Retiree Appreciation Days plus update on suicide policies

Thomas Crisp Contributing Columnist

April 24, 2014

Retiree Appreciation Days (RADs) are designed with you in mind. They’re a great source of the latest information for retirees and family members in your area. RADs vary from installation to installation, but, in general, they provide an opportunity to renew acquaintances, listen to guest speakers, renew ID Cards, get medical checkups, and various other services. Some RADs include special events such as dinners or golf tournaments. Due to budget constraints, some RADs may be cancelled or rescheduled.

Also, scheduled appearances of DFAS representatives may not be possible. If you plan to travel long distances to attend a RAD, before traveling, you should call the sponsoring RSO to ensure the RAD will held as scheduled and, if applicable, whether or not DFAS reps will be available. Below is the schedule as of March 14. An up-to-date RAD list is always available online at For more information call the phone number indicated below of the Retirement Services Officer sponsoring the RAD.

In South Carolina, Retiree Appreciation Days will be held from May 1 through May 31 in Myrtle Beach and from May 15 through May 17 at Fort Jackson (call 803-751-6715\5523 for more information).

Myrtle Beach will host Military Appreciation Days (MAD) during May . This month-long celebration is a “thank you” to our dedicated service men and women, and their families. The celebration includes active duty military personnel, reserves, the National guard and veterans from all service branches.

During May, military personnel and their families can look for discounts at area restaurants and attractions, a traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall, a Memorial Day weekend parade with Grand Marshal Montel Williams, live music, a 5K run and other special events.

For more info about Myrtle Beach’s 2014 MAD, call 843-918-1014. This list is also available in PDF format at Retiree Appreciation Days.pdf and MS Word format at Retiree Appreciation Days.doc.

Veterans hiring fairs

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Hiring Our Heroes program employment workshops are available in conjunction with hundreds of their hiring fairs. These workshops are designed to help veterans and military spouses and include resume writing, interview skills, and one-on-one mentoring.

For details of each refer to To participate, sign up for the workshop in addition to registering for the hiring fairs. For more information, visit

Suicide policy updates

A new bill aimed at improving suicide prevention for veterans was introduced in the U.S. Senate on March 28, as nearly 2,000 flags were planted within view of the Capitol — each one representing a current or former servicemember who had committed suicide so far this year. Sen. John Walsh (D-MT) introduced the, Suicide Prevention for America’s Veterans Act (S.2182) which includes provisions extending combat eligibility for health care from five years to 15 years, and establishing a process for reviewing potentially wrongful discharges and reversing those which may have been caused by mental health issues.

Persons who served in a theater of combat operations after Nov. 11, 1998, and were discharged on or after Jan. 28, 2003, currently have special eligibility to enroll in the VA health care system for five years from your date of discharge or release, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The VA estimates that 22 veterans from current and previous wars die by their own hand each day. In an Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America survey of its membership this year, 47 percent said they knew a veteran of the two post-9/11 wars who had attempted suicide.

“That’s an epidemic that we cannot allow to continue,” said Walsh, the first Iraq War combat veteran elected to the Senate. “I think we all know a friend, a family member, a neighbor, a colleague that has been affected by this terrible tragedy.” In an effort to visualize the number of troops who have committed suicide, IAVA members and supporters planted 1,892 flags on the National Mall, hoping that the field of red, white and blue would bring the problem to the attention of those strolling the grassy expanse.

“I’m hoping it’ll just be a powerful visual for the scope of this issue,” said Jeff Hensley, a Navy veteran of 21 years and IAVA member who was planting flags. “(For) most of us that are veterans and are closely connected with veterans … it’s personal to us. But outside of our community, I don’t think the rest of the country really understand. Seeing something like this, it brings it home to the average person who may not have a direct connection.”

The event was part of IAVA’s annual “Storm the Hill” campaign, which brings veterans to Washington to meet with leaders on veterans policies. Suicide prevention tops IAVA’s 2014 agenda, and the group is pushing for the SAV Act to be passed by Memorial Day.

The bill also calls for increasing mental health professionals in the VA, ensuring training for mental health providers, improving suicide prevention programs, decriminalizing suicide attempts, and more collaboration between the VA and Defense Department. IAVA is hoping to connect one million veterans to suicide prevention resources this year.

The House on March 27 passed by voice vote a one-year “Doc Fix” that would avert a 24 percent cut one APR in payments to physicians who treat Medicare and TRICARE patients. The bill’s passage (H.R.4302) came suddenly, after House leaders had announced an agreement with the Senate on enactment of the Doc Fix.