The COVID-19 pandemic usurped MOAA’s efforts to Storm the Hill in March of this year, so we did what most everyone else started doing – we hunkered down and found solutions.
From teleworking with laptops to phone calls and video chats to full-blown meetings online, we all adapted to the new business models of remote work and maintaining social distance. Fortunately, MOAA had been preparing for telework as an enhancement to our operations, so our conversion was a little less strenuous than others experienced.
One of the positive byproducts of the pandemic constraints was MOAA’s Virtual Storming the Hill. With an army of stormers previously primed to lead our signature event in March, MOAA was in a good position to recall those forces and revector them to an alternative method of storming. While health care was the center of our planned storm in March, the COVID-19 pandemic forced a re-look at the topic to ensure it remained relevant.
As the pandemic unfolded, we learned DoD was pausing its congressionally mandated reform to the military health system (MHS) – a reform that consisted of reducing or closing nearly 50 medical treatment facilities. DoD also acknowledged a pause in their plan, initiated last year, to cut nearly 18,000 military medical billets to help fund an increase in warfighting specialties.
Our Virtual Stormers urged Congress to direct DoD to not only pause, but to halt and fully reassess plans to reform and reduce medical capacity. MOAA believes it is imperative to take the lessons learned from this pandemic and assess how the whole of government can be stronger and better prepared as a result.
So, how did we do?
Leveraging our grassroots advocates in our councils and chapters network, we set a course for 100% congressional contact within the month of May. I can report we delivered on that goal and then some.
Our members have been exceptionally busy over this Virtual Storm. In May, MOAA:
- Sent over 19,000 letters to 435 districts and 50 states – covering 100% of Congress.
- Held 253 storming meeting appointments via virtual meeting platforms.
- Shared an educational video garnering nearly 18,000 views on Facebook.
Further, our efforts gained traction within the House of Representatives – Reps. Bill Posey (R-Fla.) and Kathy Castor (D-Fla.) circulated a congressional letter urging House Armed Services Committee leadership to ensure the FY 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) includes language to stop planned cuts to military medical capacity. Others have shown an interest in halting these reductions until Congress and DoD can assess lessons learned.
What’s next? Within a few weeks, we will get a chance to see the House Armed Services Committee draft of the NDAA and assess the language relative to these two issues: MHS reform, and DoD reductions of military medical billets.
If the language fits the ask, we will immediately pivot to the Senate to ensure the provision makes it through conference and into the final bill. We will need to remain engaged throughout the conference process, which generates the final bill for the floor votes and onto the president to sign.
Now is not the time to let up. We need MOAA members and our partners to translate our virtual success into reality by remaining actively engaged.
We will keep you updated along the way, and you can count on at least a couple of calls to action to ensure we shepherd this issue all the way to the White House.
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