Retiree office here to serve

It is amazing how many questions retirees and their dependents can have about pay, health insurance, death benefits, the commissary or Luke Air Force Base Exchange.

The 56th Fighter Wing has a Retiree Activity Office that can offer retirees and their families answers to questions or help with a problem. Its mission is to keep military retirees linked to the military family.

“A good number of questions by retirees are about identification cards, retiree pay and medical — Tricare for Life — and veterans’ affairs,” said retired Chief Master Sgt. Michael Thomas, RAO director. “We also receive a lot of calls from mostly widows regarding the death of a retiree, specifically burial benefits, coordination with the Defense Finance and Accounting Service, and other items that need to be accomplished.

“Many widows have no idea of what they need to do when their spouse passes away. Our office has a checklist for retirees of what needs to be considered when a military member passes. We also have close contact with casualty assistance and refer retirees to them for services.”

What’s more, the Luke RAO provides assistance to all branches of the military by trained volunteers.

“However, unlike most other Air Force bases, Luke has a Navy RAO at the Navy Operations Support Center whom we work with,” Thomas said.

The RAO can be a great source for general information and what events the base has to offer.

“Many retirees are senior citizens who do not have access to the internet and the RAO can provide information and support via telephone,” Thomas said. “In addition, the RAO hosts a Retiree Activities Day annually. This event offers retirees the opportunity to receive immunizations, view displays and demonstrations presented by base organizations and to get general information regarding services available to retirees.”

One of the biggest challenges for the RAO is having enough volunteers, according to Thomas.

“Our current organization is comprised of volunteers who for the most part are past the age of 65,” Thomas said. “We are interested in recruiting younger members, and we understand that many younger people are still working and not able to volunteer. However, we are very flexible with days and hours new members can work and contribute.

“We have an application for new members. Our volunteers also include dependents.”

Thomas had a career on both the military and civilian side.

“I entered the Air Force in July 1972 and separated in August 1983,” he said. “I began my civilian career with the federal government after leaving active duty and retired in November 2011 as a GS 15. I joined the Air National Guard in June 2002 and retired in November 2012 as a chief master sergeant.”

The RAO is open 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday and is located in Bldg. 1150, Room 1181.

For more information, call 623-856-3923 or 623-856-6827.

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