As we take inventory of our collective accomplishments during MOAA’s Advocacy in Action campaign launched last month, we are encouraged by the many people who have shared stories of their successful virtual experiences similar to last year.
Engagements and the calls to action from our broader membership base have made a significant difference in our three legislative topics: The fight for comprehensive toxic exposure reform, TRICARE Young Adult coverage parity, and the creation of a Basic Needs Allowance to fight hunger in the ranks.
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However, we also have heard from those facing challenges setting up meetings with their legislators or their staffs, as we shared in our mid-month report. As of this article, we’ve received information on just over 320 meetings out of the 535 offices we need MOAA constituents to contact. We will continue to coordinate efforts with councils and chapters in states where we still need engagements.
Despite these challenges, we’ve had a remarkable showing from the Hill on these three topics, as outlined below. Still, we simply have more to do and will continue to pull in the same direction to ensure Congress does not run out of steam on these important issues.
For the assessment to date, here is a look at just one measure, co-sponsorship, to indicate how legislators followed up with their support for our advocacy topics.
Comprehensive Toxic Exposure Reform
- S. 437, the Veterans Burn Pits Exposure Recognition Act, has 37 co-sponsors, up from 30.
- H.R. 2436, the House version of the Veterans Burn Pits Exposure Recognition Act, has 30 co-sponsors, from 1.
- S. 927, the Toxic Exposure in the American Military (TEAM) Act, has 9 co-sponsors, from 8.
- H.R. 2127, the House version of the TEAM Act, has 38 co-sponsors, from 18.
During MOAA’s engagements with legislators, two congressional leaders identified the need to combine these efforts and others into comprehensive legislation. This news, midway through our campaign, may be part of the reason for a tapered-off show of support via co-sponsorships. Interest on the Hill pivoted to the draft bills from Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.), chair of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, and Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. Those two bills:
- House: Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act of 2021
- Senate: Comprehensive and Overdue Support for Troops (COST) of War Act of 2021
Beyond the different names, these bills have nuanced differences in how each leader captured the essences of the MOAA-backed bills listed above, and other efforts in progress, aimed at finding a legislative solution to address the impacts of toxic exposures.
Given the initial burst of support from early May, and the need to continue pressing for support for these new comprehensive bills, we must continue our Advocacy in Action efforts through the summer to ensure we get this legislation to the President for signature this year.
Parity for TRICARE Young Adult Health Care Coverage
- H.R. 475, Health Care Fairness for Military Families Act: 50 co-sponsors, up from 11.
- S. 1972, Health Care Fairness for Military Families Act: 4 co-sponsors.
On June 8, Senator Tester joined fellow Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) to introduce the Senate’s companion bill to H.R. 475. This is a resounding signal from our congressional leaders, but they are going to need our continued efforts to build support in the House, and now the Senate.
Again, our Advocacy in Action paved the way for initial legislation, and this recent addition of a bill from the Senate warrants a continuation of our efforts to maintain this momentum in both chambers.
Basic Needs Allowance
- H.R. 2339, Military Hunger Prevention Act: 36 co-sponsors, up from 8.
- S. 1488, Military Hunger Prevention Act: 20 co-sponsors, from 14.
The co-sponsor count for the Senate is really a testament of support at inception. Rep. Jimmy Panetta (D-Calif.) introduced his House bill April 1, and Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) proceeded to rally support by garnering 14 original co-sponsors for her April 29 introduction of the Senate companion bill.
Like the other topics, we are seeing a resounding level of support from the Senate on the heels of our initial engagements starting in early May – this support should not go unnoticed.
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Legislation addressing all three of our Advocacy in Action topics stands a real chance at passing this year. Indicators point to continued support by key leaders in Congress, from the committees on which they serve and from those with whom we’ve met.
Our work must continue to build strong backing across the entire House and Senate – your legislators’ support and floor votes will be the difference in getting legislation through both chambers and on to the White House.
We will seek two lines of effort as we continue this advocacy into the summer:
- The Advocacy in Action teams. Some teams are still scheduling meetings with legislators and/or their staffs, and others already completed and documented their meetings online. We will be asking these teams to follow up with their legislators when we have the updated fact sheets. These engagements can take place over the next few months, possibly culminating with visits (maybe in person) when Congress takes its August recess.
- MOAA members, and their families and friends. These efforts will be prompted by articles with updated information and messages to send to the Hill.
In all lines of effort, it is imperative for our members to be contacting their legislators, whether by phone, email, MOAA’s Calls to Action, or even snail mail – all contact matters. If you’re not sure how to make contact, check out these tips from MOAA.
We thank you for all the work and dedication you have put into this effort so far – we would not be in this state of momentum without your engagement. We will continue to make remarkable improvements in the lives of our servicemembers and their families as long as we never stop serving.
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