Air Force Retiree Council convenes to discuss issues Published June 16, 2014 By Tammy Cournoyer JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas (AFNS) -- The 2014 Air Force Retiree Council met in May to discuss issues important to retirees and surviving spouses, and receive briefings on various subjects important to the retiree community. This was the first time the council convened since 2012. Last year's annual meeting was cancelled because of budget constraints. The Air Force Retiree Council provides the link between members of the Air Force retiree community - more than 695,000 retirees, spouses and surviving spouses living throughout the world -- and the Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III. Council co-chairmen are Welsh's liaison with the retiree community and work directly for him. Current co-chairmen are Lt. Gen. Steven R. Polk and Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Rodney J. McKinley, both retired. Comprised of the two co-chairmen and 15 members representing retirees by geographical areas in the United States and overseas, the council gathers annually at the Air Force Personnel Center here to discuss retiree issues. Upon conclusion of the annual meeting, the co-chairmen report the council's findings directly to the chief of staff. Among the issues discussed by the council were the following: -- Maintaining the commissary benefit. -- Continued support for printing and mailing of the Afterburner. -- Enhanced support for Defense Finance and Accounting retired and annuity pay customers, including promoting myPay accounts for self-service. -- Continuing Retiree Activities Office support at the base level -- both financial and administrative - and the growing need for more volunteers. -- Support for legislative issues, specifically eliminating offset between the Survivor Benefit Plan and Dependency and Indemnity Compensation; paid-up SBP premiums for retirees at age 67 versus 70; and full pay for the month that a retiree dies. -- Concerns about rising TRICARE costs and reduced Medicare/TRICARE for Life reimbursement. The co-chairs will work with the agencies related to the issues and report the findings and proposed resolutions to Welsh in September. They will also brief the chief of staff on the vital role retirees who are "still serving" play in saving millions of dollars in personnel costs by volunteering at local bases. Despite the fiscal realities that cancelled last year's meeting, the co-chairs were able to meet with Welsh when he visited AFPC on Sept. 11. Polk, who lives in San Antonio, met with him personally, while McKinley was able to join in via teleconference from Oklahoma. During that meeting, Welsh assured the co-chairs that he strongly supports the retiree community and appreciates their service. "General Welsh expressed his sincere gratitude for the tireless efforts of our Air Force retiree community," Polk said. "He acknowledged and boasted about the countless hours retirees volunteer each year in support of our bases." Retiree Activities Offices stepped into the spotlight this year when their support by the installation commander became part of the 2014 Air Force Inspector General's inspection checklist. "General Welsh considers Air Force retirees a key component of our force," said McKinley.