By Contributing Editor Blair Drake
MOAA members from across the country gathered online with leaders and staff Oct. 23 for the association’s first virtual annual meeting in its 91-year history.
Adm. Walter Doran, USN (Ret), chairman of the board, emphasized the importance of coming together for the annual meeting. “This is your association, and we want to be responsive to you,” he said.
Doran spotlighted MOAA being recognized by The Hill for the 13th consecutive year as a top lobbying organization, the association’s work in repealing the widows tax, and the renovation of MOAA’s headquarters to a fully modern facility.
Doran then welcomed Lt. Gen. Dana T. Atkins, USAF (Ret), MOAA president and CEO, who discussed the impact COVID-19 has had on association operations.
MOAA's 2020 Annual Meeting
“Since transitioning to 100 percent remote work on March 18 — just as the full impact of the pandemic was becoming clear — the focus of your leadership team has been safety, security, and engagement,” he said. “And I’m pleased to report your headquarters’ team has been operating with amazing productivity while remaining safe and healthy.”
The meeting, made possible through sponsors like the Fleet Landing retirement community, focused on several key achievements this year.
Atkins highlighted the association’s new philanthropic campaign to address the needs of the military community during the pandemic. More than 1,800 members have contributed over $200,000 to the MOAA Foundation COVID-19 Relief Fund. More than 80 individual grants have been disbursed to those in need.
Atkins also discussed the efforts of the Transition and Member Service teams, who this year have engaged with more than 46,000 MOAA members, spouses, and military community members through weekly lectures, webinars, career management assistance, and real-time support through our Member Service Center.
He also mentioned the achievement of MOAA members who helped reach 100% of the 535 congressional offices to advance the association’s advocacy agenda during this year’s virtual Storming the Hill.
“All of this, and more, was accomplished while working remotely and safely, and allowing our team members to successfully balance work and personal responsibilities,” Atkins said. “I’m very proud of each of them.”
He then focused on the work being done within the association’s six strategic focus areas: advocacy, membership, member engagement, councils and chapters, finances, and organizational capacity.
“Advocacy is the main battery of our association, and I could not be prouder of our Government Relations team,” he said. “Following a successful 2020 National Defense Authorization Act — highlighted by repeal of the widows tax and other landmark legislation — the fiscal environment on Capitol Hill became much more complex as our elected leadership responded to the current public health, financial, and economic crises.”
MOAA Life and Premium members can access a recording of the Oct. 23 meeting, as well as the presentation that preceded it -- An Overview of Scams and Frauds -- at the links below. Note: You must be logged in to access the videos.
He emphasized that with a federal deficit of over $26 trillion, the assaults on military and veteran benefits are just beginning.
He highlighted several of MOAA’s advocacy priorities:
- Ensure military families and retirees maintain access to high quality health care.
- Support House provisions in the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act that will protect beneficiary access to care by halting planned cuts to military medical capacity and requiring additional DoD analysis and congressional oversight of the process.
- Maintain credibility and working relations with Congress and the Defense Health Agency.
Regarding membership, Atkins talked about key campaigns that have generated new members and the priority on paid membership levels.
He also discussed member engagement efforts, such as affinity partnerships; improvements to MOAA communication channels — Military Officer, The MOAA Newsletter, and MOAA.org; and the association’s two charitable organizations — the MOAA Scholarship Fund and The MOAA Foundation.
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Atkins went on to spotlight the importance of MOAA’s nearly 41,000 council and chapter members and the work they are doing in their communities. “Chapter members never stop serving, and I’m grateful for their support,” he said.
He said the association is continuing progress to strengthen its financial position and prepare for the inevitable turbulence in the financial markets.
He concluded his briefing by thanking Doran for his “support, strategic insight, inquiring mind, and friendship. … I’ll miss his presence with me ‘on the bridge,’ as the saying goes,” Atkins said.
Doran’s two-year tour as chairman of the board concluded later that afternoon, when Gen. Walter “Skip” Sharp, USA (Ret), was sworn in as new chairman of the board. Read about Sharp’s vision for the association.
[RELATED Q-and-A: Outgoing Board Chair Looks Back]
MOAA leaders also fielded member questions during the annual meeting. Several focused on the impact of COVID-19, specifically regarding membership and advocacy efforts.
Atkins said that while the pandemic has created challenges, MOAA has remained flexible and leveraged digital alternatives to remain successful.
“We are working to find other ways to build our membership pipeline while in-person outreach is not possible,” he said. “We have been able to partially offset much of this impact with strong digital membership campaigns as well as virtual events on a variety of financial and career topics.”
On the legislative front, Atkins said, “We haven’t missed a beat.”
“While in-person meetings are limited, we are able to stay connected through the use of virtual platforms,” he said. “Additionally, with the help of many of you on this call, we were able to conduct a virtual storm.”
He said hopefully MOAA will be able to conduct a face-to-face Storming the Hill in spring 2021, but if that isn’t possible, MOAA will have several other courses of action ready, including a possible hybrid plan with limited in-person office visits or another full-on virtual event.
Atkins also addressed a question regarding what MOAA is doing to stop the Army’s proposed changes to burial eligibility at Arlington National Cemetery. “These changes are designed to keep the cemetery in operation to honor future generations, but we at MOAA have serious concerns about some of the proposals,” he said. He encouraged members to reach out to their elected officials and ask them to expand the grounds of the cemetery.
MOAA Board of Directors Meeting
Prior to the annual meeting of the membership, MOAA’s board of directors conducted a business meeting during which they approved the creation of a new virtual chapter for past and present officers of the U.S. Public Health Service. They also approved formally recognizing the U.S. Space Force as a new branch of service eligible for MOAA membership.
Special thanks to Fleet Landing, our annual meeting's lead sponsor, and to all our partners.
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Blair Drake is a contributing editor for MOAA and lives in Souderton, Pa. She previously served on the editorial team of Military Officer magazine for nine years.