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Pay Back for ‘Stop Loss’

Service members and veterans whose military service was involuntarily extended under the “Stop Loss” program, are eligible for special retroactive pay. Applicants have until Oct. 21 to apply for Retroactive Stop Loss Special Pay. The special compensation is for hardships endured by the involuntary extensions. Eligible members or their beneficiaries may submit a claim to their respective military service to receive $500 for each full or partial month served in a Stop Loss status. When the special pay began on Oct. 21, 2009, the services estimated 145,000 service members, veterans and beneficiaries were eligible for this benefit. Because the majority of those eligible had separated from the military, officials said, the services have engaged in extensive and persistent outreach efforts, such as multiple direct mailings, public service announcements and continuous engagements with military and veteran service organizations, social networks and media outlets. To apply for the pay, or for more information on submission requirements and service-specific links, go to www.defense.gov/stoploss.

Divorce Reports Needed

Retirees who are divorced need to update their marital status in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS) within 30 days of the effective divorce date. A divorce may be reported to any Department of Defense identification card issuing facility by presenting the final decree of divorce or dissolution. Delayed reporting and incorrect DEERS information may affect a retiree’s or former spouse's ability to access services at base facilities or lead to denied medical care or unpaid medical claims. Also, if former spouses continue to use benefits and privileges to which they are no longer entitled, the retiree can incur a debt for Tricare medical and pharmacy benefits. The Total Force Service Center (TFSC) at Randolph AFB, Texas, determines eligibility for former spouses who might qualify for continued benefits under the Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act. Either the former spouse or retiree may contact the TFSC at 1-800-525-0102 about eligibility for former spouse ID card benefits and privileges.

Commissaries in Third Decade

To improve efficiency and increase taxpayer savings, Congress and the Department of Defense created the Defense Commissary Agency in 1991 by consolidating the military services’ retail grocery operations into one organization. The commissary benefit is nearly 145 years old. While officers could buy food from military storehouses as early as 1825, the modern commissary benefit dates to July 1, 1867. That’s when Congress authorized the Army to sell food items, at cost, to enlisted men as well as officers. Sales initially took place at a table or counter in a warehouse. The official stock list was 82 items. By the early 20th century, the stores began to resemble civilian grocery outlets. In 1991, commissaries provided average customer savings of 20 percent when compared with local grocery chains. Today, average savings are more than 30 percent. A congressionally-mandated surcharge has remained at 5 percent since 1983. National Guard and Reserve personnel were granted full-time commissary benefits in 2004.

The Retiree Activities Office is open from 10 a.m.-3p.m. Monday-Friday. Visit our office at Colorado and D Street, call us at 301-981-2726, or email us at raoandrews.af.mil. Calling the office prior to visiting is recommended to ensure someone is on duty. The RAO also has a website at www.andrews.af.mil, click on "Retirees" on the right side of the page. There you will find a wealth of information that might be of interest to you. Copies of "Retiree Activities Corner" articles are online as well. Go to the retirees webpage and find information under the heading "Newspaper Column."