Friday, August 15, 2008

TOP STORY >> Retirees helping retirees

By Senior Airman Chris Willis
314th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

The Little Rock Air Force Base Retiree Activities Office serves as the interface between the active and retired communities. It is an official Air Force staffed by volunteers. All military retirees regardless of service, surviving spouses of retired and active-duty personnel and all military members about to retire are served by the RAO.

John Heffernan, Little Rock AFB RAO director — who has also provided 96 flags for active-duty retiree ceremonies — says, “It is an honor to be able to serve our active-duty [personnel who are retiring].”

Mr. Heffernan and approximately 62 volunteers working all across Little Rock AFB offer a wide range of assistance to retirees including: guidance for military members about to retire; benefits for retirees; as well as furnishing needed volunteers at multiple locations around Little Rock AFB.

Retirement activities office volunteers totaled 13,537.50 hours in 2007. Many active and retired military members from all branches of service are grateful for the help the RAO provides.

“Whoever walks through our doors…we are always here to help,” says retired Senior Master Sgt. Joe Wheeler, Little Rock AFB RAO assistant.

The RAO helps out around base, assisting at the Consolidated Support Center by getting the word out when the computer systems may be down or when the wait time to receive an identification card may be longer than expected. Volunteers also ensure to tell retirees before they make the trip to the base from wherever they are coming from what paperwork is mandatory to have, since many travel hundreds of miles to use the facilities at Little Rock AFB.

“They go out of their way for us; their help is tremendous,” said Tech. Sgt. Janet Green, 314th Mission Support Squadron Customer Service NCO in charge.

Mr. Heffernan and the RAO volunteers have a deep-rooted respect for the privileges retired military personnel and their families are granted but stress these are privileges rather than a right.

“At times, I have to send out what I affectionately refer to as ‘love notes’ to remind some of our retirees about the policies and rules,” mentioned Mr. Heffernan.

The RAO also provides a monthly activity newsletter posted on the base Web site that has more detailed information concerning retiree benefits and the wide range of services they can provide.

RAO volunteers also provide assistance and education through the Survivor Benefit Plan. Getting the word out about the new law effective Oct. 1, which states participants who reach 70 years of age and have made over 30 years will no longer have to pay premiums for continued SBP coverage and will be placed in paid-up SBP status.

There is also a service provided on base that allows retirees who are unable to shop at the commissary or base exchange due to a handicap to receive assistance.

The retiree must have a letter from their doctor stating that they legitimately need assistance; the person assisting also must be named on the letter. After stopping by the RAO, you will receive a card which is good for a year.

The driver on the letter must have current automobile insurance, vehicle registration and a valid driver’s license. Additionally, the person shopping for the retiree must carry his ID card.

“It’s a nice feeling to know people like my father who made a career in the military can come in and have these services provided,” said Damon Poole II, son of World War II veteran retired Air Force Master Sgt. Damon Poole.

For more information, stop by the Retiree Activities Office Bldg. 1255 or call 987-6095 or 987-5254.


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