January 13, 2015

Sgt. Shaft caricatureDear Sgt. Shaft:
I recently turned 65 and have Medicare part A and B and have Tricare For Life. I have a retired US Army ID card which I show if requested when I receive medical care. My wife will be on Medicare part A and B in February, 2015 when she turns 65.  She does not have any military spouse ID.  Does she need to get some type of military spouse ID to verify she will be on TFL when she goes on Medicare?

Thank you.

James D, Sgm. Ret.

Dear James,
You need to get your spouse to the ID card office to get her a card and to ensure she in enrolled in DEERS and ready to assume TFL. The ID card is more than just an ID card. Getting a card while at the ID card office is the place where you are enrolled for military health care benefits.

Shaft Notes
U.S. Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Johnny Isakson (R-GA) applauded U.S. Army Secretary John McHugh for reversing a policy that caused a significant number of Army officers to retire at a lower rank and lose significant retirement benefits, as much as $1,000 per month for the rest of their lives.

Under the now-reversed policy, a significant group of Army captains and majors (former non-commissioned officers who were recruited for Officer Candidate School after September 11, 2001) were forced to retire at their highest previous enlisted rank, instead of their rank as officers, as a result of the Army’s use of Enhanced-Selective Early Retirement Boards (E-SERB).  In November, the Senators sent a letter to Sec. McHugh calling for this change. The new policy will result in a significant increase in lifetime retirement benefits for the impacted soldiers, for some as much as $1,000 per month or more, or just over $1 million over a 40 year retirement in the case of a captain forced to retire as a sergeant first class.

“I heartily share your concern regarding those officers…who were informed they must retire in their previous enlisted grade,” Secretary McHugh wrote to the Senators.  “I am pleased to inform you that…I have waived the minimum requirement for those officers, allowing them to retire as officers without regard to the number of years they  have in active commissioned service.”

The full text of Secretary McHugh’s letter can be viewed HERE.

“These brave men and women answered the Army’s call to duty not just once, but twice, and I applaud Secretary McHugh’s swift action to correct this policy and ensure we fully honor the service and sacrifice of our nation’s heroes,” Senator Murray said. “I’m grateful to my friend and colleague, Senator Isakson, for joining me in this fight.”

“I am thrilled Secretary McHugh responded quickly and is taking the steps necessary to rectify this situation and allow these deserving men and women to retire at the rank they have earned and appropriately honor their service to our nation,” said Isakson, chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee.

Under the previous Army policy, a soldier must have served at least 8 years of active service as a commissioned officer in order to retire as a commissioned officer. Soldiers who served 20 years total, but less than 8 years as commissioned officers, were retired at their highest enlisted rank.

During the “Grow the Army” effort, the Army dramatically increased the number of officers commissioned via its Officer Candidate School (OCS).  The Army expanded to a post 9-11 peak of 570,000 soldiers in 2010 and is currently executing an end strength reduction designed to shrink the Army to 450,000 soldiers.  Many of those OCS graduates are now being forced to retire through the E-SERB process as the Army shrinks.  Officers with more than 18 years active service are screened by E-SERB and those selected will be forced to retire on the first day of the month following the month they reach 20 years of service. These former non-commissioned officers stepped up and volunteered for OCS at a time the Army badly needed officers and served honorably for between 6 and 7 years, but many were being retired at enlisted ranks they had not held in years.

Senators Murray and Isakson were joined in sending their initial letter by: Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), Susan Collins (R-ME), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Mike Johanns (R-NE), Tim Johnson (D-SD), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Mark Pryor (D-AR), Bernard Sanders (D-VT) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH).

Sgt. Shaft Kudos badgeKudos to Congressman Gus M. Bilirakis (R-FL), Vice Chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee for his vote to pass H.R. 22, the Hire More Heroes Act, of which he was an original cosponsor. This bill will encourage the hiring of Veterans, by providing employers with relief from the Employer Mandate in the President’s health care law, and will reduce Veteran unemployment and spur economic growth.

“The first bill passed in the 114th Congress encourages employers to hire Veterans. No employer should be penalized for hiring a Veteran,” Bilirakis said. “Veterans have long been a priority of mine, and we must do all we can to ensure our nation’s true heroes find gainful employment when they return to civilian life. Veterans have acquired a number of skills through their service to our nation, from which many businesses across the country would benefit.”

“Last year, the Harry Reid-led Senate did not pass this legislation. With the new, Republican majority in the Senate, I believe this overwhelmingly bipartisan piece of legislation will be on the President’s desk soon. The President should sign this bill into law, for our Veterans,” Bilirakis continued.


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