While advocacy agendas have shifted from the halls of Capitol Hill to virtual meeting rooms, MOAA has remained a steady force for its members and the wider uniformed services community while distinguishing itself among other nonprofit groups.
MOAA was named one of the top lobbyists for 2020 by The Hill, a news outlet based in Washington, D.C., that covers federal policy, defense, finance, and technology. It’s the 14th consecutive year MOAA has received the honor.
“We are honored to receive this acclaimed recognition once again,” said Lt. Gen. Dana Atkins, USAF (Ret), MOAA president and CEO. “MOAA’s most sacred mission is to protect and fight for the benefits earned by all uniformed servicemembers, and we will continue to lead the way on the Hill. It’s important to remember the success of our mission would not be possible without the unyielding support and dedication of the entire MOAA team, including those members involved in local chapters across the country.”
MOAA advocates on behalf of all servicemembers in eight uniformed services. There are more than 350,000 members of MOAA and 400 local affiliates nationwide.
The COVID-19 pandemic delayed or canceled dozens of meetings and events on Capitol Hill this year, but MOAA didn’t waiver. MOAA swiftly adapted to bring its advocacy mission to virtual meetings, where members augmented the association’s 10 in-house lobbyists in discussions with lawmakers and other veteran-focused organizations.
MOAA’s most prominent 2020 efforts have focused on protecting the military health care benefit – a goal that was also front and center in 2019, when lobbying efforts secured language in the FY 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) halting a plan that would’ve eliminated 18,000 medical billets across DoD.
This year, MOAA has urged the Defense Health Agency (DHA) and Congress to re-examine military manpower requirements in light of both the pandemic response and questions about previous analyses of civilian care availability for beneficiaries. This work has led to language in the FY 2021 NDAA that would halt military medical system downsizing and call for greater Congressional oversight.
In another health care-related issue, MOAA testified to recommendations for TRICARE improvements on the military’s Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP) during a subcommittee hearing of the House Armed Service Committee in February.
After the hearing, Congress included provisions in the FY 2021 NDAA aimed at ensuring seamless continuity of services PCS moves, improving the EFMP screening process for availability of specialty care at gaining installations and enhancing case management services. It also includes progress on improving TRICARE Extended Care Health Option (ECHO) coverage by doubling respite hours from 16 to 32 per month.
Other successful MOAA advocacy efforts in 2020 included:
- Telehealth coverage enhancements. MOAA collected feedback from servicemembers, retirees, and family members about COVID-19 challenges and shared it with DHA, helping trigger changes such as coverage of audio-only medical appointments and waived telehealth appointment copays.
- TRICARE Select fee rollout changes. MOAA successfully pushed DHA to extend its TRICARE Select enrollment fee reinstatement period, ensuring beneficiaries are not locked out of TRICARE coverage due to lack of awareness regarding the fees, or other barriers to processing enrollment fee payment.
- Agent Orange coverage. Efforts by MOAA and other veterans groups lobbying the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee helped secure language in the final FY 2021 NDAA that adds three conditions to the list of ailments linked to exposure to Agent Orange, thereby securing benefits for tens of thousands of Vietnam veterans.
- Fighting the “180-Day Rule.” MOAA lobbied for the inclusion of language in the FY 2021 NDAA reducing the 180-day cooling-off period required of recently retired military personnel before competing for DoD civilian positions.
- Helping military families. Provisions for improvements to child care, military children’s education, and military spouse employment resources were included in the final FY 2021 NDAA.
MOAA has also worked to:
- Improve access to stimulus money by recipients of VA payments, which came after MOAA called on the VA and Treasury Department leaders to avoid unnecessary paperwork and to use existing systems to identify and make direct payments.
- Provide relief for adult children of veterans who did not have health care coverage through private or federal health care programs.
- Secure $17.2 billion for the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) to hire new staff and ensure existing personnel have resources required to deal with evolving needs of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Improve programs for veterans’ mental health treatment and suicide prevention.
The full list of The Hill’s top lobbyists can be seen at this link.