The Maryland Council of Chapters (CoC) held its seventh annual Maryland Congressional Luncheon Sept. 13 on Capitol Hill. MOAA leaders representing nine Maryland chapters hosted the luncheon to express their gratitude to Sens. Benjamin Cardin and Chris Van Hollen, along with seven representatives, for their leadership and support of issues facing veterans, military retirees and those currently serving and their families.
The Maryland CoC, led by its president, retired Army Col. Harvey T. Kaplan, outlined MOAA’s recent legislative priorities, including stopping sequestration, repealing the Survivor Benefit Plan/Dependency and Indemnity Compensation offset, and preventing TRICARE fees and cost shares from rising faster than the annual COLA.
Other lawmakers in attendance included Reps. Andy Harris, A. Dutch Ruppersberger, John Sarbanes, Steny Hoyer, John Delaney, Elijah Cummings, and Jamie Raskin.
Cummings thanked chapter members in attendance for their service. “You have a friend in the Congress of the United States of America,” he said. “I will continue to fight with everything I’ve got. No matter what side of the political spectrum you may find yourselves, those of us who care about this democracy … must guard it with our lives.”
Sarbanes expressed gratitude to Maryland Council of Chapters members present at the luncheon for engaging in critical advocacy. “There’s never been a more important time than now to ensure the voices of constituents are being heard on Capitol Hill — and representing the concerns of our military is at the top of that list,” he emphasized.
Cardin listed threats to national security, including North Korea and the Middle East. “In every one of those circumstances, you hear about what America can do. And America’s strength is in our ideals and what we fight for, but it’s also the fact that we have a military second to none in the world.” He emphasized he’s fighting for the right allocations for DoD, the Department of Homeland Security, and national intelligence agencies.
Van Hollen discussed the effects of sequestration. “We are now debating on the floor of the Senate the National Defense Authorization Bill, and we want to make sure our men and women have all the support overseas and at home,” he said. “Having these arbitrary caps is really harming our national defense — our readiness in particular — as well as important investments in other areas like education and modernizing our infrastructure.”
MOAA President and CEO Lt. Gen. Dana T. Atkins, USAF (Ret), thanked the chapter leaders in the room for organizing the event and for their continued advocacy on behalf of the military community. “You … represent a small segment of a powerful engine: Our national membership.”
Atkins told chapter members their advocacy paved the way for MOAA’s Government Relations team’s success. “You’ve become this catalyst of success for us.”