Months after retirees overseas started getting word that their APO/FPO mail privileges would be cut off Aug. 24, they’re still waiting for a definitive answer.
“I think most everyone here is taking a ‘wait and see’ attitude and hoping DoD doesn’t cut us off,” said Mark Favreau, volunteer director of the U.S. Military Retiree Support Services Office for Metro Manila in the Philippines. He said retirees haven’t heard anything from DoD.
Defense officials have been reviewing retirees’ mail privileges since June. Information was not available from DoD about the status of that review.
In June, a DoD spokesman told Military Times “we are reviewing this issue to ensure authorized military postal service patrons are provided access worldwide.”
Many retirees are questioning why this change is being considered in the first place, after decades of being able to use APO/FPO addresses overseas.
According to DoD statistics, about 40,000 military retirees live overseas, plus family members of these retirees.
A major concern among military retirees is that they would no longer be able to get their prescription medications through the Tricare Express Scripts mail-order pharmacy. Express Scripts Pharmacy can only mail prescriptions to U.S.-based addresses, State Department Pouch Mail and APO/FPO/DPO addresses. The Military Postal Service Agency provides postal services to DoD personnel and their families at locations around the world.
It’s not clear where the idea for the policy change originated — the Military Postal Service Agency or someone higher up in the DoD chain.
In May, Defense Department officials published a policy change that has been interpreted to mean that the only people authorized to use the APO/FPO system are military members and their dependents, DoD civilians and their dependents, and contractors who are authorized to accompany the force. That leaves out military retirees and others, such as Red Cross employees.
After the May DoD policy change, Military Postal Service Agency officials notified their overseas postal communities that affected patrons would be given 90 days advance notice that they will no longer be able to use APO/FPO service, according to a Military Postal Service Agency email obtained by Military Times.
Agency officials “recognized the need to clarify authorized users of the [military postal system] after a legal review determined that some MPS patron categories included over time are either not authorized by law or not permitted by host nation agreement,” according to the DoD statement to Military Times in June. Those status of forces agreements vary by country.
Money is also a factor. “The same review was also unable to locate established fiscal authority for seven of the listed categories” of patrons, DoD officials told Military Times.
There are limits on the privileges. For example, in the Philippines, items are limited to one pound for retirees using the military mail system.
For retirees living overseas, losing APO/FPO mail privileges could affect a number of areas of their lives. For example, for retirees voting absentee in states that don’t have the ability to send or receive absentee ballots online, this could affect their ability to vote.
Karen has covered military families, quality of life and consumer issues for Military Times for more than 30 years, and is co-author of a chapter on media coverage of military families in the book "A Battle Plan for Supporting Military Families." She previously worked for newspapers in Guam, Norfolk, Jacksonville, Fla., and Athens, Ga.