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MOAA’s 2019 Summer Storm: Local Action for National Change

MOAA’s 2019 Summer Storm: Local Action for National Change
Illustration by John Harman/MOAA Staff

Members of the House of Representatives left Washington at the end of last week for what is termed a “district work period,” a summer break to focus on their constituents back home.; Senators will follow suit this Friday for their state work period. The full Congress will be back in session Sept. 9.

This is the ideal time to coordinate our efforts toward a critical objective key to our nation’s defense and supportive of two of our most pressing issues: repealing the "widows tax" and addressing the 18,000 medical billet reductions. As such, we invite you to participate in our 2019 Summer Storm, a campaign for the FY 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).


What is a Summer Storm? It is helpful to start with a recap of our April Storming the Hill event where we coordinated topics, brought MOAA chapter members to Washington, prepared them with training, and then stormed the Hill with nearly 170 people April 10. This summer, we have coordinated two topics, and with these supporting materials, we are entreating our 350,000 members to engage the 535 members of Congress during the work periods.

[TAKE ACTION: End the Widows Tax and Read the Issue Paper]

[TAKE ACTION: Protect Military Medicine and Read the Issue Paper]

This Summer Storm can consist of personal visits, letters, emails, and/or phone calls. Additionally, we encourage you to seek media attention highlighting those members of Congress who are taking the visits or meeting in public. Wherever possible, you are encouraged to include family and friends.

Here is an overview of the two most pressing topics, which are the subjects of the storm:

Widows tax: Repealing the widows tax has been a goal of MOAA for decades. The growing number of cosponsors for H.R. 553 (372 cosponsors) and S. 622 (75 cosponsors) indicates momentum from Congress stemming from active advocacy by MOAA, The Military Coalition, and other associations, as well as an army of surviving spouses through various platforms and personal visits.
  • While the bills have significant support, the pay-for requirement has repeatedly derailed progress on the Hill.
  • This year, Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, included the provision to repeal the widows tax in the House’s version of the FY 2020 NDAA; the Senate remains silent, although Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, proclaimed his support.
Billet reductions: DoD, due to a requirement in the 2017 NDAA, has initiated a cut of 18,000 medical billets without acknowledging the impact this would have on overall readiness, recruiting and retention, graduate medical education, and support to beneficiaries.
  • MOAA applied a full-court press on the Hill with appropriators and authorizers, which has led to the House including language in the FY 2020 NDAA to stand down those cuts until proper analysis and assessments are completed.
  • The Senate has not included such language in their draft of the defense bill, and the staffers indicate a degree of support for the cuts relative to the authorities granted to DoD in the FY 2017 NDAA for the Defense Health Agency to reorganize.

[RELATED: The Sights and Sounds of Storming 2019]

MOAA’s and many other associations’ interests in the widows tax and the billet reductions are represented in the House draft of the NDAA. As such, we need to increase focus on the NDAA, on which both of these issues are currently dependent.

There are two ways to support the Summer Storm:

  1. You can access our supporting materials here (share the link -- MOAA.org/SummerStorm -- with your network) starting July 29 and work this individually, or
  2. You can contact your local MOAA chapter to join their efforts and help grow a louder voice within the community or district. This is especially effective if you visit legislators in their office.

Whichever method you choose, be sure to share your successes on social media, using the hashtag #MOAASummerStorm.

By working together, we can make a measurable impact this summer to ensure the NDAA maintains the language supporting repeal of the widows tax as well as a halt to the medical billet reductions until the impacts are properly analyzed and shared with Congress.

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About the Author

Col. Dan Merry, USAF (Ret.)

Col. Dan Merry, USAF (Ret), earned his commission in 1989 through AFROTC and commanded DoD’s Port Mortuary at Dover AFB, Del. He has served in multiple overseas conflicts since the 1990s and has served as the VP of government relations since August 2016.