develop and disseminate !simple, clear instructions so that retirees and families can make informed health-care decisions.

The council's suggestions include raising TRICARE reimbursement levels; extending the voluntary retiree dental insurance option to retirees living outside the continental United States; remaining engaged in efforts to notifv TEL-elisible beneficiaries about the waiving of late enrollment fees for Medicare Part B; and continuing to support collaborative efforts between DoD and Veterans Administration (VA) health care departments.

The council's communications goals center on providing retirees, families and surviving spouses with accurate and up-to-date information through a variety of media. One communications objective is continuing to fund three annual issues of Army Echoes, the Army's bulletin for retirees and the principal Army publication that keeps retirees and survivors informed, and to return to publishing four times a year if savings realized from electronic distribution are sufficient.

The other objective is using a variety of media-Internet, videotape and CD-ROM-to help installation retirement services officers (RSOs) serve retirees and surviving spouses in the wide areas for which they are responsible. This multimedia effort would also be aimed at educating active duty soldiers and families about retirement as well as those making career decisions. This effort also includes enhancing the professional training programs for commanders and senior noncommissioned officers, especially those attending installation command and management courses.

The council briefed the CSA on these issues. The cochairmen of the council will continue to meet periodically with the CSA during the year to discuss the progress that has been made.

The Army office that coordinates council activities, including overseeing the nomination of new members and arranging the annual meeting, is the Army Retirement Services Office, part of the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff, G-I. Army retirement services serves soldiers, retirees and families at the headquarters level. Installation retirement services officers support soldiers, retirees and families in their areas of responsibility. …