Military retirees no longer allowed on Cannon grounds
March 29, 2020
Kathy Branfield was already a social-distancer, long before the second week of March when it all of a sudden became a thing everyone was being urged to do.
Branfield was already immune-suppressed and suffering from asthma. And then along came COVID-19.
“So I’m not leaving my house at this point unless I absolutely have to. I am not seeing anybody outside of my husband,” said Branfield, whose husband is retired military, having deployed multiple times after 9/11. Branfield is lucky she has him to run errands, pick up groceries. But not everyone, she says, has that advantage, including many Cannon retirees who rely on the base for essentials.
Last week, local retired military found out they were not allowed on the base due to the coronavirus and attempts to contain it.
Cannon’s public affairs officer J.P. Rebello confirmed that in an email reply to The Eastern New Mexico News on Friday afternoon.
“The only retirees allowed on base are those who are actively employed as a government Civilian or Contractor and whose position is deemed necessary for essential missions by Squadron Commanders,” Rebello stated in the email.
And while Branfield understands that the pandemic is a serious situation and she supports the governor’s stay-at-home order along with safety precautions, she is among those who will not be permitted to continue her on-base routines. And she is not happy with how it might affect her and the military retirees, in some cases older ones.
Branfield said retired military rely on the base for its grocery store, pharmacy and perhaps most important of all, its clinic.
“Those are our doctors,” she said.
Branfield said that to access the pharmacy, retirees must wait in the Cannon visitors center where a runner will come out and take the refill order, then go back in and place it; those orders will not be filled until the week of April 6.
“Or the alternative is I go to a pharmacy in town and pay a co-pay,” Branfield said. “The way it was being presented to us — we were basically being dumped into the civilian world where we were going to have to start paying co-pays, and everything was going to get more complicated.”
Cannon’s Facebook page does have information offering a home-delivery option, stating that option can be initiated through regular mail, a mobile app, an online link, or asking your doctor to sign you up for e-Prescribe.
Rebello addressed the matter further in Friday’s email to The News.
“Our medical staff will continue to field calls and assist retirees with access to their PCMs, primarily through telephone consult, and with referrals as needed. We’re committed to assisting them as best we can in the interim as we navigate temporary but required changes.
“Medications can be sent to an off-base pharmacy of the retiree’s choosing with a copay, as required by law. The medical group will be conducting another medication pick up from April 6th through April 10th. More information will be provided as it becomes available.”
Branfield doesn’t like the co-pay part.
“Many retirees are on limited incomes,” she said. “Many retirees, especially the older ones, have medications they take. (The co-pays) can be as low as $10 or as much as $100. People on limited incomes who have to budget their money are now being told ‘You’re going to have to pay for all this stuff.’ This is going to cause a crisis.”
Another issue for Branfield is that retirees are being forced to shop at local stores, the options of which are fewer in Clovis, Portales and other local towns than in bigger cities.
This area has fewer stores, and lots of bare shelves in them. And, Branfield isn’t sure going to those stores is necessarily safe.
“When you take the most vulnerable part of your community and you shove them out into the world that we’re being told to stay away from, how much thought goes into this?” Branfield said.
In his email, Rebello advised for the retired military community to stay tuned for any changes.
“Our Wing Commander (Col. Robert Masaitis) makes announcements that address our personnel and our community as needed through the Cannon Air Force Base Facebook Page and the 27 SOW CC Facebook page,” Rebello stated. “Additionally, an announcement addressing the concerns of our valued retiree community can be expected to air on local radio stations in the near future.”
“None of us can accurately predict how long we’ll be in a protective posture over the coronavirus pandemic,” Rebello further stated in the email. “Installation commanders throughout the nation are all grappling with the same issues. Installation leadership is charged with continuing to execute the installation’s and wing’s mission while protecting our assigned forces. We understand that these changes can be frustrating and confusing for retirees and their families but know that we’re committed to assisting these valued members of our community as best we can in the interim, as we navigate temporary but required changes.”