This has been a very successful year for MOAA.
Our collective efforts in 2018 kicked into high gear when we stormed Capitol Hill in April and connected with all 535 congressional offices.
Our storming focused on two key topics: the annual pay raise for active duty personnel and the inequities facing Chapter 61 medical retirees. MOAA storming tweets and photos appeared more than 6 million times in Twitter timelines - and we reached 617,000 people via the hashtag #moaastorms.
We followed through on our storming with grassroots action from members across the nation. This year, all of you generated more than 73,000 emails to members of Congress - more than 37,000 of them sent in June and July alone, to push back hard on threats to repeal the grandfathering of TRICARE fee protections for beneficiaries under 65.
Moreover, we have had policy impact through a reinvigorated military spouse professional development program that has led to significant, White House-level visibility and engagement.
As we reflect on the advocacy landscape of 2018, we are grateful for clear support for our legislative priorities in the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act and for open discussions with DoD, the VA, and Defense Health Agency senior leadership. MOAA provided significant input on the VA MISSION Act, TRICARE changes, and the discussion of admission policies at Arlington National Cemetery. We were steadfast in our mission as military pay and benefits policies were negotiated amongst our legislators and government officials.
Thank you for helping to make all of this possible. Your efforts are noticed, and your voices are heard.
Membership now stands at approximately 350,000 members strong, and our annual renewal rate is at an all-time high, but strengthening membership remains a top priority.
Initiatives this year included our Officer-to-Officer membership campaign, featuring member testimonials on video to increase prospect engagement.
Our “Fighting Words” campaign packs an emotional punch with direct messaging focused on the potential loss of earned military benefits. People are taking notice and taking action.
Our finance and benefits educators and our legislative team have supported 15 retiree activity day events at installations nationwide and connected with more than 4,800 veterans and potential MOAA members - and hopefully our presence at these events has helped your individual chapter recruiting efforts.
One of the highlights of our increased engagement this year with members and prospective members was the successful launch of the redesigned Military Officer magazine. We also are engaging millions of viewers online, many them potential members.
Moreover, we're actively expanding our activities on social media to inform and help military families. This work includes producing popular TRICARE town halls via Facebook Live.
The MOAA Foundation, through very generous grants from the Democracy Fund in 2017 and 2018, was able to complete and publish the MOAA Military Family Voting Survey while simultaneously launching a major campaign reaching out to active duty families.
The MOAA Scholarship Fund has had another banner year and will disburse over $8 million to about 1,300 students from military and veteran families.
This past year, our board members, the senior headquarters team, and I have visited 92 of MOAA's councils and chapters. I'm reminded on every one of my chapter visits that you are our most committed and most enthusiastic MOAA members.
We will continue to work together in critical areas such as legislative advocacy, member recruitment, and community engagement. I urge you to look for state-level legislative advocacy issues - such as favorable tax treatment for military retirement and survivor benefits - that can directly benefit the military and veteran community in your states.
At the start of a new Congress, we anticipate a headwind regarding support for our key advocacy priorities from both incumbent and incoming members of Congress. Old and new members alike will be busy adjusting to the legislative cycle and establishing priorities.
At the top of our list of challenges in the 116th Congress will be the recurring threat of sequestration and the mandate to submit a “pay for” - a proposed source of funds - for any bill requiring new funding. Experience has taught us these fiscal constraints, combined with increases in non-defense spending, likely will lead to more attempts to draw dollars from accounts funding military pay and benefits.
Another challenge: tight races for candidates, at all levels, increase the difficulty of building support - even with a cause as worthy SBP-DIC offset repeal, which as you know is a continuing priority for our association.
While there is more work to be done, I am confident our work together will lead to MOAA's future successes. Your continued support of our organization gives us the opportunity to continue our advocacy work on behalf of currently serving, retired, and former servicemembers as well as their family members and surviving spouses. Your service to our country should not go without recognition, and your earned benefits should be protected. You are the reason MOAA will never stop serving.