From the mailbag

Write us! One of the best parts of working with the Friends of Extension newsletter is hearing from people in the extension family. When the topics might be of interest to a number of our readers, we may include them in the next issue of the newsletter. Write Cynthia Crawford at or 109 Whitten Hall, Columbia, MO 65211.

What is the best part of being retired?

From David Hill:

The best part of retirement is no meetings to take priority over cultural events on the same evening. I also get to see the results of my work in Northeast Missouri small towns come to fruition from a distance. My retiring forced community people to take more risks.

David Hill retired from extension as a community development specialist and moved to Bloomington, Ill.

From Gale Trussell:

photo: Gale Trussel is a retired community development specialist.

Gale Trussell retired November 2000 as a community development specialist. He lives in Alexandria, La.

Gale Trussell’s labor of love is making booklets for people with serious health issues or other adversity in their lives. He’s been doing this for two years and doesn’t plan to quit until he simply can’t do it anymore. His goal is to bring comfort, encouragement and hope to the recipients.

I put a few verses from Psalms on each page, then add a color nature photograph to the page. The books are usually five or six pages with a cover page. I do my own photography. I usually print about 1,000 of these each year and give them to our church members and people who have family or friends with health problems who live in distant places. I do not charge anything for these books. No two books are ever alike.

If your readers want a copy of my Prayer Book for themselves or a friend, have them email me and I will send the book to them free of charge. My email address is

Benefits questions

From C. D.:

My husband recently had shoulder surgery, and we were notified that insurance had paid what they were going to pay. A few days later we got an unexpected bill for $5,600 from the surgery place. I didn’t sleep very well for the next two nights and then remembered the information in Friends of Extension that said there are two people in the benefits office that retirees can contact about health insurance issues. I called and expected them to tell me to contact the office that sent the bill. Instead, the lady I talked with said she would follow up with the insurance company and call me either later that day or the next day. She called me, as promised, the next day. I was out of the house, so she left a phone message assuring me it had all been cleared up and that my balance was now zero and I didn’t need to do anything further. Thank you so much. A three-minute phone call to the right office was all it took.

By now you might be wishing to have that information again. Here it is:

Retirees can call 573-882-9810 or 800-488-5288 to ask questions or set up an appointment at the Benefits Advocate office. The address is Woodrail Centre, 1000 W. Nifong, Building 7, Ste. 210, Columbia, MO 65211-8220. Email questions to

Benefit advocates provide customer support to retirees, faculty and staff for Total Rewards issues including benefits, retirement, compensation and wellness. Their primary focus is handling requests concerning enrollment in or changes to benefit and retirement programs, and provide detailed guidance and information regarding insurance plans, including health, dental, vision, life insurance and long-term disability. Benefit advocates can assist with claims resolution, vendor contact and interface.

At a recent retiree meeting in Ozark, one lady asked:

Cynthia, do you have any tips for getting someone from the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) on the telephone about federal retirement matters?


I didn’t, but I did know whom to ask. Tamra Robbins is extension retirement and benefits coordinator. You might have worked with her as you went through the retirement process.
— Cynthia Crawford

Tamra Robbins responded:

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is extremely busy since they handle almost all of the federal civilian retirements. The only suggestion I have is to call first thing in the morning, on a Wednesday or Thursday — historically those are the least busy days. OPM opens around 7:40 a.m. Eastern Time so start calling as early as 6:40 a.m. Missouri time. Be prepared to be on hold for a while. If you’re calling on a cellphone, make sure it’s fully charged or you have a charger handy. In fact, you might want to have a book to read or something else to do while on hold.