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Offutt Retiree Activities Office continues to serve, seeks volunteers

Joe Schwartz, a retired U.S. Army master sergeant and Offutt RAO deputy director, answers the phone at the Offutt Retiree Activities Office May 30, 2017 at Offutt Air Force Base, Neb. RAOs are made-up of retired volunteers from all services, including surviving spouses, whose sole mission is to assist retirees and surviving spouses by serving as an information center for base services including TRICARE; offering referrals for financial assistance and pay matters; and providing guidance and advice on retirement issues. Offutt’s ROA currently consists of five volunteers who work one day per week from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. in Buidling 49 answering phones and questions. For more information or to volunteer, call (402) 294-4566.

Joe Schwartz, a retired U.S. Army master sergeant and Offutt RAO deputy director, answers the phone at the Offutt Retiree Activities Office May 30, 2017 at Offutt Air Force Base, Neb. RAOs are made-up of retired volunteers from all services, including surviving spouses, whose sole mission is to assist retirees and surviving spouses by serving as an information center for base services including TRICARE; offering referrals for financial assistance and pay matters; and providing guidance and advice on retirement issues. Offutt’s ROA currently consists of five volunteers who work one day per week from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. in Buidling 49 answering phones and questions. For more information or to volunteer, call (402) 294-4566.

OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. -- Most Team Offutt members have probably experienced frustration trying to track down seemingly simple information only to be met with a byzantine-like bureaucracy inherent in large organizations which often leads to multiple calls and referrals to other offices.

Imagine how much more daunting that can be for a military retiree, their spouse or survivor who may be at an advanced age; perhaps doesn’t hear well; or is a retiree from a branch other than the Air Force and doesn’t understand its structure.

That’s where the Offutt Retiree Activities Office comes in and they need your help.

RAOs are made-up of retired volunteers from all services, including surviving spouses, whose sole mission is to assist retirees and surviving spouses by serving as an information center for base services including TRICARE; offering referrals for financial assistance and pay matters; and providing guidance and advice on retirement issues.

Offutt’s ROA currently consists of five volunteers who work one day per week from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. answering phones and questions.

According to Joe Schwartz, a retired U.S. Army master sergeant and Offutt RAO deputy director, those hours are becoming “hit or miss” as the volunteers are advancing in age and sometimes encountering health issues of their own.

“We’d really like to be able to schedule two people per day,” Schwartz said. “Not only would it provide redundancy, but also give the folks someone else to share the day with.”

Schwartz stressed the flexibility that comes with RAO volunteerism.

“We’d like someone to be able to provide four hours one day a week, but if they can only do two, that’s ok,” he said.

According to Schwartz, volunteering for those two or four hours is worthwhile.

“For the retiree and their spouse, the military is their home,” Schwartz said. “When they reintegrate into society outside the gate, they sometimes lose touch with what is going on inside the gate including resources and benefits they are entitled to. Helping them navigate “the system” is a way to continue serving and makes you feel good.”

In addition to their normal duties, the RAO is integral to the Retiree Appreciation Day held each year.

“It’s our Super Bowl,” Schwartz said.

The event, usually held at the Base Exchange, offers a variety of free services to retirees, spouses, widows and widowers including immunizations, identification card assistance and legal services.

According to Schwartz, while they might get a few calls daily the rest of the year, in the weeks leading up to the appreciation day, they receive dozens.

It’s an important event which, depending on the individual’s circumstances, may be the only time they get on-base the entire year or can get caught-up on immunizations, Schwartz said.

If more volunteers can augment the RAO’s manning, Schwartz envisions expanding the agency’s offerings to include more social activities involving retirees to keep their common bonds strong.

“Our retiree community has a wealth of experience that can be valuable to their fellow retirees,” Schwartz said. “Sometimes, it is just as important to come together, share memories, and enjoy each other's company.

For more information or to volunteer, call (402) 294-4566.