On November 14, 2015 the Army Retirement Services Office (RSO) celebrates the RSO program’s 60th anniversary. Over the intervening 60 years, the program evolved and developed into the comprehensive Army retirement services program of today.
The Army RSO’s original mission was to provide a specific point of contact for the approximately 79,000 Retired Soldiers in 1955 to receive assistance and information on all matters pertaining to their retirement. Today the Army RSO’s mission has expanded to provide retirement benefits and program counseling, assistance, and information to the 1,036,640 Soldiers of all components, the 948,296 Retired Soldiers, and the 249,160 surviving spouses.
Within six months of activation, the Army established seven Retirement Services Units in the continental United States to start assisting retirees. Today, there are 116 RSOs located worldwide at various installations, US Army Reserve Commands, and Army National Guard State Headquarters. These RSOs assist retiring Soldiers of all Army components, Retired Soldiers, Families, and Survivors.
In the previous 60 years, the military retirement programs and benefits increased in number and complexity. The new retirement benefits and programs included the Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) for military retirees; the Reserve Component SBP (RCSBP) for “Gray Area” Reserve retirees, Retiree Dental Program, Retiree Mail Order Pharmacy, Combat Related Special Compensation, and Concurrent Retired and Disability Pay. Military retiree medical benefits evolved from space available care in military medical facilities to the current comprehensive TRICARE and TRICARE for Life. Even the retired pay plans increased from one in 1955 to the current three programs with a fourth in the near future.
The Army’s communication with Retired Soldiers started in March 1956 with the “Retired Army Personnel Bulletin” which continues today as the “Army Echoes,” the Army’s newsletter for Retired Soldiers and surviving spouses. The Installation Retiree Councils continue to provide communication between Retired Soldiers and installation leadership as the Chief of Staff of the Army Retired Soldier Council provides a conduit for communication between Retired Soldiers and the Army’s senior leadership. The Army RSO leverages electronic media to enhance communication and provide information. The Army RSO homepage, Face Book page, Army Echoes Blog, and electronic “Army Echoes” provide retiring Soldiers, Retired Soldiers, and Survivors instantaneous access to comprehensive information on retirement benefits, entitlements, and programs. The MyArmyBenefits program provides on-line access to extensive retirement benefit information and calculators. The Army RSO instituted mandatory certification for RSOs to ensure they provide comprehensive counseling and information. While retirement benefits and the technology to deliver the information changed, the inherent need to assist Soldiers, Retired Soldiers, and their Families who gave so much to the Army and the nation remains unchanged.
Over the past 60 years of the Army RSO, the Army’s senior leadership never wavered in recognizing the importance of the Retired Soldier to the Army. Who better to tell the Army’s story than Retired Soldiers, the epitome of a “Soldier for Life.” Senior leaders reached out to Retired Soldiers to be the Army’s ambassadors in telling their communities the Army’s story. They also asked Retired Soldier’s to engage America’s youth on benefits of serving the nation as a Soldier. Retired Soldiers are the Army’s bridge to nation’s communities.