HONOLULU - The Retiree Council of Hawaii is actively addressing the needs of retired Soldiers living throughout the state.

Working jointly with U.S. Army Garrison Hawaii's Retirement Services Office -- part of the Directorate of Human Resources -- the council held a Retiree Appreciation Day at the Hale Ikena, Fort Shafter, Oct. 20.

More than 250 retirees and spouses received updates about the Army, health care, the commissary, identity theft and other pertinent topics from a host of speakers. They also learned significant changes now affecting both the Army and the Department of Defense.

"The council is reviewing how these changes impact local retirees", said retired Brig. Gen. James Hastings, co-chair, during opening remarks.

As the events began, retired Command Sgt. Maj. Joel Jenkins asked the audience to render their tribute to fallen retirees.

The keynote speaker, Brig. Gen. Michael Place, deputy commanding general, Regional Health Command-Pacific, lauded the Army's Soldier for Life program, which assists Soldiers with transition from active duty and long-term association with the Army and service traditions.

"Congress' ability to fund the services this year has been amazing," said Place. "It makes a huge difference to our Army."

He reminded the audience they are among the folks who influence and keep Congress moving forward to achieve desired goals for retirees, and their actions are commendable.

He added, "The secretary (of the Army) and the chief (of staff) are devoted to improving the readiness and lethality of our Army."

One of the most significant changes Place addressed was health care. Patrons will no longer use a separate system in each branch of the military, he explained. Instead, the Military Health Agency will take over authority, direction and control.

TRICARE is also changing. In the future, only TRICARE Prime and TRICARE Select will be available. The enrollment window will be open from Nov. 12 to Dec. 10.

"I, along with all my colleagues, have no intention of doing anything other than to provide you with the very best quality of care that we can," said Place, stating personnel should have no anxiety over changes taking place at the top. He said health care delivery is a personal exchange, and it will remain that way.

Dr. Kamal Masaki of the University of Hawaii presented substantial information about the warning signs of dementia and how to keep our brains healthy and active.

Retirees left the Retiree Appreciation Day more aware of many of the approaching changes within the Army and how they will impact their households.

Hastings invited all attendees to talk with their retiree council members about the issues important to them and what actions the council members could take with government and leaders on their behalf.