By Patricia Farnsworth, Surviving Spouse Advisory Council member
Surviving spouses of deceased military officers can serve MOAA chapters in many ways. Chapters should welcome these members and encourage them to become active in not only the chapter but also national MOAA. Here are four ways surviving spouses can contribute to MOAA chapters:
1. Recruiting. Having participated in activities on many military bases and within the community, surviving spouses might know others — both surviving spouses and couples — who have retired and are living in the chapter area and can help recruit them as new members. Welcoming these potential members and encouraging them to become active members serves national MOAA and local chapters as well as the new members themselves.
2. Leadership roles. Surviving spouses, formerly referred to as auxiliary members, are eligible to serve as chapter officers. Many chapters now have a surviving spouse in an office, sometimes even serving as president.
3. Event planning. Surviving spouses can help organize chapter luncheons or dinner meetings, a task for which they might be well prepared. Those who have been members of officers’ wives’ clubs wherever their spouses were stationed usually have helped with planning meetings and arranging for speakers or entertainment.
4. Social and personal affairs support. When a death occurs within the chapter membership, surviving spouses can assist the widow or widower with the sometimes complicated task of changing names on accounts, notifying insurance companies, stopping military retired pay, and applying for Social Security benefits as well as military survivor entitlements. Help with planning a funeral and burial arrangements also can be very useful. A surviving spouse who already has dealt with these tasks can offer support during a time when the recently bereaved member might be feeling overwhelmed and confused. The ability to provide the social support needed to accomplish the necessary adjustments can make the newly bereaved spouse feel more confident and comfortable.
Surviving spouses also can help a new widow or widower regain a social life through friendships and organized social events. MOAA meetings and other occasions can provide this for those spouses. Becoming active in a local chapter is a good way to take advantage of this benefit. National membership is a wonderful source of help when questions arise about anything related to the military career of the deceased.