Council makes recommendations to Chief of Staff, Sgt. Maj. of the Army

Council makes recommendations to Chief of Staff, Sgt. Maj. of the Army

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Lt. Gen. James J. Lovelace, Jr., USA, Ret., and Sgt. Maj. of the Army Kenneth O. Preston, USA, Ret., the co-chairs of the Army Chief of Staff’s Retiree Council, met April 26 with Gen. Raymond T. Odierno and Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III to discuss the concerns of the 1 million-strong retired community and to offer retirees’ continued support to the Army.

The session concluded the council’s 53rd meeting held in the Pentagon from April 22 to 26.

During the council’s annual meeting, the members received briefings from 20 senior Army, Department of Defense (DOD) and Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) leaders.

The council also analyzed 20 issues submitted by installation retiree councils through an annual process that implements the portion of the council’s charter that directs it to provide the Army chief of staff with advice and recommendations regarding vital issues and concerns of retired soldiers, surviving spouses and their families.

The council said in its formal report to the chief of staff that "consistent day-to-day quality support of our retiree constituency across the Army’s components is critical."

Adding, "To accomplish this requires experienced professionals and adequate uninterrupted resourcing."

This day-to-day support comes from a network of Retirement Services Officers (RSOs), most of whom are civilian or contract employees who often have other duties.

RSOs are trained and certified to counsel soldiers, surviving spouses and retirees who have to make irreversible, financial decisions with lifelong impact on their families.

As they make these decisions, they rely on the RSOs to explain and correctly answer questions about a wide range of highly technical subjects – the myriad federal laws and DoD and Army policies that govern retired pay and benefits, including the Survivor Benefit Plan.

This makes it critical that the Army carefully selects and trains these RSOs.

The council also acknowledged that the Army faces significant resource challenges including difficult cuts in personnel and programs.

The report said, "In this environment, retired soldiers recognize they are ‘Soldiers for Life’ and will be needed more than ever.

As part of the Army team, we will continue to do our part in telling the Army story and providing support wherever and whenever needed.

"The ongoing contributions and volunteer service of so many of the one million plus retired soldiers and surviving spouses demonstrates our commitment to our Army, its active duty force, its retired soldiers, and family members."

Citing program inconsistencies across the Army, the council recommended the Army "establish measurable standards of service . . . and a process to track them."

The council volunteered to work with the U.S. Army Installation Management Command (IMCOM) and the Department of the Army staff to accomplish this task.

A summary of the council’s key recommendations to the chief of staff :

Increases in TRICARE fees should not be tied to the annual health-care inflation rate. Continued increases using the same rate as the retired pay cost of living adjustment are acceptable.

Support legislation to authorize pretax payment of premiums for TRICARE, supplemental, long-term care, and dental insurance.

Prioritize retirement services as a "must fund" program at Department of the Army level, and fence resources to ensure execution is not affected by resource shortfalls at lower levels. Focus on funding pre- and post-retirement services, retiree councils, retiree appreciation events, and outreach and engagement of the retiree community.

Complete the formal establishment of retirement services offices at major Army Reserve and Army National Guard commands.

Review retirement services at joint base locations to ensure the transition of installation management to other military services has not reduced retirement services below Army standards.

Clearly identify the importance of retired soldiers by including them in senior leader talking points, leadership courses, the IMCOM commanding general’s "Top 10 Priorities," and the Army Family and Community Covenants.

Sustain funding for printing three editions of Army Echoes each year. Expand efforts maximize electronic delivery of Echoes.

Five of the 14 council members, including retirees from across the United States, Europe and Korea and all three Army components, end their four-year terms in 2013.

A request for nominations for replacements will be sent to all Army Retirement Services Officers this summer.

The 2013 council includes seven noncommissioned officers – ranging from sergeant first class to sergeant major of the army – and seven officers – ranging from chief warrant officer five to lieutenant general.

The CSA Retiree Council is authorized by Army Regulation 600-8-7, "Retirement Services Program," and administered under a charter approved by the secretary of the Army.