When Adm. Walter Doran, USN (Ret), stepped into his role as MOAA’s chairman of the board last year, he knew he would have to tackle tough topics.
He didn’t hesitate. Halfway through his tenure as the association’s top board member, Doran has led efforts to fight for the repeal of the “widows tax” and ensure MOAA is financially viable for decades to come.
As he enters his second year, Doran has pledged to advance the association’s efforts to diversify its membership, grow local councils and chapters, and develop relationships with the National Guard and Reserve.
Below, some more words from the chairman in advance of this year’s annual meeting.
Q. What MOAA achievements are you most proud of from the past year?
A. First of all, I’m very proud of the way MOAA – the staff and the entire membership of MOAA – has responded to the challenges that we’ve dealt with over the last year.
When I became the chairman in November last year at our meeting in Phoenix, there were a number of issues that I thought were really going to consume me for the two years of my chairmanship. However, because of the great amount of work and cooperation that we’ve had in the staff and with the board of directors, we’ve made significant progress with those.
We have reorganized the scholarship fund to make it much more viable in the 21st century, and we expect to be able to actually offer more in scholarships and to have a better management handle on it. We have also worked very hard on our legislative agenda. We’re moving forward on protecting military pay, TRICARE, and the SBP-DIC offset (the widows tax). There are still challenges in front of us, but I’m very pleased with the uniform manner in which we’ve gone about it.
We also have renovated our iconic landmark building in Old Town Alexandria. Because of the investment that we’ve made in that building, we will now have a suitable, appropriate, acceptable home for the association for the next 30 to 50 years.
I think as far as our personnel, we have attracted varsity-level talent to the staff. I think all of us who are members of MOAA should appreciate the hard work they’ve done and what they’ve helped us all to accomplish.
Adm. Walter Doran, USN (Ret), speaks with Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) during MOAA's Storming the Hill event. (Photo by Stephen Barrett for MOAA)
Q. MOAA has continued to make repealing the Survivor Benefit Plan-Dependency and Indemnity Compensation offset a top priority. What is your message to members?
A. The widows tax has been a key, critical area for MOAA for the last number of years. This year, we have had the largest number of co-sponsors in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. We have more support than we’ve ever had. We need to stay consistent on this important issue. This is the first year of a two-year Congress and we need to continue to press forward on this issue, which is important to so many of our members, both widows and those who support them.
Q. What are your priorities for next year?
A. The other thing that we need as a staff and board of directors: We need to keep an eye on the economy. We need to make sure we’re positioned to stay ahead of any potential downturn in the economy that may come about. Over the last five years, we worked very hard and made some difficult decisions with the bottom-up review to make sure our association was financially viable. It is. But it’s time to take a close look at where the world economy and the U.S. economy is going, to make sure we have a strategic plan ready, to make sure we can weather any storm. I have every confidence in our ability to do that, and I’d like the membership to know we are working hard on that.
Q. How is MOAA working to diversify membership?
A. Diversity of the association is another issue that I’m going to take on personally. MOAA needs to continually strive to represent the military forces of the United States. We need to do a better job of attracting members across the spectrum of diversity – whether that be ethnic diversity or gender diversity throughout the services – so that we represent the services as they exist.
Q. How can MOAA be valuable for younger members?
A. I know it is sometimes difficult to attract younger members – generally those presently serving in the military – to join our association. I would ask them to consider the fact that we all take the time to insure our homes, insure our cars, and insure our lives. I’d ask them to take a moment to consider whether it’s worthwhile to also insure their earned benefits, because no organization will work harder to protect their benefits on a day-to-day basis.
Q. How is MOAA working to grow councils and chapters?
A. Since I’ve been on the board, but particularly over the last year as I’ve been chairman of the board, I’ve tried to get out to meet with our chapters and our councils across the country. I become more and more convinced that they are the lifeblood of MOAA. Every time I go and meet with the chapters or the councils, I not only learn something, but it is really an enjoyable and beneficial time for me.
We need to remember we are made up of our chapters and councils, and that is where our strength is. They give us leverage in the communities where they live with the local congressmen and city, county and state leadership. I’m also focused on trying to reach out to National Guard and Reserve units throughout the country. I think there is a great opportunity for us to offer benefit to them.
[RELATED: Learn More About MOAA's State Legislative Consortium, and How to Take Part]
Q. What do you perceive as the biggest challenges for MOAA next year?
A. The biggest challenges, as always, are membership and revenue. We have to maintain a focus on membership and revenue and realize that’s what we’re about. Our efforts need to pertain to stabilizing and growing membership and watching our revenue and maintaining a fiscally solid association. I think we’re in good shape now, but it’s something that needs a constant look.