Benefits last for retirees
Doy Mick, beneficiary services representative at Cannon Air Force Base for Triwest Healthcare, explains health care benefits for military retirees.
With an estimated 2,600 military retirees within a 100-mile radius, many Cannon Air Force Base facilities serve not only the base’s active-duty population but also those who retired from the service. Those retirees, most of whom spent at least 20 years in the Air Force or another branch of the military, are entitled to privileges such as shopping at the commissary and base exchange (BX), using gyms and exercise equipment, and some access to medical care.
To help those retirees learn more about what the base offers them, Cannon hosts an annual retiree appreciation event. This year, retirees gathered at Cannon on Friday and Saturday to see everything from an airpower demonstration at the Melrose bombing range to an explanation of medical benefits.
“In 1972 the Department ofDefense mandated that there would be retiree programs at all U.S. military installations worldwide,” said Rick Robertson, director of the retiree activities program at Cannon and a retired chief petty officer in the U.S. Navy. “The requirements don’t say we have to have these (retiree appreciation events) but we can get the retirees together who don’t see each other all that often. We are all retired military and I believe it is easier for a retired military person to be comfortable with military people. When we come out here, our staff tell what their department is, what it does, and how it can help retirees.”
Robertson said one major area of concern for retirees is medical care, and this year’s event schedule included several presentations on health maintenance programs offered on base as well as an explanation of programs offered through TRICARE, the military medical program, for military retirees and dependents.
“For our retirees over age 65, I think the nicest thing we have for you is TRICARE for Life,” said Doy Mick, beneficiary services representative at Cannon for Triwest Healthcare.
Mick said her office is trying to get the word out to retirees that those enrolled in Medicare parts A and B are automatically eligible to enroll in TRICARE for Life if they are 65 or older. The program picks up the $100 deductible and 20 percent cost share that would normally be paid for off-base medical services
“Of course you know when you reach that age you are eligible for space-available medical care on base, but many of you may have reached the age when you have multiple medical conditions and do not want to wait until there is space available on base,” Mick said. “You can now, with TRICARE for Life, go to any provider, so long as they are Medicare-certified, and it will be covered by TRICARE.”
Mick also explained procedures for retirees to order a 30-day supply of generic drug prescriptions for $3 or $9 for name brand drugs, and gave a toll-free number for military beneficiaries to contact an on-duty nurse or physician assistant.
According to Mick, some problems experienced in the past by military retirees in the Clovis area seeking medical care should no longer happen.
“We have finally educated our people at our corporate offices in Phoenix that Cannon is not part of Kirtland Air Force Base and Clovis does exist, it is not an imaginary place, and we should be able to help you,” Mick said.
Retirees present at the event said they appreciate Cannon’s efforts to educate retirees.
“Most of the people I know, we are close to the same age, and we have a lot in common,” said John Aragon, who retired after 24 years in the Air Force and now works as a Clovis postal carrier. “I’ve enjoyed everything so far; I have learned something new every day.”
Jim Smith, who left the Air Force as a disabled veteran in 1964, said he was glad to network with other retirees.
“Because of the closeness (of the military), this event can help us help one another,” said Smith.