Officers Ask, “What Happens When I Hit My Mandatory Removal Date?”

This week I am going to cover a topic from one of the viewers.  This topic is the mandatory removal date (MRD) for officers.  This is not a topic with which I have had to deal on a regular basis.  I had to do a great deal of research for this topic as a result.  I believe I should be able to describe the basics of the MRD in an understandable manner, though.

 

There is a similar rule for enlisted members (in the Army, it is called the retention control point). I will cover that topic at a later date.

 

The MRD is set by federal law rather than by regulations within each branch of service.  For this reason and unlike the way it manages enlisted service, the branch of service is not able to determine the requirements for separation of its officers to a great degree.  This is one of the reasons the officer management branches of each service have more difficult rules they must follow as opposed to their enlisted management branches.

 

Each of the statements I am about to make for the limits of officer service are backed up by federal law.  Be careful, though, not to take anything I say as a hard rule. You will notice that I use the word “may” a lot in this description.  As a warrant officer once said to me, “There is a waiver for everything,” at least, up to a point.

 

Let’s take a look at each type of officer and discuss the specifics of each.  However, I will not be covering in this article the rules for officers who are passed over for promotion to the next grade.

 

Commissioned Officers

Commissioned officers are limited to a certain number of years of commissioned service before they must be separated.  Prior enlisted service is not a factor here.

 

For officers in the grades of O5 and below, they are allowed twenty-eight years of commissioned service.  Separation is required once the officer reaches this limit unless the officer is on a promotion list to the grade of O6. For O6s, the limit is thirty years of commissioned service.  With these limits in mind, it is understandable why career officers have such concern on being promotable to the next grade.

 

General (flag) officers have their own rules for limitations on commissioned service. O7s may have no more than thirty years of service. O8s may have no more than thirty-five years of commissioned service or five years time in grade, whichever is later. O9s may have thirty-eight years of service and O10s may have no more than forty years of commissioned service.

 

There are exceptions to these limits for officers in certain positions.  I will describe those in a moment.

 

Warrant Officers

As with many things, warrant officer rules are quite different from those of commissioned officers.  The years of service requirements are much simpler in their case.  Warrant officers may serve up to thirty years and, with the approval of their branch of service, up to age sixty-two.  The Navy has a special rule limited their senior warrants, specifically those in the grade of W5, to thirty-three years of service.

 

Exception for Adjutants General, O9s, O10s, Academy Professors, Professional Officers and Chaplains

The needs of the service allow for officers in positions which are harder to fill to serve for longer than those of other positions.  Officers in professions such as the medical field and chaplains are allowed to serve up to the age of sixty-eight if their branch of service concurs.  Officers serving in permanent professor positions as the service academies may serve until the age of sixty-four.  In the case of O9s and O10s, they may serve until age of sixty-six if authorized by the Secretary of Defense and up to the age of sixty-eight if authorized by the President.

 

There is a special exemption for officers serving as the adjutant general or assistant adjutant general of a state’s National Guard.  In this case, they are not subject to the rules for years of commissioned service.  Mandatory retirement in the case of age, however, is still a factor.  In this case, officers serving as the adjutant general of a state must retire at the end of the month in which they turn sixty-six years of age.

 

Question from the Viewers (LTC Adams)

A few weeks ago, one of the viewers on the YouTube channel posted a question in the comments about a case he is working.  This viewer is a new retirement service officer in the National Guard.  He is working with an Active Guard / Reserve (AGR) officer who has reached twenty-years of commissioned service.

 

This officer is an O5 and is not on the promotion list to O6.  I will use the officer’s actual last name and will post some documents about him in the references.  For the sake of privacy, these references will not display his full name, unit of assignment, and the state in which he serves, though.

 

Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) Adams has over sixteen years of active duty service.  He commissioned as a second lieutenant in August of 1989.  This means he will hit his mandatory removal date next month.  The question from the viewer was whether he will be able to retire as an active duty service member or as a reservist.

 

The answer to this question turns out to be quite simple.  Since LTC Adams does not have twenty years of active federal service (AFS), he will not be able to retire as an active duty member and receive an immediate pension.  He will retire as a reservist and should be transferred to the Retired Reserve until he reaches his Retired Pay Eligibility Date (RPED).

 

On a happier note, LTC Adams is eligible for reduced retirement age, though, so he will be able to receive a pension prior to age sixty.  I am posting his retirement points and an estimate of his retired pay and how much extra he will receive from that reduced retirement age.  You will also see a copy of his 1405 Worksheet which shows how his reserve service translates into equivalent active duty service.  As you will see, he had a considerable amount of service (read that as a lot of retirement points) and will have a reasonable amount of retired pay as a result.

 

What about Temporary Early Retirement Authority (TERA)?  Can that help this officer retire since he has more than fifteen years of active service?

 

The current rules for the Temporary Early Retirement Authority (an active duty only rule) only allow for this type of retirement when an active duty member is removed from active service by way of one of the many retention boards we have.  In cases such as these, members with at least fifteen but less than twenty active duty years may request retirement under TERA.  Since LTC Adams is not being removed from service by one of these boards, he will not be eligible to request retirement under TERA.  I am also going to post the current TERA rules in the references.

 

*****

 

Well, now that I have filled your heads with all this information – I hope it was understandable, by the way – I believe it is time to call it quits for the day.  If you have any questions or comments about what I have mentioned today, please post them in the comments section.  If you believe this information would be useful to someone you know, please share this article with them.  As always, I encourage to share my YouTube channel and website with other reservists and family members you may know.

 

By the way, just for fun I am also going to post a brochure I found which gives some highlights of reserve retirement from 1952.  Take a look at it and see how much things have changed over the years. Check the bottom of the references section for that link.

 

Please join me next week.  Thanks for joining me today and, of course, thank you for your service.

 

D.J.

References:
Army Human Resources Command MRD Brief (PowerPoint)
MRD Information Summary Sheet
Army National Guard Personnel Policy Operational Memorandum 13-018 – ARNG T10 AGR Mandatory Removal Date (MRD) Guide
Army Directive 2016-27 – Temporary Early Retirement Authority
Military Personnel Message 17-199 – Temporary Early Retirement Authority (TERA)
Retirement Points Statement and 1405 Worksheet for LTC Adams
Retired pay estimate for LTC Adams
Mandatory Removal Date Calculator (Army Human Resources Command)

10 U.S. Code § 1305
10 U.S. Code § 633
10 U.S. Code § 634
10 U.S. Code § 335
10 U.S. Code § 366
10 U.S. Code § 1251
10 U.S. Code § 1252
10 U.S. Code § 1253
10 U.S. Code § 3911, § 6323, § 8911
10 U.S. Code § 14508
10 U.S. Code § 14512
Retirement Policy for Guardsmen, circa 1952

Related YouTube Episodes:
The Basics of Reserve Retirement
So, What is This Reduced Retirement Age Thing Anyway?

Related Podcast Episodes:
So, What is This Reduced Retirement Age Thing Anyway?

Related Articles:
So, What is This Reduced Retirement Age Thing Anyway? – Part 1
So, What is This Reduced Retirement Age Thing Anyway? – Part 2


Podcast Episode 0023 – Officers Ask, “What Happens When I Hit My Mandatory Removal Date?”

References:
Army Human Resources Command MRD Brief (PowerPoint)
MRD Information Summary Sheet
Army National Guard Personnel Policy Operational Memorandum 13-018 – ARNG T10 AGR Mandatory Removal Date (MRD) Guide
Army Directive 2016-27 – Temporary Early Retirement Authority
Military Personnel Message 17-199 – Temporary Early Retirement Authority (TERA)
Retirement Points Statement and 1405 Worksheet for LTC Adams
Retired pay estimate for LTC Adams
Mandatory Removal Date Calculator (Army Human Resources Command)

10 U.S. Code § 1305
10 U.S. Code § 633
10 U.S. Code § 634
10 U.S. Code § 335
10 U.S. Code § 366
10 U.S. Code § 1251
10 U.S. Code § 1252
10 U.S. Code § 1253
10 U.S. Code § 3911, § 6323, § 8911
10 U.S. Code § 14508
10 U.S. Code § 14512
Retirement Policy for Guardsmen, circa 1952

Related YouTube Episodes:
The Basics of Reserve Retirement
So, What is This Reduced Retirement Age Thing Anyway?

Related Podcast Episodes:
So, What is This Reduced Retirement Age Thing Anyway?

Related Articles:
So, What is This Reduced Retirement Age Thing Anyway? – Part 1
So, What is This Reduced Retirement Age Thing Anyway? – Part 2


YouTube Episode 0025 – Officers Ask, “What Happens When I Hit My Mandatory Removal Date?”

https://youtu.be/DqTrIxiB7_I

References:
Army Human Resources Command MRD Brief (PowerPoint)
MRD Information Summary Sheet
Army National Guard Personnel Policy Operational Memorandum 13-018 – ARNG T10 AGR Mandatory Removal Date (MRD) Guide
Army Directive 2016-27 – Temporary Early Retirement Authority
Military Personnel Message 17-199 – Temporary Early Retirement Authority (TERA)
Retirement Points Statement and 1405 Worksheet for LTC Adams
Retired pay estimate for LTC Adams
Mandatory Removal Date Calculator (Army Human Resources Command)

10 U.S. Code § 1305
10 U.S. Code § 633
10 U.S. Code § 634
10 U.S. Code § 335
10 U.S. Code § 366
10 U.S. Code § 1251
10 U.S. Code § 1252
10 U.S. Code § 1253
10 U.S. Code § 3911, § 6323, § 8911
10 U.S. Code § 14508
10 U.S. Code § 14512
Retirement Policy for Guardsmen, circa 1952

Related YouTube Episodes:
The Basics of Reserve Retirement
So, What is This Reduced Retirement Age Thing Anyway?

Related Podcast Episodes:
So, What is This Reduced Retirement Age Thing Anyway?

Related Articles:
So, What is This Reduced Retirement Age Thing Anyway? – Part 1
So, What is This Reduced Retirement Age Thing Anyway? – Part 2


What is a Personal Financial Counselor?

Since we’ve been spending so much time talking about benefits you can earn in the future, let’s talk this week about something which can use while you are still in the service.  You have noticed how a lot of my topics so far have involved a lot of numbers and dollar signs, right?  Well, wouldn’t it be nice if there was someone – other than me, of course – who could sit down with you and personalize all those numbers, even help make them make more sense?  Good news.  There is such a person.

 

Every branch of service has personal financial counselors (PFCs) available to help you and your family understand your finances as they are right now and help you develop a plan to improve your situation in the future.  I have worked with several of these individuals over the years and have seen firsthand how valuable a resource they can be.  Though they may have different job titles, they all have the relevant education and experience to help you out.  These are civilian professionals contracted by the military from different companies (the National Guard, for example, uses Zeiders Enterprises).  These companies vet the counselors’ qualifications and manage their assignment to various locations.

 

All PFCs are Certified Financial Planners (CFPs), Chartered Financial Consultants (ChFCs), Accredited Financial Counselors (AFCs), or some other variant within the financial consulting profession.  Some of them are better versed in areas such as investing or life insurance, but they all have an overlapping level of education and experience which of beneficial to service members and families.  Regardless of their certifications, PFCs can assist with financial issues such as:

  • debt reduction
  • budgeting
  • retirement
  • estate planning

This is by no means a complete list.  There is much more these people can do for you.

 

Let me go over some of the education these people have. All PFCs have, at a minimum:

  • A bachelor’s degree
  • Specialized financial training
  • Certification from an accrediting agency
  • At least 1,000 hours of experience before certification
  • A requirement of at least 30 hours of continuing education every two years
  • Continuous recertification from their accrediting agency

 

Here is an example of a typical job announcement from Zeiders for a PFC.  You can find a link to this announcement in the references section below.

 

*****

 

Job Summary:

The Personal Financial Counselor (PFC) program is seeking qualified individuals to work full-time with Service Members and their families on personal financial issues such as budget planning, credit management and debt reduction, as well as retirement and estate planning. These full-time positions are located on military installations throughout the continental Unites States and selected overseas locations.

 

Principal Responsibilities:

The majority of Service Members and their families will require financial counseling and education to assist with establishing a basic level of financial literacy, good financial behavior and habits, long term financial planning to include retirement planning.

 

The PFCs will be responsible for:

  • Identifying immediate and long range measures to increase income, reduce household expenditures, and avoid additional financial burdens.
  • Personal budget/financial planning to reduce, eliminate, and avoid debt and to achieve solvency and stability.
  • Teaching Service members (and their families) money management techniques to encourage them to live within their means.
  • Understanding credit, finance charges, interest rates and the implications of only paying the minimum amount each month.
  • Educating military families on the importance of maintaining excellent credit histories and ratings.
  • Establishing, monitoring, and protecting their credit.
  • Teaching Service Members to make informed decisions and to be aware of associated costs such as insurance, maintenance, fuel costs, etc.
  • Educating and counseling Service Members – about their retirement systems and providing financial models to assist them in establishing a comprehensive retirement plan.
  • Assisting with tax planning.
  • Teaching Service Members and their families how to save for emergencies, unanticipated contingencies, and both short and long-term goals.
  • Other duties as assigned.

 

PFCs will traditionally provide support in one of three ways. Any combination of the three may be requested by the installation coordinator.

  • Face-to-Face financial counseling: PFCs support and educate individuals and families to help address specific needs, including provision of appropriate resource referrals.
  • Financial briefings: Facilitate briefings designed to promote awareness and educate Service Members and their families on various personal finance topics. PFCs facilitate requested briefings using a library of approved presentations and handouts on a variety

of financial topics.

  • Resource table: PFCs perform outreach and engage event attendees in conversations about setting financial goals, guidance to appropriate resources, as well as discussions on all areas of personal finance.

 

REQUIRED QUALIFICATIONS:

  • A minimum of a Bachelor’s degree coupled with 2+ years of experience in financial counseling or education.
  • A national certification as an Accredited Financial Counselor (AFC), Certified Financial Planner
  • (CFP), Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC).
  • Counselors shall maintain a valid, unrestricted motor vehicle license.
  • Demonstrated experience in utilizing MS Office products (Excel, Word, PowerPoint).
  • A criminal history background check that includes a credit check, as well as an FBI fingerprint check are required to work in this program.

 

DESIRED QUALIFICATIONS:

  • Previous military experience (including military spouses and/or as a service provider)
  • Ability to travel up to 10% including some weekends with advanced notice.
  • Ability to facilitate financial workshops and trainings to large groups and ability to tailor presentations to audiences as needed.
  • Knowledge, skills, and abilities such as:
  • Working knowledge of military, state, federal, and local resources.
  • Understanding, sensitivity, and empathy for Service members and their family members.
  • Ability to develop trusting helping relationships.
  • Ability to work effectively with individuals and families from diverse racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic backgrounds.
  • Ability to use sound professional judgment, ethical practice, and common sense. Ability to develop, implement, and evaluate financial needs of individuals and families.

 

*****

 

Now that I’ve hyped up the PFCs, you might have a few questions going through your mind.  I’ll try to predict some of them and answer them for you now.

 

Is there any cost to use the Personal Financial Counselors?

Not at all.  While financial planners can charge as much as $150 per hour or an initial flat fee around $2,000, they are available at no cost to you.

 

Will the PFC recommend financial products for me to purchase or refer me to outside financial services?

Again, the answer is no.  Many of the contracted PFCs do have practices in addition to their consultation contract, they are forbidden by that contract from making recommendations for products and from referring you to either their or another financial planning business.  The PFC will offer advice and education only.  If you choose to make use of such a company in addition to consulting with the PFC, that is your prerogative.

 

How can I find a Personal Financial Counselor?

For the National Guard, the PFCs are usually attached to your state’s Family Programs branch.  You often can find contact information for family programs through your state’s National Guard website.  I have included a few useful links in the references section.  The best news, though, is the PFCs will assist any currently serving military member or military family regardless of branch.  Like any of us, they need numbers of contacts in order to maintain their positions.  Help them out and make an appointment to speak with a PFC when you’re able.

 

I think that is enough to get your mind working on a few things such as your current financial condition and questions you’d like to ask the PFC.  I hope this has been an informative and useful article for you.

 

Join me next week when I will talk about an issue specific to officers (though there is a similar thing for enlisted members): the mandatory removal date and how it can affect a career path.

 

As always, please post any questions or comments in the comments section below.  If you think this article can be beneficial to another person, please share the link with them and spread the word about this website.

 

Thanks again for joining me today and, of course, thank you for your service.

 

D.J.

References:
Certified Personal Financial Counselor Job Announcement – Zeiders Enterprises
National Guard Financial Management Awareness Program
Personal Financial Management and Taxes (Military OneSource)
How to Access Financial Counseling Through Military OneSource
Army Reserve Family Programs
Service Provider Network
MyArmyBenefits Resource Locator


Podcast Episode 0022 – What is a Personal Financial Counselor?

 

References:
Certified Personal Financial Counselor Job Announcement – Zeiders Enterprises
National Guard Financial Management Awareness Program
Personal Financial Management and Taxes (Military OneSource)
How to Access Financial Counseling Through Military OneSource
Army Reserve Family Programs
Service Provider Network
MyArmyBenefits Resource Locator


YouTube Episode 0024 – What is a Personal Financial Counselor?

https://youtu.be/9OMPKjP-Goo

References:
Certified Personal Financial Counselor Job Announcement – Zeiders Enterprises
National Guard Financial Management Awareness Program
Personal Financial Management and Taxes (Military OneSource)
How to Access Financial Counseling Through Military OneSource
Army Reserve Family Programs
Service Provider Network
MyArmyBenefits Resource Locator


Mrs. Gloria Jackson – An Introduction to the Fettinger Project

The Blended Retirement System series is finally complete.  I think it’s time to talk about something other than boring forms, all sorts of numbers, and bits of public law.  I’m going to tell you about an effort that has been ongoing in my region for quite a while now.  Like any good story, it is rife with ups and downs, victories and defeats.  I’ll begin with how this project began and then continue with the most recent story to develop from it.

 

The name of the lady who inspired this endeavor is real.  I have permission to use her name and story in the efforts of identifying and assisting other people who face similar situations such as hers.  All other names and, in many cases, locations have been changed in order to protect privacy.

 

In late 2013, Mrs. Kathleen Fettinger approached our Survivor Outreach Services section to inquire about any service benefits her husband may have earned.  The SOS Coordinator, Mr. Frazier Thompson, asked me to join in the conversation after a few minutes (I was only a few desks away at the time).  Mrs. Fettinger’s husband, Gerard, has passed away two years before after a multi-year battle with cancer.  He was sixty-two years old when he died.

 

As the conversation developed, we soon discovered that Master Sergeant Fettinger had never applied for his military pension when he turned sixty.  His physical and mental condition had deteriorated significantly as a result of his medical treatments.  This caused him to forget completely about his military service and his retirement benefits.  Mrs. Fettinger also was not aware that he had earned anything of the sort to include survivor benefits.  Naturally, we jumped at the chance to assist this lady. To further sadden the situation, the amount of retirement MSG Fettinger would have received – along with the Tricare benefit – would have been enough to keep them from having to declare bankruptcy.  The short answer is we were able to get the survivor benefit for her right away and, after a yearlong wait for the Army Board for the Correction of Military Records to make its decision, also obtained all of the retired pay her husband would have received.

 

Later that day after Mrs. Fettinger had left us, I was talking about her case with a volunteer who was helping us in retirement services.  We were stunned by the fact that someone had not applied for the benefits he had earned at the right time.  As the conversation progressed, we began to wonder how many others out there were like MSG Fettinger.  The good news was I had the tools to answer that question.  Over the course of the next several weeks, I scoured our National Guard retirement points database, information from Army Human Resources Command, and the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS).  Ultimately, a list of forty-five names appeared.  My volunteers, members of the Survivor Outreach Services section, other coworkers, and I began to search for these people.  We dubbed our efforts “The Fettinger Project” in honor of Mrs. Fettinger and her husband.  As of this writing, all but one has been located (that guy is living off the grid in a cabin somewhere in the forests of North Carolina).

 

I would like to tell you about the last person we found on that list.  Who knows?  I might make this into a recurring series of good (and sometimes bad) stories.

 

Sergeant John Jackson was a man I feared we would never find.  He was nine years late in applying for pay.  Not only did he have a very common name and live in a large city with dozens of people with that name and similar age, his contact information was so old as to be completely useless.  Pretty much, I had given up on him.  There was still that needling urge to keep trying from the little man in the back of my head, though.  Every now and then when I had a moment to breathe at work, I would continue in my search.

 

A few months ago, Mr. Thompson, whom I mentioned earlier, introduced me to a smartphone app which had helped me locate a name on the list.  I decided to try again one morning during some downtime at a leadership conference a few weeks ago.  Of course, there were again several names on the list which could have been SGT Jackson.  One of them, though, had a previous address which was the one I had in my old records.  I dug deeper into the profile on the app.

 

In the list of possible addresses was another bit of information: the time first and last seen near that address (in a way, it’s scary how much information is online).  The address at the top of the list, possibly the current address, had this information, as well.  I gasped in audible dismay when I read it.  The last time he was seen in that area was 2008.  I actually felt chills at this point.  Could he have died years before and we would never be able to help him as a result?

 

I dug further, this time using a search engine, and felt myself crash further.  I found his obituary and the place where he was buried, a state military cemetery in the northern part of the state.  He was fifty-nine when he passed away.  I remember releasing my pent-up breath at this point.  It was over.  I had found him too late.  In fact, I was five years too late when I even began looking for him.  Failure.  Complete, abject failure; the worst sensation imaginable in this line of work.  I had failed to help him and his family. Or had I?

 

Another thought came into my mind.  Wasn’t SGT Jackson married?  Was his wife still alive?  I delved into what few records I had on him and found his survivor benefit election certificate.  There is was.  He was married to Gloria.  Was she still with us?  Could I find her perhaps?

 

Back to the app I went.  Almost instantly, I found a name with the correct age.  It even had the last address I had found for SGT Jackson.  There were two possible phone numbers.  By this time a coworker had walked up and noticed my obvious intensity.  I quickly explained what had happened in the last few minutes.  He visibly paled and then brightened again as he listened.  I picked up my cell phone and dialed, a silent prayer on my lips.  The other side of the line rang twice and then went to voicemail.  I left a message and immediately tried the other number.  It rang incessantly with no answer.

 

I tried those numbers fanatically over the next three days. There was no change.  The first number always went to voicemail after two rings and the second just rang on and on.  The specter of defeat loomed again.  What was I to do now?

 

A strange thought came to me at that point.  Several weeks earlier, I had located one of the few people left on the Fettinger list by asking assistance of the local police department.  In that case, I had contacted a police operator and asked simply whether the retiree was in fact living in the town or not.  Upon hearing my story, the operator decided to call him and give him my number.  The retiree called back half an hour later.  Would this option work for Mrs. Jackson?

 

I decided to try it.  I called the local police and recited my tale to the operator.  At first, I thought it did no good whatsoever.  The operator said he would look into it.  How detailed a response could I expect, though?  I was asking for the personal information of a private citizen after all.  The next day, however, I got a bit of a surprise.  The deputy chief of police called me and left a message.  We played phone tag for another day before finally catching each other near our phones.  He listened to my more descriptive version of the story and made a decision on the spot.  He would go to Mrs. Jackson’s house and deliver the message.  “It will be my feel-good story for a Friday,” he said.  That was around one o’clock in the afternoon.  I figured I would not hear anything further until Monday.

 

For the next half hour, I tried to plan some training with a coworker but we were interrupted by a visit from our former branch chief.  The work slowly devolved into the laid-back conversation of many office workers on a Friday afternoon.  Just goofing off and waiting for quitting time.  Even I, a noted workaholic, am susceptible to it on occasion.  Our talk continued when the phone rang.  I answered it in a casual tone since I expected it to be nothing more than the average request for information from somebody or another.

 

“Hello, this is Gloria Jackson,” I heard through my Bluetooth headset.  I nearly sprang out of my chair.  My coworker scooted away from me slightly to give me room.  Having overheard my call with the deputy chief, he knew what was happening.  I vaguely remember him telling the former branch chief about it ask I answered Mrs. Jackson.

 

She was alive and well.  She had a different address and phone number, but she had finally been found.  The deputy chief had left his card with a message at her house and a friend had contacted her.  She had taken a break from work and called me right away.  Count your minor miracles.

 

Mrs. Jackson asked who I was, why I was looking for her, and what it had to do with her husband.  I explained it all.  Amazingly, she was very much like Mrs. Fettinger in her response.  She did not know her husband had earned a pension and also did not know about the survivor benefit.  She was skeptical. That much was obvious. Maybe I was a scam artist, she may have thought. I tried to talk her through her suspicion. I couldn’t let this small victory slip away. She finally agreed to meet me but only in a public place.  I said she could choose any location she liked.  She suggested the station where the deputy chief worked.  I agreed instantly and arranged a time (I was two hours away and need time to get there).  I then called the deputy chief who readily acquiesced to my request to use his facility.

 

I was practically shooed out of the office by all of my coworkers.  They were quite familiar with my obsession with this project.  I have practically a full mobile office in my vehicle; a printer, office supplies, et cetera.  All I had to do was pop my work laptop off its docking station and throw it in its travel bag.  After topping off the gas tank, I was on the way.

 

I began to think about the implications of what I was about to do.  Not the meeting of a retiree or a spouse outside of the office.  I actually do this with quite a bit of regularity (call it part of the obsession).  I realized as I drove that I had more to do than a simple survivor annuity application.  I had to deal with bureaucratic annoyances galore, as well.

 

For example, since this request for a survivor annuity was nine years after the death of the retiree, Army Human Resources Command definitely was going to reject it.  They do this automatically for any survivor request more than six years old. This is in accordance with a law called the Barring Act which disallows back payment of government obligations older than six years. I had to prepare an appeal to the Army Board for the Correction of Military Records.  They were the only entity with the authority to overturn the rejection.  Even if the board agreed with the appeal, they still have the obstacle of the Barring Act.  I had learned a year and a half ago from a person at DFAS that a waiver can be obtained for this limitation (up to $25,000).  I would have to write the request for a waiver, as well.

 

I know all of this sounds like the whining of a soft-handed office worker. Well, I wasn’t always an office guy.  I was a real soldier once and the loyalties you develop don’t wither away rapidly. We are talking about the welfare of a military family member, by the way.  I experienced the same necessity to help her that I did when I lost friends while overseas, an overwhelming compulsion to do whatever must be done for the families of the fallen.  This wasn’t just another task for a desk monkey.  It was a mission to help someone in need.

 

I had just developed my plan and was almost at the police station when I received another call from Mrs. Jackson.  She was going to be an hour late because she still needed to find some of her husband’s records (I had asked her to bring whatever she could find).  This was actually a good sign for me.  It would give me time to prepare all the items I would need to assist her to the fullest.

 

I arrived at the station and set up my equipment.  The deputy chief had assigned another policeman to escort me (he had texted me saying he couldn’t be there because his wife would have his hide if he didn’t get home soon).  The officer who met me was a member of the Air National Guard and was completely sympathetic to my mission.  As with any two service members when they get together, we shot the bull for a while.  Finally, though, I had to get to work.  Mrs. Jackson would be there soon.

 

And she was.  I had only been working for about half an hour when she showed up early (well, earlier than our new meeting time).  She was already in tears.  It was her husband’s birthday.  She told us as she entered the conference room that she had imagined I was actually there to tell her he was actually alive.  Oh, how I wish I had that kind of news for her.  Instead, I was only there to tell her about service benefits and money.  How that pales compared to the loss of a loved one.

 

Mrs. Jackson and I did nothing but talk for an hour.  She would reminisce about her husband and I would just listen. Occasionally, I would ask a question.  Sometimes it was something I needed to know for one of the many packets and sometimes it was just conversational. I was reminded that she was ten years younger than her husband and learned also that she was working full-time to support herself. After a while, we slowly got to the business of our meeting.

 

I started by showing her the amount of the survivor annuity.  I apologized for the fact it would only be $334 per month.  She stated that paltry sum would make a great difference in her life.  That is when I learned that her take home pay from her job was only $1,500 per month.  I then showed her the first six years of back pay she could expect once we got everything fixed up: $24,400.  If the waiver to the Barring Act was granted, there would be another $10,000.  That is a total of over $34,000.  Her eyes became misty at that point.  Admittedly, I became the same upon seeing her reaction.

 

I asked if she was paying a premium for employer-provided health insurance.  She said yes.  I brought up the Tricare coverage she had actually had available since her husband’s sixtieth birthday (she never knew).  She started to cry in earnest now.  “I didn’t know he did all this for me,” she said.  The policeman accompanying use gave of a tissue for her tears.

 

We talked some more.  During the chat, she mentioned that her husband had served in Vietnam.  I perked up again and asked to see the DD 214 from his Vietnam service.  She showed it to me. I asked if her husband’s death was somehow related to this service. As we discussed it, I decided it just might be.  Things had just improved for her yet again.

 

You see, there is a stipend from the Veterans Administration called Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (or DIC).  It is a monthly amount of $1,257.95 which is paid to spouses of members who die from service-connected causes.  Now it does offset the survivor annuity dollar for dollar which means it would completely wipe out the $334 per month.  However, there is another type of payment called the Special Survivor Indemnity Allowance (SSIA) which is added to whatever remains of annuity (if any) and to the DIC.  It would be another $310 per month (this allowance is currently set to expire on 30 September 2017 unless it is extended by Congress).  I then made an appointment for her to meet with a Veteran Services Officer (VSO) in my area who could help her apply for DIC.  I thought it was worth the effort.  $1,567.95 per month beats $334 no matter what type of math you’re using.

 

I finally told Mrs. Jackson about all of the bureaucratic hoops through which we’d have to jump in order to get all of this arranged for her but added that the chances were excellent. She admitted that everything seemed quite surreal to her and stated that it was as if her husband were still watching over her.  The officer seconded that thought.  We signed everything and chatted some more. I then saw Mrs. Jackson to the door and promised to meet her again when she came to see the VSO (as of this writing, the meeting has not yet occurred). I also thanked the police officer for sticking with us through the entire three-hour meeting.

 

Overall, it was a good night.  I desperately wanted a cigar and a glass of scotch by the time I got back to my apartment, though.  I was exhausted but hopeful for Mrs. Jackson.  Here’s hoping that it all works out positively for her.

 

*****

 

Thank you for joining me in the recounting of this story. I believe it is quite uplifting when all is said. It’s incredible that I have done my best to summarize this event and it has still amounted to five pages of written material.  Who knows what it will be when I actually post it to my blog.

 

I ask that you spread the word about this event.  Who knows how many other service members and their families are experiences similar circumstances.  I hope the other retirement services officers out there will be willing to replicate our efforts.  The results are invigorating to say the least.

 

I also ask that you spread this article around.  This is the kind of thing that people need to know.  They need to know about the efforts the RSOs are making. They need to know the effects this has on military families.  If you’ll do that for me I will greatly appreciate it.

 

Next week, we’ll get back to our usual business of explaining service benefits.  Until then, thank you for joining me and thank you for your service.

 

D.J.


Podcast Episode 0021 – Mrs. Gloria Jackson – An Introduction to the Fettinger Project

Let’s hear a good news story this week.


YouTube Episode 0023 – Mrs. Gloria Jackson – An Introduction to the Fettinger Project

https://youtu.be/rRC_WLaKXfM

Let’s hear a good news story this week.


“The Pentagon Wants to Sweeten Retirement Benefits for Senior Enlisted Troops” by Andrew deGrandpre (Military Times)

http://www.militarytimes.com/articles/military-retirement-thrift-savings-plan-matching-contribution

*****
A Note from DJ:
I cannot post this entire article.  I will post the first two paragraphs and recommend reading the rest of the article at the link above.
*****

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon wants to upgrade its new retirement package, set to debut Jan. 1, so the military’s longest-serving enlisted personnel have greater incentive to remain in uniform.
Introduced in late-May, the proposal calls for removing eligibility limits on the dollar-for-dollar contributions that will be made to troops’ 401(k)-style investment accounts, a key feature of the Defense Department’s new “blended” retirement plan. Current rules halt those payments once personnel reach 26 years of service. By lifting that cap, careerists who ascend to the military’s senior-most ranks could collect tens of thousands of dollars in additional retirement savings depending on the stock market’s performance over time.