Retiree council voices concerns: Health care, benefits, communications 

Mark E. Overberg

Deputy Chief

Army Retirement Services

The Army Chief of Staff Retiree Council concluded its 54th meeting May 2 after advising Gen. Raymond T. Odierno and Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III about the concerns of the retired community.

The council’s co-chairmen, Lt. Gen. James Lovelace, USA, Ret., and Sgt. Maj. of the Army Kenneth Preston, USA, Ret., emphasized their appreciation for the Army’s Soldier for Life program and the May 1 launch of the program’s new website with its "robust section" for retired soldiers at http://soldierforlife.army.mil/retirement.

The retiree council represented 918,000 retired Army soldiers and 246,000 surviving spouses.

In addition to advice and recommendations, the council provides the chief of staff with assessments of how current Army programs and initiatives, and proposals for new laws and policies, may affect the retired community.

During its annual meeting, the council discussed policies and programs with 18 Army and Department of Defense senior leaders.

Members also reviewed 22 issues nominated by installation and Army Service Component Command retiree councils.

Six issues involved health care, seven related to benefits or entitlements, and nine concerned retirement services or communications.

The council’s key recommendations included:

Sustaining the Army surgeon general’s initiative to increase the number of Medicare-eligible retired soldiers and their families being cared for within Army medical treatment facilities where capacity exists.

Sustaining no-cost copays for generic drugs ordered through Express Scripts, minimal co-pay increases for brand name pharmaceuticals, and never raising pharmacy copays more than the current year’s cost-of-living adjustment.

Retaining the commissary benefit in the continental United States, adding generic products and incorporating the commissary into the exchange system to maintain the benefit, if necessary.

Supporting legislation that maintains the current cost-of-living adjustment method instead of the "chained" consumer price index method.

Issuing permanent identification cards to spouses over age 65.

Reviewing current funding procedures in order to fully fund retiree appreciation days.

Institutionalizing the Soldier for Life program within the Army G-1’s authorization document and funding requirements.

Promoting the Soldier for Life message – "Once a Soldier, Always a Soldier . . . A Soldier for Life" – to soldiers from initial entry training through and after retirement.

The council’s complete report is available at http://soldierforlife.army.mil/retirement/RetireeCouncil.html.