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Retired Soldier Council advises the Army Chief of Staff

By Mark Overberg, Deputy Chief, Army Retirement Services

The Chief of Staff, Army (CSA) Retired Soldier Council convened at the Pentagon from April 20-24 to review issues of concern to the retired community and advise Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond T. Odierno. During their meeting, Council members discussed current and proposed Department of Defense (DOD) policies that affect the retired community with 15 senior DOD officials.

At the conclusion of the meeting, retired Lt. Gen. James J. Lovelace and retired Sgt. Maj. of the Army Kenneth O. Preston, the Council’s Co-Chairs, discussed their key proposals and concerns with Odierno. They also provided written recommendations for addressing 30 Army- or DOD-level issues affecting the retired community that were nominated by installation retiree councils.

The Co-Chairs told Odierno that the retired community’s major concern is that the “Army not break trust with [them].” They thanked Odierno for his strong support of the Council, saying, “As part of the Army team, the retired community stands ready to support and disseminate your message. We will continue to do our part in telling the Army story.”

The Co-Chairs also thanked Odierno for his support in retaining the health care benefits the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission recommended to cut. In its report to Odierno, the Council acknowledged that the DOD faces significant challenges due to declining budgets, but wrote “even small increases in TRICARE fees have a significant impact on the Retired Soldier . . . especially the retired Staff Sergeants, Sergeants First Class, and Master Sergeants.”

The Co-Chairs commended Odierno on the Army’s improvement in communicating with the retired community over the last year. Council members were especially happy with recent improvements on the Soldier for Life website (http://soldierforlife.army.mil/retirement), including the new Army White Pages and the Army Echoes Blog. They were also appreciative of the addition of Linked In to the Soldier for Life social media outlets on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. Council members said this will be welcomed by the retired community who “desire to remain informed and engaged with America’s Army…their Army.”

The Council’s final report included recommendations for addressing 10 issues involving health care, eight related to benefits, and 12 concerning retirement services or communications. The report says, “[Retired Soldiers’] most significant issues focus on the loss of their deferred compensation (earned benefits), which decreases their purchasing power.” The issues in the report focus on increased health care costs, access to health care services, and the Army’s ability to communicate effectively with Retired Soldiers and their families.

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

The members of the CSA Retired Soldier Council serve on Army installation or Army Service Component Command retiree councils. These councils nominate members to represent all Retired Soldiers and surviving spouses worldwide on the Army Council. The Co-Chairs select nominees each year to fill vacancies on the 14-member Council. Nominees approved by the CSA serve four-year terms and are recalled to active duty annually for the week-long meeting. During the 2015 annual meeting, the Council represented the views of 939,000 Retired Soldiers and 248,000 surviving spouses.