Fort McCoy News March 28, 2014

RSO seeks to continue service-excellence tradition

STORY & PHOTO BY SCOTT T. STURKOL
Public Affairs Staff

Since March 6, the Fort McCoy Retirement Services Office (RSO) has a new person available to support military retirees of all services — Mitzi Hinton.

Hinton is also a military retiree. She served 27 years in the U.S. Army Reserve, retiring at the rank of sergeant major.

Photo for RSO article
Mitzi Hinton of Fort McCoy's Retirement Services Office talks with Air Force Master Sgt. Donna Gregoire about future retirement options.

"I had an awesome military career, which afforded me the opportunity to become 'all that I could be' as a Soldier," said Retirement Services Officer Hinton. "What I found most rewarding about my career, however, were the many opportunities to impact Soldiers and their Families as a counselor, leader, mentor and a professional."

That experience will help her in her new position, Hinton said. Hinton's predecessor, Bill Walters, served in the RSO for 10 years, establishing a level of excellence at Fort McCoy.

"I'm ready to continue the tradition we have at Fort McCoy to assist pre- and post-retirees and their Families as they prepare for the final transition of their military career," Hinton said.

"While my background is Army-based, I am available to provide assistance to service members preparing to retire from our sister services, as well, even if that means helping them to obtain contact information for their respective service personnel center. At the end of the day, any help that I can provide a retiree with navigating the process is a welcomed opportunity."

The RSO, located in building 35, offers a wide array of services to military retirees.

For pre-retirement services, the RSO provides individual pre-retirement counseling, preparation of the Retired Pay Application, DD Form 2656, Career Status Bonus/REDUX counseling and active duty survivor assistance.

Post-retirement services include assistance with retired pay actions, providing TRICARE, Medicare and Social Security information, giving information and referral to the Veterans Administration, obtaining lost service documents and more.

"As service members approach the final chapter of their military career, they deserve to have a transition that is thorough," Hinton said. "They need assistance with the process and understanding their benefits and entitlements."

Hinton added some service members need assistance as they prepare to submit their retirement requests to ensure they're tracking the correct years of service and retirement points. Others need assistance with completing required forms for the retirement application process, and still many more have questions about their retired pay and benefits after completing the retirement process.

"Assistance with completing and submitting retired pay applications is one of the most important services provided here," Hinton said. "As you might imagine this is one of the most important steps in the retirement process as service members want to ensure their pay and entitlements — to include the Survivor Benefits Plan — are processed correctly."
Hinton recently helped an Air Force retiree begin the process of receiving his retired pay.

"It was a learning experience for me since I have an Army background, but we were able to get him in contact with the right people at the Air Force Personnel Center to get his retired pay process started," Hinton said. "It was a case of how this office is here to support retirees from all branches of service."

The RSO also will continue to publish an annual newsletter, titled Honors, for local retirees and organize annual Retiree Appreciation Day (RAD) events throughout the Midwest.

"The intent of the newsletter is to keep the retirees and their Families in our service area informed of significant changes to laws and benefits affecting them, provide dates for upcoming RAD events and general information such as identification (ID) card facility locations," Hinton said. "The RADs afford us the opportunity to show retirees and their Families how much we honor them and their service. The RADs also give our retirees and their families the opportunity to renew acquaintances, hear from guest speakers about the latest retiree-related news, renew ID cards, visit the post exchange and commissary and attend benefit fairs — all in the spirit of 'still caring.'"

Whether they have served in the Guard, Reserve or on active duty, Hinton offered one piece of advice to service members in preparing for military retirement.

"Make sure your personnel records are up-to-date with your respective unit and make sure you keep copies of your own records," Hinton said. "Having good records helps the process go smoother both before and after retirement."

The RSO is open Mondays through Fridays, excluding federal holidays, from 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. each day.

"In the short time that I've been in the position, I have witnessed the impact that having a retirement services officer here and available has on the pre- and post-retiree community — especially in a time when so much has become automated," Hinton said.

"Many retirees have expressed how relieved they are to have an actual person to speak with regarding their retirement related issues, questions and concerns. This office has a reputation for providing excellent customer service to the retiree community, and it is my intent to uphold that great legacy by providing a premier continuum of retirement services care."

Call Hinton at the RSO at 608-388-3716, or toll-free at 800-452-0923, for more details.