By U.S. Army Garrison YongsanJanuary 2, 2017
Retirement Services Office Overview
On October 1, 2006, a Retirement Services Office reopened at U.S. Army Garrison Yongsan in Seoul serving pre-retirees and retirees throughout Korea. Seoul Retiree Bulletins from the mid-1980s indicate that a Retirement Services Officer civil service position existed and was occupied by Fred D. Yarborough. Subsequently, the position was taken in 1989 by David Downing, who served for only 8-9 months before the civil service position was transferred to the Army Career and Alumni Program at Yongsan and the RSO position was eliminated. Mr. Downing continued voluntarily serving the Korea retirees and survivors until his death in July 1998.
The Retirement Services Office for Area II is located in the Soldier Support Center (Building 4034, Room 140), Military Personnel Division (MPD), Yongsan South Post, Seoul City, Korea. The RSO is Mr. Mark Wade (DSN: 723-2781). Hours of operation are from 0900 to 1600 hours on the dates the office is open. The dates of operations will be published in advance at the beginning of each month. Anyone requiring RSO services can also contact the RSO to make individual appointments.
RSO USAG Yongsan:
• DSN in Korea:723-3735
• DSN outside Korea: 315-723-3735
• Commercial from anywhere in Korea: 02- 7913-3735 or 05033-233735
• Commercial from outside Korea: +822-7913-3735
• E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
• Facebook: www.facebook.com/pages/Retirement-Services-Office-Korea/603673916356400
The mailing address is:
Retirement Services Office
APO AP 96205-5742
• The Retirement Services Officer is Mr. Carl W. Reed, U.S. Army (Retired). He is an experienced Counselor, having spent over 40 years working as a Counselor, Supervisor and Manager in the Human Relation and Transition Field. He is sensitive to the needs of the retirees, their families and their survivors, and readily welcomes the opportunity to provide quality service to them.
• In order to reduce excessive waiting time and ensure quality customer service, appointments are preferred. However, walk-ins are welcome. If the RSO office is not open in your area and immediate assistance is required, call DSN 315 723-3735 or 315 753-3872, Commercial 05033-233735 or 05033-533872.
Pre-Retirement Services Provided
The most important part of retirement is careful and thoughtful planning that starts well before the expected retirement date. Waiting until "the last minute" means an active duty career that ends with stress, confusion and unhappy memories to mar an otherwise memorable career of positive accomplishments. Soldiers considering retirement should contact their S1 or the area Transition Center to get important information regarding retirement options.
Once you've reached a decision to retire, your first stop should be the Retirement Services Office. There are many factors to consider in preparing for retirement. The most important is money. Besides your military pay, you are receiving benefits either in the form of allowances such as for housing and cost of living, or payment in kind (on-post housing, free utilities, etc.).
In retirement, your pay is cut drastically and the extra allowances disappear; the RSO is able to provide you an idea of what your retirement income will be. Another place to visit is the Army Career and Alumni Program (ACAP) to determine what services are offered to help you prepare for a new career as you leave the military. You'll very likely need a paycheck to supplement the military retired pay and ACAP can lead you to the education and training you'll need to embark on a civilian career.
Another source of additional income may be available in the form of disability payments from the military, from the VA, or from both. So it's important, in preparing for retirement, to ensure that your medical records have completely documented any medical conditions that could have resulted in a current form of long-term disability, or that could affect you in the future. The problems could have been the result of combat, or training for combat, or simply those that occurred during the routine performance of your official duties. An accurate record of your military assignments is also very important. This is particlarly true in the case of overseas assignments to combat areas where exposure to hazards may have occurred.
A prime example of this is the exposure to Agent Orange for those who served in Vietnam. Long after that war ended and many Soldiers separated or retired, health problems were revealed that were related to spraying the Agent Orange defoliant. Health problems such as diabetes, skin cancer, and prostate cancer led them to file disability claims resulting in disability payments from the VA plus increased military retired pay in the form of Combat-Related Special Compensation (CRSC) or Concurrent Retired Disability Pay (CRDP). What are these? Your Transition Center will tell you about these and other important considerations as part of your pre-retirement briefings and RSO counseling sessions. To apply for CRSC, the DD Form 2860 (fillable) is used.
Keep in mind also that qualifying for disability pay could result in higher payments if you have a family. Also, a disability rating with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) could provide VA annuity payments to survivors in the case of your death if the cause of death can be connected to a rated disability.
Preparing for retirement is a family affair. If you're married, your spouse must be fully involved in all aspects of your retirement planning and preparation and needs to know the important information -- what benefits will be available, what kind of civilian job you will have, what assistance is available to prepare for a civilian job, what educational benefits are available -- so that she or he has a vote on decisions that affect her or his life.
To assist you, the Transition Center in each Army Area in Korea provides briefings on pre-retirement -- the important considerations of transitioning from active duty to retired status -- and ensuring your family's secure financial future.
Some retirees serving in Korea have picked up more than souvenirs of Korea. Some have married here and might be considering staying in Korea. So let's first look at what you need to do to stay here as a retiree, then later we'll look at what it's like to live in Korea as a military retiree.
Retire in Korea
For those retirees who choose to retire in Korea, there are several steps in planning and preparing for retirement in order to legally do this:
• Step 1: Application for permission to retire in Korea must be made as part of the retirement application process. To obtain approval for an in-country retirement, the Soldier must submit a memo to the Area Commander stating the reason for remaining in Korea (job, job search, education, etc). Once that is approved, the next two steps are extremely important.
• Step 2: Obtaining a civilian (blue) passport is necessary for those planning to remain more than 30 days after the effective retirement date. Staying beyond that point is a violation of Korean Immigration laws and will result in a fine. The longer the violation, the higher the fine.
• Step 3: A Korean visa must be obtained in your new passport in order to remain past the 30 days automatically granted to new retirees. As with the passport, if you do not have a current Korean visa, you will be fined for violation of Korean Immigration laws.
Pre-Retirement Briefing Schedules
On a monthly basis, Area Transition Centers provide pre-retirement briefings that are presented to retiring Soldiers. The schedule is as follows:
• USAGY: Fourth Wednesday of the month 0900-1500 hours at the ACAP Building (4038 on Yongsan South Post). Presentations are made by the following:
• Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)
• Education Center
• The Transition Center presents two briefings at each pre-retirement session. The first briefing covers the actions that retirees need to take and options they need to consider as part of preparing for retirement. The second briefing specifically covers the Survivor Benefit Plan and the importance of considering this protection for the retiree's family. Links to information on these two topics are provided below so that Soldiers can become familiar with the topics beforehand.
Pre-Retirement Counseling Guide and Briefing
• To aid you in navigating the maze towards retirement and into civilian life, Army Retirement Services has prepared a Pre-Retirement Counseling Guide for you to print off and use as you prepare to retire from the Army. Reviewing the guide will assist you in receiving and understanding the annotated slides presented in the Pre-Retirement Briefing, which can be reviewed before attending the Transition Center presentation. (You may need to download the briefing to review it with Notes displayed.)
Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP)
• Ensuring that your family would be provided for in the event of your untimely death is another important consideration. You may become rich and not need the added insurance that the Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) provides. However, with the option to disenroll from SBP for a one year period starting two years after you retire, SBP is an important consideration. Army Retirement Services has prepared an annotated briefing to explain the Survivor Benefit Plan, which can also be reviewed before attending the Transition Center presentation. (You may need to download the briefing to review it with Notes displayed.)
• In addition to the above information, and to further assist you in evaluating whether SBP is right for you and your family, the Defense Finance and Accounting Service has prepared some information for you to consider as you prepare for retirement.
• Following the briefings, a question and answer period allows Soldiers to ask for more information on some of the topics that have been briefed. Generally, questions can be answered immediately. However, some Soldiers have more complex questions or concerns that are more appropriate to a one-on-one session with the RSO. If you wish to discuss the issue(s) with the RSO, call 753-3872 or e-mail email@example.com to set up an appointment.
• Some of the issues of retirement may pose problems for some retirees. In this case, the RSO is available to provide more detailed information and assistance in reaching sound decisions. The counseling is done by appointment, and the retiree may choose to attend individually (with family as appropriate) or in a small group of retirees. The latter case may be more informative as retirees share their concerns.
Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP)
• The financial impact of SBP may be an influencing factor leading some Soldiers to consider declining coverage. The RSO is available to discuss the issue of declining the coverage compared with other, less costly SBP options such as child only coverage or spouse coverage on a lower base amount.
• Your Army career has provided you with many skills, but some of them -- like driving a tank -- may not be much in demand in civilian life. So the Army had developed an extensive structure of assistance offices to help you identify what you want to do "in your next life," and to help you achieve that goal. The umbrella under which this structure exists is described at Army Retirement Services as Transition Assistance.
Transition Center Locations
• USAGY: Yongsan South Post Bldg 4034, Room 126
Mon-Fri 0930-1130, 1300-1530; phone 723-8227 Post-Retirement
Living in Korea
Some retirees elect to remain in Korea after retirement, or later return to Korea for various reasons. One reason is that they find a job here and the attraction of, for example, working for a contractor and taking advantage of the foreign earned income tax exclusion would provide higher take-home pay. Others may have married a Korean spouse while on active duty and have decided to stay in the spouse's home country, either working or fully retired. Yet others may not be married but decide to stay and enjoy retirement living here. Each of these options has its own merits.
Working in Korea
Many Soldiers obtain skills that are valuable to the government or to contractors working for the government. These skills, combined with knowledge of the environment and culture in Korea, both on-post and off-post, provide opportunities for Soldiers to transition into a civilian career without leaving Korea.
Others may decide to try their hand at a job "on the economy," i.e., working for a Korean employer. Jobs like this range from teaching English, either for a school or university, or for an institute specializing in after-school instruction for students desiring to improve their English-language skills. The latter option should be approached with caution as some of the institutes have questionable management practices. Soldiers considering this option should try to obtain advice from those already employed by the university, school, or institute.
Retired in Korea
After a career in the military extending 20 or more years,some retiring Soldiers may decide to stay in Korea and enjoy a more relaxed lifestyle. If you decide on this option, you must understand that you're living in a foreign country and you have to follow the rules of that country. Full retirement in Korea means you no longer have the legal protection afforded by the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA). You are the foreigner here and you have to maintain a legal status to stay here and out of trouble.
One area where some retirees get in trouble is failure to maintain a valid passport and a current, valid visa. There are four types of visa most commonly used by retirees in Korea.
• SOFA Visa (A-3): Issued by the Korean government to persons working for United States Forces Korea (USFK).
• Work Visa (E-2): (corrected) Issued by the Korean government and sponsored by a school or hagwon (institute) for whom the individual works as a teacher.
• Tourist Visa (C-3): Normally issued outside Korea by a Korean Embassy or Consulate. It is valid for 2 to 5 years, but only allows the holder to remain in Korea for up to 90 days per visit, after which the person must leave. Staying beyond 90 days incurs a fine. Re-entry to Korea starts a new 90-day period. Some retirees living in Korea have this visa and use space available flights to depart and return. Lack of space available flights may require the retiree to pay for a commercial ticket in order to depart before exceeding the 90-day limit and incurring a fine.
• Resident Visa (F-1, 2 or 3): This is the Korean equivalent of the U.S. "Green Card" that allows non-Korean citizens to remain in Korea. The Resident Visa is normally issued the first time for one year, and then for two-year periods. To obtain a Resident Visa requires that you be sponsored by a person born in Korea (usually a Korean citizen spouse or Korean-born U.S. citizen spouse), and show proof of financial reliability, which can be satisfied by a current copy of the Retired Pay Account statement.
It is important to keep track of the expiration of the passport and visa, because significant fines can be assessed for violations. Additionally, retirees who die in Korea with invalid travel documents still have fines assessed. The next of kin must pay the fine before the retiree's body will be released for burial or cremation.
Benefits in Korea
Retirees living in Korea have access to benefits, but may find that the benefits are limited from what they were used to having on active duty. The benefits and limitations are discussed below.
Military medical care is provided to retirees and dependents on a space available basis. At the larger installations, and depending on the size of the local retiree population, medical care is generally good and appointments are easy to get. At smaller installations, the availability of military medical care may be limited, restricted to emergency care or not available at all. The annual summer turnover of medical staffs may further restrict retiree access to routine care. In these cases, retirees must depend on Korean civilian hospitals for care (see below).
Dental care is provided to retirees and dependents on a space available basis. In most cases, space available care is non-existent and Korean dentists are the main source of dental care. As a result, some retirees fail to get routine dental care and experience many dental and health problems that could easily be avoided. There is currently no military dental coverage available in Korea. However, the TRICARE Retiree Dental Program (TRDP) available to retirees living in the U.S is expected to be introduced to Korea in October 2008.
Many of the military medical facilities lack specialized care and thus retirees find themselves more and more being referred to Korean hospitals for routine, urgent and emergency care. The Korean referral hospitals have been inspected and determined to meet the standards equivalent to care in a U.S. hospital. TRICARE Standard is the only coverage available from the military, and that covers up to 75% of the cost of allowed procedures (after a small deductible). For retirees 65 and over, Medicare Part B enrollment is required to have TRICARE for Life, which provides the same coverage as TRICARE Standard.
Retirees with a Korean employment visa or a non-working resident visa may have access to the Korean National Health Insurance, either provided by the employer (if working) or paid for by the retiree. This insurance covers the entire family and pays 60% of many medical procedures. Together with TRICARE, it will pay virtually all expenses. There are some limitation on inpatient medical costs such as type of room provided. Retirees with Korean health coverage are eligible at no additional cost for a six-person room. Retirees with TRICARE are eligible for a two-person room at no additional cost. Upgraded room costs in excess of those allowed must be paid by the individual. The cost of this insurance in 2007 is approximately $60 per month for a non-working retiree with resident visa.
The Korean National Health Insurance is not available to those with a SOFA visa. However, if a retiree loses SOFA status and obtains a resident visa, then the Korean insurance can be obtained. If the retirees returns to SOFA status, the Korean health insurance can be retained.
The upside of having Korean insurance is that when it comes time to pay the bill, the insurance share is already taken out, leaving only your share, which can then be claimed to TRICARE for reimbursement. One potential downside to obtaining the Korean National Health Insurance is that, if you enroll late, you must pay from the time you became eligible for the insurance. For example, a retiree who obtained a resident visa in 2000 and did not sign up for the Korean insurance until early 2003 had to pay approximately $1,000 as a buy in cost. Because of this late-enrollment penalty, some Korean-born U.S. citizen surviving spouses who have relied for years on military treatment facilities while living in Korea now find that buying into the Korean health insurance has become prohibitively expensive.
Except for active duty, ration cards are required for all USFK personnel,including retirees and dependents, in order to use the Commissary and Exchange, and for vehicle fuel purchases.
The Commissary dollar limits and alcohol purchase privileges are based on family size and are described here.
Retirees who have other than a 90-day (i.e., C-3 Tourist or other short-term) visa are eligible to own and operate a vehicle. Retirees with SOFA status are tested, licensed and registered by installation agencies, and with the local Korean vehicle registration agency. Non-SOFA retirees and surviving spouses must register their vehicle with the Korean authorities and pay the appropriate taxes. For non-SOFA retirees and surviving spouses, a valid visa except C-3 is required to obtain a Korean driver license, and the Korean driver license is required to purchase and register a vehicle. Once the vehicle is properly registered, the retiree or surviving spouse can apply for a decal allowing access to all USFK installations.
At most installations in Korea, retirees and surviving spouses are authorized to obtain a mailbox and use the local postal facilities. However, they are limited to sending and receiving mail only up to 16 ounces.
Most installations have two banking options available. For SOFA personnel, the DoD Community Bank is available. For both SOFA and non-SOFA personnel, the USA Federal Credit Union offers complete services. Retirees and surviving spouses are encouraged to use one or the other of these to receive their retired pay and other benefits payments via direct deposit. The Korean postal system is not particularly secure and the mail delivery system leaves a lot to be desired,with loss of benefits checks reported even by a surviving spouse who had her annuity checks sent to a Korean post office mailbox. Direct deposit to Korean banks is not available, not even in those Korean bank branches owned by U.S. banking corporations such as CitiBank.
You also have the option to continue using U.S.-based banking services. However, the local Community Bank or Credit Union may be more comfortable to use since you have direct access to them, particularly if problems arise. Local service is also desirable if you don't have or don't use on-line banking.
Previously, retirees were authorized to use DoD Dependent Schools (DoDDS) on a no-cost, space available basis. They now must pay for the schooling at the same rate as other non-active duty persons, plus the other reality is that there is virtually no space available. Schools are full with active duty dependents, as well as the dependents of civil servants and contractors. Even if you want to pay, the annual cost is more than $20,000 per child per year and may be prohibitive on even a reasonably comfortable family income.
Local civilian schooling in English is available at the International Christian Schools located throughout Korea. Cost for this school is approximately $700 per month per child.
The Retirement Services Office provides a variety of support functions to retiring and retired military personnel, their dependents and their survivors. Many retirees live in Korea, having retired here or having returned here to work because (in most cases) they are married to a Korean. Other retirees remain here or return here to enjoy the life of full retirement. For these retirees and their families, the RSO together with Retiree Councils throughout Korea provide additional services that would be readily available to retirees living in the U.S. but are not easily accessed from Korea. One such example, provided by retiree volunteers, is preparing and submitting claims for Social Security retirement and other benefits.
To Surviving Spouses
The RSO and Retiree Councils also provide an invaluable service to the Korean surviving spouses of U.S. military retirees. The surviving spouses are eligible to receive survivor benefits from various U.S. agencies, but they have trouble understanding the eligibility requirements, applying for benefits and understanding correspondence related to maintaining the benefits. Although the Army provides casualty assistance at the time of and immediately following an active duty or retiree death, the RSO and Retiree Councils, working with retiree volunteers, provide the long-term support to the survivors with invaluable assistance from credit unions and community support services.
News and Information
All Army retirees and surviving spouses are automatically entitled to receive the Army Echoes newsletter, the official Army newsletter for retirees. Army Echoes is provided as a printed newsletter. However, a more efficient way to receive Army Echoes is electronically. It saves time, it saves money, and it saves trees. Detailed instructions are provided here to assist you in signing up for the electronic version of Army Echoes, and you will be removed from the mailing list of the printed newsletter. The archive of past issues of Army Echoes is also available at the same web page.
Starting in 2008, the Retirement Services Office will produce a quarterly print newsletter for retirees to be mailed to all military retirees living in Korea. More details on this will be provided as planning and preparation coalesce.
Retiree Appreciation Days
The RSO is responsible for providing assistance to the four Area Retiree Councils in organizing and planning to conduct an annual Retiree Appreciation Day for the retirees, their dependents and survivors, and invited guests living in the respective areas. The retirees provide assistance to the local installation's active duty members, who are primarily responsible for preparing and conducting the Retiree Appreciation Day activities. The retirees provide advice and planning assistance to ensure that services and activities are attuned to the needs and interests of retirees. The primary role of the active duty force is in keeping with the purpose of the RAD, which is to honor retirees for their long and faithful service to their country.
It may be appropriate for the RAD to be conducted at the same time a wider community event is scheduled. However, the planners should remember that it is a special day for the retirees, and they should be the honored guests at activities where members of the wider community are involved. Priority especially should be given to retirees for services that are otherwise not readily accessible to the retiree community, such as, for example, military-provided dental care or immunizations for retirees in a high-risk group.
An example of a successful RAD, held at Yongsan on Oct 14, 2006, is available for viewing as a slide show. Not shown in the photos are the excellent medical services provided to the retirees and their dependents by the doctors and dentists of the 18th Medical Command. This year's Retiree Appreciation Day will be 17 November 2012.
Retirees meet in various venues from Retiree Appreciation Days to Retiree Councils. The RSO participates in many of these functions and is able to photographically document the activities. These are presented in the form of self-running slide shows.
Volunteer Services Available to Military Retirees in Korea
A Retiree Activities Office (RAO) has opened in Building 819 near the shopping mall at Osan Air Base to provide numerous additional services at no charge to retirees, their families and survivors. Mr. Jack Terwiel operated the Osan AB Retiree Activities Office from Jan 1998 to Sep 2006, then served as Korea Retirement Services Officer from Oct 2006 to Dec 2007. He then returned to volunteer status in 2008 and opened a downtown office until mid-2011 when space was found on base for a private office to house the RAO. The office is open Mon-Fri, 0900-1500 and is closed for all U.S. and Korean holidays.
Contact information: Phone: DSN - 784-1441 or commercial - 0505-784-1441; e-mail - firstname.lastname@example.org. The mailing address is:
• RETIREE ACTIVITIES OFFICE
• 51 FSS/CVR
• UNIT 2065
• APO AP 96278-2065
The office is staffed by volunteers and provides application forms (many of which are available at http://www.rao-osan.com under "Applying for") and assistance in forms completion for the following:
o Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP)
o VA Compensation
o VA Disability
o VA Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC)
o VA Low-Income Surviving Spouse's Death Pension (DP)
o Civil Service Surviving Spouse's Annuity (CSRS and FERS)
o Social Security
o Retirement Benefits
Lump-Sum Death Benefit
o Arrears of [Retired] Pay (AOP) (SF1174) (one-time payment upon death of a retiree)
o Life Insurance Claim (government, employer, commercial)
o Thrift Saving Plan Lump-Sum Payout or Annuity (upon death of member)
o Non-Resident Alien Tax Return (IRS Form 1040NR)
o Correction of past income tax problems (1040 and 1040NR)
o Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) (IRS Form W-7)
RAO News & Information
In addition to the information presented on this web site, the RAO also produces a monthly e-mail newsletter, "Still Serving in Korea", and the archives of past newsletters for e-mail and print are available. All interested retirees (and pre-retirees) are invited to sign up to receive this newsletter via e-mail. Signup can be accomplished here. Once you submit the signup request, you receive an e-mail for confirmation. You must reply to this e-mail to activate your subscription. Simply click on "Reply" and "Send"; no further action is needed.
The RAO also produces a separate, quarterly Korean-language newsletter that is prepared, printed and mailed to surviving spouses living throughout Korea. An archive of these newsletters in Korean and English is also available.
When an Army retiree dies in Korea, a Casualty Assistance Officer of equal or higher rank to the deceased retiree's rank is appointed to assist the survivors in settling the retiree's affairs, arranging for transportation, if desired, for burial or cremation according to the wishes of the retiree and survivors, and for obtaining benefits for which the survivors are eligible. Because most of the survivors are Korean, they are likely to remain in Korea. In that case, the MRAO assumes responsibility for long-term assistance and the application for and maintenance of additional benefits to which the survivors become entitled.
If a retiree dies in a Korean hospital, it is the responsibility of survivors to pay for all medical services that have been provided. The body will not be released from the hospital until the bill is paid in full. If a retiree dies at home, and the body is transported to a Korean hospital, it is prudent to request an autopsy to confirm the cause of death. Without an autopsy, the attending doctor may prepare a death certificate stating the cause of death as "Unknown." If this happens, many of the U.S. benefits agencies will not release benefits as long as the cause of death is in question, since the claimant could have been involved in causing the death.
When a retiree dies in Korea, there are few options for burial in Korea. All public cemeteries are closed to foreigners, and the UN Cemetery at Pusan is now restricted to interment of Medal of Honor winners only. Some foreigners have been buried in church cemeteries when the retiree is a member of the church. In most cases, the survivors will opt for cremation or burial at sea (service offered by Commander, Naval Forces Korea) as the most affordable option. This is understandable since the expense of transportation and burial in the U.S. would be a severe financial burden to the survivors in many families.
If the decision is made to transport the retiree's remains to the U.S. for burial, two options exist for transporation: 1) space available via military airlift -- this option requires contact with a mortuary at the nearest West Coast port of entry to take charge of the body for onward transportation; or 2) transportation via commercial air to the airport nearest the place of burial.
The Army Mortuary at Yongsan can assist in arranging either type of transportation.
As a reminder, if the retiree does not have a valid passport or has a valid passport but an invalid visa, the body cannot be released for either in-country burial/cremation or transportation out of Korea until any fines accrued as a result of the immigration violation(s) are settled.
Retiree Dependent Deaths
In most cases, the deceased spouse or child of a retiree will be provided the same level and type of mortuary services provided to a deceased retiree. Since many of the retiree spouses are Korean, the spouse's family might take over and arrange for a Korean funeral and burial in Korea.
Surviving Spouse Deaths
Unless a surviving spouse living in Korea has specified that he/she wishes to be buried with his/her retiree spouse in the U.S., the normal course of events is that the family or acquaintances (if there is no family) are responsible for cremation or burial.
Long-term survivor assistance to those remaining in Korea is handled by the MRAO, with assistance from Area Retiree Council representatives and employees of various service agencies such as the credit union. Most of the assistance requested by survivors is in the form of actions to ensure that the survivors are receiving and continue to receive all benefits to which they are entitled, or benefits such as Social Security to which they become entitled after the retiree's death.
One of the hazards of a military career is that you move from place to place. In the course of the moves, things get lost, which is why it is always recommended that you carry important papers with you during PCS moves. However, luggage gets lost, too. No matter how it happens, you lose track of the important papers and you need to get replacements. If this describes your situation, the sooner you get the replacements, the less chance there is that you'll suffer stress at some future time when you urgently need that one piece of paper to get something important accomplished.
There are a number of documents that are important to retain because they are required to obtain benefits for the retiree, the retiree's dependents and for the survivors when the retiree dies. In addition, the retiree should have on hand additional notarized or certified copies of these documents so that, when the time comes to use them, there will be no delay in submitting the required documents along with certified copies of the supporting documents, whether for benefits or for other purposes. Then the originals can be kept in a safe, secure place for permanent retention.
The following documents are the minimum required to have on hand for retirees living in Korea:
• Your birth certificate
• Your retirement DD Form 214 (and DD Form 215 if corrections were made)
• Your spouse's birth certificate or Korean Family Register, or equivalent for other foreign-born spouses
• Birth certificate of all natural children and stepchildren, and adoption papers for adopted children
• Marriage certificate for your current marriage
• Divorce decree for each previous marriage of both you and your spouse (in the case of Korean spouses, the Family Register normally records the divorce and should be used since a court decree may not be issued)
• Naturalization certificate for any family member who became a naturalized U.S. citizen.
• Death certificate for deceased spouse, previous spouse, or other immediate family member
All documents must be either the original or a certified copy. Simple photocopies are not acceptable.
How to Get Them
The simplest way to get the papers you need is via the Internet. The problem is finding out where to get what documents. In some cases, a federal government agency is the source, in other cases, it's a state agency. The state agency may include one of the courts in a local area where, for example, a divorce was granted. Below is some help to get you started in the search for those papers. Uncertified paper copies of documents would certainly aid in the hunt for replacements.
Where to Get Them
Your DD Form 214, plus all your military personnel records, medical records and dental records can be obtained from the National Personnel Records Center. You can order online from the National Personnel Records Center and you'll need a printer to complete the order.
After going through the screens and providing the information needed to verify your status and what you are requesting, the last action is to print out two pages. The first page must be signed and sent via either fax or mail. The fax number and mailing address are on the second page, which is your copy of the order. Note that the signed request must be received at NPRC within 30 days or your request will be cancelled.
Birth certificates, marriage certificates and death certificates can be ordered directly from the health department or equivalent agency of any state in the U.S. The easiest way to do this is to go online to the listing of state and local governments and find the Health Department (or equivalent) where you can order the necessary documents. You can order online using a credit card, or order by mail and send a check or money order. (Some states will specify what type of payment is acceptable, and some states charge extra for credit card orders.)
Divorce, adoption or other matters settled in court must be obtained from the court that issued the court order. Go to the same listing of state and local governments and select the state of interest. Find the Judiciary listing and locate the court where the action took place. You should be able to order the document(s) from the Clerk of the Court or equivalent agency.
When ordering documents, ensure you are ordering the document itself and not a certification of the existence of the document. The certification of existence document is cheaper, but it is of no use as a supporting document. Also, if ordering a document from a foreign country, ensure the document is in English, or the original document in the native language is accompanied by a certified English translation of the original document.
With the original or raised seal copy of a document, you can have copies made that are valid for legal purposes. One way to get the legally-acceptable copies is at your installation Legal Office. They usually offer notary services for various types of documents. The best way is to have the copies certified by the U.S. Embassy American Citizen Services. The certified copies are unquestionably accepted by all U.S. agencies. The Embassy cannot certify foreign language documents without a valid translation accompanying the original document. Also, in the case of the Korean Family Register, the Embassy recommends obtaining a new Family Register and translation for each claim, since the Embassy may not certify copies of the Family Register.