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NEWS | Dec. 13, 2015

Preparing to Pop Smoke: RSC Partners with VA to conduct Retirement Services Brief

By Michael Mascari 81st Regional Support Command

LEXINGTON, Ky. - Soldiers preparing for retirement often have lots to think about and little time to prepare by the time they attend a Retirement Services Brief, if they attend one at all.

The 81st Regional Support Command (RSC) is working to help make the preparation time a little smoother by partnering with the Veterans Administration. The December 5th Retirement Services event in Lexington, Kentucky was the first time the RSC conducted an event at a VA center. Many of the attendees saw a lot of value in both the briefing and the partnership.

“I am comfortable at the VA as a veteran and the people that you need to talk to for many things are here at the VA,” said Master Sgt. Loretta Cotham. “Not everyone lives close to a VA, so this is very convenient and helpful to connect with people to assist me through the process. I am grateful.”

The RSC conducts regular retirement services briefings throughout the year, seeing over 1,300 soon-to-be and recently retired troops per year. They don’t just serve Reserve Soldiers, they assist National Guardsmen and Reservists from the Navy, Marines and Air Force. Spouses are encouraged to attend as well.

While seeking to better serve those who serve, the RSC team determined that teaming up with the VA would benefit the Servicemembers and both organizations. Members of the VA and select vendors that serve Reservists and Guardsmen can provide onsite assistance and the Servicemembers can make contact with people and organizations that can assist them through the retirement process. 

This partnership helps the 81st and the VA share valuable information with each other helping both to provide the most current information to their customers. The 81st RSC would like to partner with the VA for all of its retirement events and is seeking to do so.

Mr. James Belmont Jr., Associate Director for the Lexington VA Medical Center, said the VA is very happy with the partnership and he would like to see this become the model. 

“There’s a dual benefit,” Belmont said. “One for the Army, where they can have a central facility where they can bring Service members in to one place and from the VA’s perspective, we can reach the veterans, and let them know about their health benefits. We can sign them up and advise them of their eligibility. Many veterans don’t know there is dual eligibility."

Service members can receive both the military retirement healthcare through Tri Care and also are also eligible for VA benefits. Belmont seeks to sign up more people earlier to see to what they may be entitled and for how much they qualify.

“The dual eligibility is always a surprise for retiring military members. We want to let them know about these benefits. These aren’t given, they’re earned.” 
Cotham, the NCOIC of Radiology for the 5th Medical Brigade in Birmingham found out what she’s entitled to, how much her retirement will be, and even that she is entitled to veterans hiring preference and medical benefits she was not aware of. 

“If you don’t think you need to attend these briefings, you are wrong. You need to make the time. This is yours. You’ve done these years and when you retire, it’s not a given you will get everything. If you don’t work to get it, you will lose it. It’s up to you.”

Cotham has advice for Soldiers to consider earlier in their careers.

“Be mindful of all of your paperwork. Check into the system to ensure they have all of your paperwork and things are being updated on a regular basis. You have to be proactive in your own retirement to make everything work.” 

For more information and resources, call the 81st RSC Retirement Service Officers at (803) 751-9864/9698 or you can contact Human Resources Service Center at (888) 276-9472, askhrc.army@us.army.mil. To speak with someone at the Veterans Administration at (800) 827-1000 or www.va.gov.