Time is running out for MOAA’s Summer Storm, an opportunity for you to join our advocacy efforts and meet with your members of Congress while they are on recess. The full Congress will return to Washington on Sept. 9.
During this year’s Summer Storm, we are focusing our legislative efforts to ensure the NDAA maintains language supporting repeal of the widows tax. We are also seeking to halt to massive Defense Department medical billet cuts until the impacts are properly analyzed and shared with Congress.
[SUMMER STORM RESOURCES: Learn More About the Widows Tax and Medical Billet Issues]
MOAA members have been sharing their experiences in the field during their lawmakers’ summer recess.
MOAA Board Member Col. Jeri Graham, USA (Ret), participated in the 2019 Summer Storm by meeting with Sen. Thom Tillis of her home state of North Carolina. As president of the MOAA Uniformed Services Nurse Advocates Virtual Chapter (MUSNAVC), she believes it is absolutely necessary to meet and discuss the widows tax and medical billets issues with our lawmakers.
“It is keeping everybody abreast of what is important to MOAA,” Graham said. “Even though it is busy during summer storm ... it helps to keep things fresh in their mind, and it is particularly important now in the budget cycle.”
[RELATED: MOAA’s 2019 Summer Storm: Local Action for National Change]
Graham said her favorite thing about the MOAA Summer Storm has been getting to know the office staff for her lawmakers. “Whatever state you’re in, it’s very important to have a relationship with not only the legislator but also the staff,” she said.
Members of MOAA’s El Paso, Texas, chapter recently met their congresswoman, Rep. Veronica Escobar.
“Congresswoman Escobar addressed several priority MOAA issues and expressed support for the retention of the widows tax relief clause in the final version of the NDAA when the House and Senate meet in September to finalize the NDAA,” reported El Paso Chapter President Col. Forrest Smith, USA (Ret). “ I was impressed by her candor and willingness to entertain different perspectives on issues pertaining to Veteran’s and active duty military.”
[RELATED: Nearly 70 Senators Call For Full Repeal of Widows Tax in New Letter]
Another way to get involved in this year's Summer Storm is to send MOAA-suggested letters to your legislators.
Capt. Kathleen Smith, USN (Ret), a MUSNAVC member, sent letters to Florida Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott, describing how the widows tax has personally affected her.
"[My] husband, CWO4 David L. Smith, USN, Ret, died after 30 years of Naval Service. He received a 100% disability rating from the Navy and was receiving the VA disability payment," Smith wrote. "At his death, my Survivor's Disability Payment was reduced by $12,000 per year from the VA disability payment. That means I have lost approximately $383,000 over the last 32 years."
Tips for Summer Storm
As a MOAA life member and long-time advocate, Graham shared some of her tips for MOAA members joining the Summer Storm:
- Be Flexible. It is important to understand that legislators' work continues when they are in their home state. When scheduling appointments, Graham recommends giving the staff different options for times when you can meet your lawmaker.
- Be Focused. Graham suggests using MOAA’s issue papers, found on the Summer Storm resources page, to ensure you are familiar with the widows tax and medical billets topics before you meet with your legislators. It will help enforce the importance of both issues, and lawmakers will appreciate getting right to the point.
- Don’t Be Afraid to Make Friends. Chances are there will be other VSOs scheduling meetings with legislators around the same time as you. Graham recommends using this as an opportunity to establish a relationship with them. Introduce yourself and share MOAA's issue papers – we are all in this fight together!
Katie Lathrop is the Digital Content Specialist at MOAA and the daughter of a retired Army officer. Follow her on twitter @Katie.F.Lathrop.