June 12, 2005

Thinking about not retiring from the Guard?

By Staff Sgt. Tammy Spence
GuardPost Staff Writer

Thinking about not retiring from the National Guard? If this is what you are considering, you may want to think again. You think you are okay because you will get social security from the government. If you read the news today, you will see there are lots of things that are up in the air about the future of social security. Do you think you are “safe” with your civilian job in that you are guaranteed your retirement? Daily news stories are reporting that more and more civilian jobs are finding ways to cut benefits so they won’t have to pay retirement. Read on to a true story of what happened to someone who got out of the Guard early.

Mary Ann Carter, the mother of Lt. Col. Chester Carter III, Public Affairs Officer for the Virginia National Guard, wanted to share her experiences in the hopes that other would benefit from the lessons that she learned. Affectionately called “Miss Ann” by those close to her, she was very grateful to have her husband’s Guard retirement to fall back on in a time of need.

Carter’s father, Chester Carter Jr., was a traditional Guardsman for 16 years. He enlisted in the late forties and was called to active duty from 1960-1961 during the Berlin crisis. After serving his tour, he got out.  The younger Carter convinced him to come back into the Guard for retirement, after all, he only had to serve four more years and his retirement pay would be an added bonus later on. He heeded his son’s advice and ended up spending a total of 28 years in the Guard until he developed cancer and was forced to retire.

On the civilian side, the elder Carter worked for a metals company until he retired. After retiring from the metals company, he and his wife enjoyed the retirement benefits and medical coverage. After his death in 1992, the civilian company he had worked for went bankrupt. At first they cut the retirement pay, then the medical and eventually all of it. “Miss Ann” was left with nothing -- or so she thought.

In February 2002, “Miss Ann” visited her son for a week in Roanoke. During her stay, she became very ill and had to be hospitalized. When she was discharged she asked the doctor how much she owed for the hospital stay. He told her she owed nothing. Her husband’s retirement pay from the Guard paid the bill.

She had limited medical coverage from social security and what Medicaid did not pay, TRICARE did. In her own words, “TRICARE has been my saving grace,” she said. “I don’t know what I would do at this time without TRICARE”. She had to have a pace maker put in and to her relief, she was able to get one because of the Guard benefits. As for her medicines, TRICARE pays eighty percent.

So, if you think retirement from the Guard is not worth it you may want to take this TRUE story to heart.

On the subject of retirement, you also need to be aware that when your retirement comes, do not “completely” retire. On your discharge date be sure to transfer into the Retired Reserve. In the Retired Reserve, even though you are out, any raises that are given will be credited to your retirement when you start receiving retirement pay. If you simply retire and totally get out, you will not receive the pay increases because your cut off is upon retirement.

Look to the future to ensure you will be covered. Serve your 20 years and reap the benefits when you need them. If you or someone you know has had a similar experience, let us know by e-mail at tammy.spence@va.ngb.arm.mil


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