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Summer Storm Recap: MOAA Members Send 15,500 Messages to Congress

Summer Storm Recap: MOAA Members Send 15,500 Messages to Congress
From left, Richard L. Hartness, Sr., Arkansas NE Chapter President; Rep. Rick Crawford; Keith Blackman, NE Chapter VP; and, Don K. Berry, Central Arkansas Chapter President.

MOAA Members, and those you recruited to help, made a measurable difference in our advocacy efforts during our Summer Storm. We know the value of grassroots efforts, and regularly discuss the significance of such during our regional training sessions and chapter visits.

This more recent series of engagements started with a call to action from MOAA President and CEO Lt. Gen. Dana Atkins on July 29. In true Never Stop Serving fashion, many of you took the field, made some outs and hit some home runs. Here are some of the stats:

  • You sent 6,360 messages to Congress on the widows tax.  
    • Current co-sponsorships: 377 in the House and 76 in the Senate
    • Senator Jones’s Motion to Instruct the Senate Conferees was voted on by the Senate 94-0; while not a binding vote it does indicate a continuation of support.
  • You sent 9,122 messages to Congress on the military medical billet reductions.
    • This too has gotten support from both the House and the Senate during your engagements, our visits on the Hill, and repeated discussions with their staffs.

 

And Still Work To Do …

Both provisions highlighted in our Summer Storm are now in conference where the House and Senate will determine the final defense bill. We have come a long way to get to this point but there are no guarantees as to the ultimate outcome – we cannot slow down.

Congress is currently on their district and state breaks through Oct. 14 – this is another opportunity to contact them at home if you can. We need everyone to keep the pressure on congress, thank them for their support, and encourage them to pass the defense bill supportive of these and other priorities.

Please send this message now, and share this link with all your friends and families so they too can be involved in our advocacy.

Be sure to use the MOAA switchboard to leave messages:

MAKE THE CALL: A suggested message for your lawmaker (call them via MOAA’s toll-free Capitol Switchboard: 1-866-272-6622): 

My name is _____________ and I live in ________.  I stand with the Military Officers Association of America and urge you to support language in the House-passed defense bill to end the Widows Tax on military survivors, and halt DoD’s reduction of 18,000 military medical billets.

Military survivors currently face financial penalties of up to $12,000 a year when they receive benefits from both DoD and the VA. These separate benefits are paid for separate reasons and shouldn’t been seen as “double dipping.” Please do all that you can to ensure the House language remains in the final version of the defense bill.

Additionally, DoD’s reduction of 18,000 military medical billets impacts the readiness of the force, their families, and all military beneficiaries in the communities where they live and work. Please do all you can to ensure the House language halting these reductions remains in the final version of the defense bill. 

We appreciate both chambers willingness to support essential rights for military families in privatized housing, and are hopeful for passage of provisions which improve the benefits of the Reserve Component.

Thank you.

 

And plenty of people to thank …

In appreciation of their efforts, it is worth pointing out a few examples of member engagements and successes along this summer’s path.

On Aug. 6, Col. Jeri Graham, USA (Ret), attended a lunch in Elizabethtown, N.C. organized by Sen. Thom Tillis. Prior to the lunch, she shared the MOAA Summer Storm documents, which were well received by all. As you may know, Senator Tillis is a cosponsor of S. 622 to repeal the widows tax, and he holds a key position as the Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Personnel. Secretary Wilkie from the VA was also in attendance.

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Sen. Thom Tillis, VA Secretary Robert Wilkie and Col. Jeri Graham, USA (Ret).

On Aug. 17, Col. Forrest Smith, USA (Ret), with the El Paso MOAA Chapter, met with Rep. Veronica Escobar. See their update, along with Jeri Graham’s as reported in the August newsletter here.

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MOAA El Paso Chapter President Col. Forrest Smith, USA (Ret) meets with Rep. Veronica Escobar.

On Aug. 23, the Hampton Roads, Virginia Chapter hosted Rep. Elaine Luria for their Summer Chapter Legislative Affairs Luncheon. The Congresswoman shared, “Advocating for our service members and veterans is one of my top priorities, and meetings like this one help me better serve our Hampton Roads military community. As a Navy veteran myself, I’m grateful to HRCMOAA for the opportunity to discuss my efforts in Congress.” She also expressed her support for the House-passed NDAA which includes our Summer Storm topics.

On Aug. 28, NE and Central Arkansas representatives met with Arkansas District One U.S. Representative Rick Crawford to lobby for repeal of the widows tax and protection of military medicine. And let it be said, since 2011 Arkansas’ entire delegation has consistently co-sponsored SBP-DIC offset repeal legislation.

There were certainly other engagements very similar to these, and we appreciate all your efforts and continued contacts with your members of congress at home.

Now, we must continue to move forward on those two Summer Storming topics along with a longer list of issues pertaining to our uniformed services, past and present, their families and survivors. Please be sure to use the Calls to Action noted above and, again, share broadly.

 

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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.