National Guard August_2016 : Page 32

GROWTH Two NGAUS board members are working to improve the way the association serves retirees, and, just as important, vice versa BY CODY ERBACHER R ETIRED AND SEPARATED NGAUS members will have a forum to discuss issues important to them at the first-ever retiree caucus at the 138th General Conference & Exhibition in September in Baltimore. The caucus will be moderated by retired Brig. Gen. David Bru-baker and retired Brig. Gen. Daryl McCall, who are the retired/sep-arated representatives on the NGAUS board of directors. Brubaker, who has been working to schedule such a meeting since his election to the board at the 2014 NGAUS conference in Chicago, said the intent is to better understand the concerns of re-tirees and develop a Guard retiree legislative agenda to present to association leadership. “We have members who are experts on [is-sues facing the retiree community] that can offer the input,” says Brubaker, who was a traditional Indiana Air National Guardsman before starting with the National Guard Bureau in 1988. “We want to capture those issues, prioritize them and push them forward.” Brubaker, who retired in 2005, expects the discussion to focus on the Pentagon budget pro-posal for fiscal 2017, which could boost the cost of health care for military retirees under 65, so-called working-age retirees, and reor-ganize the current TRICARE system. TRICARE deductibles would increase and future TRICARE for Life users would also experience cost increases. Brubaker says these proposed changes are leaving many in the retiree community feeling “disengaged.” McCall, a former Oklahoma Army Guardsman who also served at NGB, agrees and says separated and retired Guardsmen have a lot to offer. He said that being out of uniform does not mean retirees don’t want to help the current force. “They’re a very well-connected group,” McCall says. “Many times, our retirees are connected with state and federal legislators. And “I want to try to bring a little bit of structure and give a voice to our retirees.” —Brig. Gen. David Brubaker (Ret.) Retired/Separated-Air representative NGAUS board of directors there are things a retiree sometimes can do to assist an adjutant general that a person in uniform cannot do.” They just don’t how they can help. Nor do they always know when or if issues unique to the retiree community are high on the NGAUS legislative agenda, he says. Brubaker and McCall say the solution is better engagement be-tween the association staff and the retiree community. “I wouldn’t say [retirees are] forgotten about,” Brubaker says. “I honestly feel in my heart that NGAUS collectively cares and works issues for retirees. What I feel like is lacking is that communication to them that we are working on these things.” To improve communication, McCall worked with the association staff to create a special retiree area on the NGAUS website. Retiree/ 32    NATIONAL GUARD   AUGUST 2016   WWW . NGAUS . ORG |

Growth Area

Cody Erbacher


Two NGAUS board members are working to improve the way the association serves retirees, and, just as important, vice versa

RETIRED AND SEPARATED NGAUS members will have a forum to discuss issues important to them at the first-ever retiree caucus at the 138th General Conference & Exhibition in September in Baltimore.

The caucus will be moderated by retired Brig. Gen. David Brubaker and retired Brig. Gen. Daryl McCall, who are the retired/separated representatives on the NGAUS board of directors.

Brubaker, who has been working to schedule such a meeting since his election to the board at the 2014 NGAUS conference in Chicago, said the intent is to better understand the concerns of retirees and develop a Guard retiree legislative agenda to present to association leadership.

“We have members who are experts on [issues facing the retiree community] that can offer the input,” says Brubaker, who was a traditional Indiana Air National Guardsman before starting with the National Guard Bureau in 1988. “We want to capture those issues, prioritize them and push them forward.”

Brubaker, who retired in 2005, expects the discussion to focus on the Pentagon budget proposal for fiscal 2017, which could boost the cost of health care for military retirees under 65, so-called working-age retirees, and reorganize the current TRICARE system. TRICARE deductibles would increase and future TRICARE for Life users would also experience cost increases.

Brubaker says these proposed changes are leaving many in the retiree community feeling “disengaged.”

McCall, a former Oklahoma Army Guardsman who also served at NGB, agrees and says separated and retired Guardsmen have a lot to offer. He said that being out of uniform does not mean retirees don’t want to help the current force.

“They’re a very well-connected group,” McCall says. “Many times, our retirees are connected with state and federal legislators. And there are things a retiree sometimes can do to assist an adjutant general that a person in uniform cannot do.”

They just don’t how they can help. Nor do they always know when or if issues unique to the retiree community are high on the NGAUS legislative agenda, he says.

Brubaker and McCall say the solution is better engagement between the association staff and the retiree community.

“I wouldn’t say [retirees are] forgotten about,” Brubaker says. “I honestly feel in my heart that NGAUS collectively cares and works issues for retirees. What I feel like is lacking is that communication to them that we are working on these things.”

To improve communication, McCall worked with the association staff to create a special retiree area on the NGAUS website. Retiree/Separated Focus, located under About NGAUS at www.ngaus.org, has features and information known to be of special interest to retired and separated members.

McCall says the number of items will grow as he and the association staff find content of use to the retiree community, including materials that pertain to those under 60, the “gray-area” retirees. He invites retired and separated Guard officers to send items of interest to the community to ngaus@ngaus.org.

One item in the Retiree/Separated Focus is the latest news on NGAUS efforts to convince Congress to change the federal definition of a “veteran” to include Guardsmen and Reservists who have served 20 years.

Current law requires at least 179 days on federal active duty for other than training, regardless of the length of the career in uniform. This leaves out a generation of retirees whose readiness and willingness to deploy helped win the Cold War and many who retired more recently, Brubaker says.

Both board members are also working with the NGAUS staff to better inform the entire membership, not just retirees, about retiree issues. After all, they say, with most Guard officers planning to serve 20 years and become eligible for full retiree benefits, nearly every association member has a personal interest in retiree issues.

Brubaker and McCall also see vast untapped potential in the Guard retiree community pushing NGAUS legislative issues at the grassroots level. Most retirees are like college alumni; they care deeply about the institution and are proud of the current force, the two say. Retirees want to stay connected and contribute. Many have time to call or email elected officials. But they don’t know where to start. Or even that the association wants their help.

“I’ve spoken to retired Guard officers who been out for a few years and have never been asked to join NGAUS,” Brubaker says. “Some states do a tremendous job of keeping their retirees close. What we’re trying to do is communicate what they do to other states to help improve that.”

A look at NGUAS membership figures indicates that what Brubaker has experienced plays out all over the country. There are tens of thousands of retired and separated Guard officers nationwide, but slightly less than 11,400 belong to the association, even though they can purchase a lifetime membership for $125.

Since taking his seat on the board, Brubaker has worked to make the caucus a reality and wants it to be an annual event. He sees it as laying the foundation to better serve the retiree community.

“I want to try to bring a little bit of structure to and give a voice to our retirees,” Brubaker says. “It’s not that the board doesn’t care about retirees. There’s very little time to discuss retiree efforts and just a brief few moments to give a report or input.”

The challenge is, he says, so much of the association’s attention is devoted to improving the readiness of the current force, which has always been the NGAUS focus.

It begs a question: How much in the way of association resources should be devoted to retiree issues? He says the membership—from the youngest lieutenant to the oldest retiree—has to decide.

“I’m struggling with a good answer,” Brubaker says. “I certainly cared less about retiree issues when I was in uniform. … I feel like there’s got to be a balance. It can’t be all about retirees and it can’t just be about those still serving in uniform.”

The author can be contacted at 202-408-5892 or at cody.erbacher@ngaus.org.

AT A GLANCE

Retiree Memberships

Retired or separated National Guard officers can stay connected to the Guard, help bolster the quality of life of other Guard retirees and contribute to improving the readiness of the current force by joining NGAUS. Annual individual memberships for retired/separated are $45. A lifetime membership is $125. Both come with all the standard benefits of membership, including a subscription to NATIONAL GUARD. They are available through state/territory Guard associations or via the new online membership tab at www.ngaus.org.

Read the full article at http://www.nationalguardmagazine.com/article/Growth+Area/2562334/331537/article.html.

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