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Army Retirement Services celebrates 60 years!

By Mark E. Overberg, Deputy Chief, Army Retirement Services

In 1920, the U. S. Army’s population of Retired Soldiers was only about 6,000. That number had grown to more than 100,000 by 1955. Recognizing the strategic importance of this growing population, then Army Chief of Staff Gen. Maxwell D. Taylor created the Army Retirement Services Office on Nov. 14, 1955. He charged the office with overseeing the new retirement services program and writing Army policy for preparing Soldiers to retire and for their care after retirement.

In November, the Army Retirement Services Office will host a ceremony at the Pentagon commemorating Gen. Taylor’s creation of the retirement services program. Similar ceremonies may be planned at Army installations. These ceremonies will celebrate Retired Soldiers as true Soldiers for Life, and invite them to continue serving the nation and the Army.

The retired community continues to grow
Several factors have contributed to the exponential growth of the Army’s retired community. With the creation of the Warsaw Pact and the beginning of the Cold War after World War II, the U.S. Army remained large instead of being reduced to its historical low staffing level between wars. And as Americans’ health improved and their longevity increased, the size of the Army’s retired community continued to grow, surpassing 500,000 in the mid-1990s.

Today, the Army has more than 944,000 Retired Soldiers, including Gray Area Soldiers. These are Reserve Component Soldiers who have earned retirement benefits, but won’t receive them until age 60, or less if they earned a reduced age retirement by serving in operational deployments starting in 2008. The Army’s retired community also includes over 249,000 surviving spouses.

Program management
Retirement services policy and program oversight is managed by the Army Retirement Services Office’s staff of seven Department of the Army civilian employees plus one field grade liaison officer each from the Army Reserve and the Army National Guard.

The program is implemented by a worldwide network of retirement services officers (RSOs) and Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) counselors under the leadership of the Army Reserve, the Army National Guard and the Installation Management Command. Unlike other military services, Army RSOs are almost exclusively government civilian employees, contractors or Soldiers. There is an RSO on almost every Army installation, at every state National Guard Joint Forces Headquarters and at the four Army Reserve Regional Support Commands. These employees are trained in their duties by three distance learning courses developed by the Army Retirement Services Office and the Defense Finance and Accounting Service.

Program areas of responsibility
As the population of Retired Soldiers has grown, so too has the retirement services program. The Army Retirement Services Office is the Army’s policy proponent for the three military retired pay plans, the career status bonus program, the Survivor Benefit Plan, the Annuity for Certain Military Surviving Spouses, the Special Survivor Indemnity Allowance, the MyArmyBenefits website, the Army Chief of Staff’s Retired Soldier Council, portions of the Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act, the RSO training and certification program, Army Regulation 600-8-7 (Retirement Services Program) and strategic communications about the program.

The Army Retirement Services Office website is http://soldierforlife.army.mil/retirement.