WASHINGTON (AFPS) – Some military installations are consolidating and getting
new names as joint basing becomes a reality.
As a result of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Commission’s directive to consolidate 26 stateside military installations into 12 joint bases, seven bases received new names in January:
• Ft. Lewis and McChord Air Force Base, WA, became Joint Base Lewis-
NJ, became Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, led by the Air Force
• Navy Base Guam and Andersen Air Force Base in Guam became Joint Region
Marianas, led by the Navy
Chief of Staff’s Retiree Council Calls Health Care Highest Priority
Health care continues to be the highest priority issue for both current and future Retired Soldiers, according to the Chief of Staff, Army, (CSA) Retiree Council. The Council marked its 50th meeting, Apr 26-30, 2010, in the Pentagon.
The Council, chaired by LTG (Ret.) Frederick Vollrath and SMA (Ret.) Jack Tilley, is made up of seven Retired officers and seven Retired noncommissioned officers. Council members represent Retired Soldiers and Families worldwide. At their annual meeting, they reviewed 32 issues submitted by installation Retiree councils, nine of them dealing with health care.
In its 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 Christine Hunter. Briefings from DoD, Army and other leaders, along with 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 based strictly on 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.
• If TRICARE fees must be increased, limit any increase in those fees to the
Council members reported that they appreciate the ongoing efforts of IMCOM Commander LTG Rick Lynch and his deputy BG Al Aycock in supporting standardized Retirement Services Officer positions as well as periodic RSO training and Notary Public certification, both issues which had been raised by the Council.
The Council also applauded the ongoing initiatives to provide Reserve Component Soldiers with an informative and positive transition into retirement, which were briefed by LTG Jack Stultz, Chief, Army Reserve and by BG Timothy Kadavy, Deputy Director, Army National Guard, who highlighted the National Guard’s significant accomplishments in all aspects of retirement processing and counseling. The Council also stated that current and future Retired Soldiers remain the most credible ambassadors of our Army.
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The Council recommended that the Army:
• Increase the understanding of Soldiers and their spouses of their entitlements and benefits throughout their careers. The Council recommended adding retirement modules to courses for mid-grade and senior grade officers and NCOs and to courses preparing Soldiers for command. They suggested that spouses receive similar instruction in Family Readiness Groups and through Army Community Services.
• Continue to fund three hardcopy issues a year of Army Echoes, the bulletin for Retired Soldiers and Families, while encouraging, but not forcing, recipients to switch from the paper to the e-mail copy.
• Enhance retirement services available to retiring and Retired Soldiers by raising the level of funding for Pre-Transition Services and Post-Transition Services for all installations/garrisons worldwide. Ensure that fiscal requirements are part of the annual budget process and that funding for Retirement Services, including Retiree Appreciation Days, is protected in the budget.
• Through IMCOM, complete the establishment of RSO positions in accordance with the already approved IMCOM Standard Garrison Organization at the target grade by the end of FY10 or the completion of the established contracted service support.
• Complete the establishment of Retirement Services Offices at major Army Reserve and Army National Guard commands to ensure all retiring and Retired Army Reserve and National Guard Soldiers, their Families and survivors are properly informed about retirement-related benefits and entitlements.
• Support a test program under which Retired Soldiers who are supported by APOs in Germany would be allowed to send and receive parcels weighing up to five pounds, to quantify the impact on postal workload, service and costs.
• Recognize the contributions of Surviving Spouses by authorizing space-available air travel. As a lower priority category than active duty Soldiers, Surviving Spouses would not burden the stand-by system.
The Council stated that they appreciate the significant amount of work that the Defense Finance and Accounting Service accomplished during the conversion from contractor to in-house workforce, focusing on best practices to support and serve customers.
In the area of benefits, the Council recommended that the Army:
• Take care of Surviving Spouses by supporting efforts to eliminate the Dependency and Indemnity Compensation offset to the Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) annuity.
• Recognize the extraordinary service and sacrifice of Army Reserve and Army National Guard Soldiers by including mobilization periods in support of contingency operations on or after Sept. 11, 2001 when determining the eligibility date for retired pay (instead of the current effective date of Jan. 28, 2008) and by providing medical benefits concurrently with the start of retired pay.
• Support efforts to provide full concurrent receipt of military retired pay and disability compensation to all eligible military Retirees regardless of disability rating or years of service.
• Support the DFAS initiative to forgive any overpayment of retired pay for any period after the date of death of a Retiree through the last day of the month in which death occurs.
• Acknowledge their long-term commitment to the Army by issuing eligible Surviving Spouses an indefinite ID card at age 65.
Because the CSA has been traveling around the world in support of troops, the Council Co-Chairs reported the meeting results to him May 25th and plan to meet with him again in October.