Former Sgt. 1st Class Jennifer Howard helps Soldiers when they medically retire from the Army. She is a Recovery Care Coordinator today at our Fort Stewart Soldier Recovery Unit (SRU) for good reason. The Avionics Equipment Repairer explained things have changed but she was clueless who to talk to when faced with the end of her 14 years in the Army.
“When you come in the Army you pretty much get signed up for everything but when you retire and this is across the board not just medically, you have to know the ins and outs of every benefit and what you want, do you have to sign for it, does your spouse have to sign, is there a timeline… the list goes on.”
Meet your local Recovery Care Coordinator (RCC)! The Army Recovery Care Program has RCC’s across the country to help Soldiers and Veterans. “They can call the ARCCD contact center and they will direct that Soldier to the closest RCC,” says Howard.
Since January 2013, Howard has made it her mission to make sure Soldiers and Veterans today can get answers and know where to go and what to do. “I have a checklist of 25 things for retiring Soldiers to do immediately when they get out. For example, when you retire you have 60 days to sign up for Tricare if you don’t you have to wait for open season.”
Always keeping in her mind, the struggle, she went through energizes her every day to make it better for the next Soldier. “I tend to get on my soap box because I know how important it is. I want Soldiers to know that we are here as RCC’s to help all the way through to the right side of that DD-214 and they can still call me. “
When they do call, Howard and her fellow RCC’s are like the Google of Army Retirement. Getting Soldiers and Veterans the much-needed answers day or night is beyond rewarding she says.
“I had a retired Sgt. 1st Class call me after I helped him, and he said you are the secret ingredient to the SRU, the best kept secret. You know enough about everything to help us when we just lost our jobs.”
Before gaining access to this plethora of knowledge, Howard says all Soldiers should know THE most important thing! “DO NOT procrastinate! At the end of the med board or even when they’re found at that decision point to be able to return to duty, or be released from active duty back to guard or reserve status it can be very quick and before they know it they’re gone from the unit, they’re either in a retirement status or back at their unit and now they have all these questions and they are reaching in the air for answers. Call us!”
It's often said the hardest thing for a Soldier to do is medically retire. Having support from SRU’s, and ARCCD is a blessing, but each Soldier still has a responsibility to do their part to reach success according to Howard. “Take the time to read the paperwork and understand your benefits. You also must read the fine print and ask the questions to the right people.”
If you need help finding a Recovery Care Coordinator, call the Army Recovery Care Coordination Contact Center (ARC4) at 800-984-8523 – Option #1.