Surviving spouses of fallen troops from across the country connected virtually in a new group that aims to solve problems and shape future legislation.
About 25 members of the newly formed Surviving Spouses Chapter of the Military Officers Association of America met in a telephonic meeting on Tuesday night. It's the association's second virtual group - following the Uniformed Services Nurse Advocates group.
“The purpose is to provide a forum for surviving spouses across the United States to come together,” said Gail Joyce, one of the group's founding members. “We want to find solutions to problems we might be having.”
The group started with 13 members and has grown to about 40. It is open to any surviving spouse of an officer of any U.S. uniformed service across the country. If you are interested in joining, please send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The group plans to hold hour-long virtual meetings every quarter.
Joyce said one of the group's top goals is to connect with younger spouses. Since the group meets virtually, it makes it convenient for spouses to participate without leaving home, which can be a challenge for young spouses that have children or jobs, she said.
The group also bridges the gap for surviving spouses that live in areas that don't have local MOAA chapters.
Lt. Gen. Dana T. Atkins, USAF (Ret.), president of MOAA headquarters, participated in the inaugural meeting. Spouses' input benefits MOAA at large, he said, adding that as word gets out about the group, it'll continue to grow. That will have a powerful effect.
“Those numbers start influencing legislative outcomes that we seek,” Atkins said. “You're shaping solutions ... that we'll share in congressional offices that we visit.”
The group was started by six women who serve on MOAA's Surviving Spouses Advisory Council: Gail Joyce, Micki Costello, Patricia Berquist, Pat Farnsworth, Sharon DeVaney and Anne Hartline.
MOAA is the country's largest association of military officers. It stands for a strong national defense and representing the interests of military officers and their families at every stage of their career.
The association recently pushed federal lawmakers to end the "widows' tax" on military survivors.
Related reading: 'Widow's Tax' Costs Families of Fallen Servicemembers $15,000 Each Year
The tax requires survivors of deceased military members to forfeit part or all of the Survivor Benefit Plan annuity when they were awarded VA Dependency and Indemnity Compensation.
Amanda Dolasinski is MOAA's staff writer. She can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @AmandaMOAA.