Here’s How Some MOAA Members Are Going Local With Advocacy Efforts

Here’s How Some MOAA Members Are Going Local With Advocacy Efforts
Banners from each state mark the Avenue of Flags, with Mount Rushmore in the background. Multiple state-advocacy resources are available to MOAA members. (National Park Service photo)

(This article originally appeared in the March 2021 edition of Military Officer, a magazine available to all MOAA Premium and Life members. Learn more about the magazine here; learn more about joining MOAA here.)


A growing number of MOAA members looking to make a difference in their communities are using their voices to pass legislation in their home states.


MOAA has launched a virtual space for councils and chapters to come together to share their success stories and strategize around obstacles relating to state-level legislation. MOAA members can take that knowledge a step further to advocate alongside members of Defense State Liaison Offices (DSLOs).


“It’s so important to me that states support the military community and the military knows that they’re valued,” said Capt. Pat Williams, USN (Ret), MOAA’s director of engagement and career transition services.


Williams began hosting the webinars, which are held quarterly, in late 2019. During the webinars, MOAA members from different states share what legislation they’re working on in their state, opening the conversation to share wisdom or seek help from states with similar legislative agendas.


“They highlight what they’re doing, and that might spark efforts in another state,” Williams said. “We’re bringing states together to share their common goals in support of the military.”


The MOAA State Legislative Forum is the brainchild of MOAA members Col. Tom Robillard, USAF (Ret), and Lt. Col. Don Wolfinger, USA (Ret), to facilitate the discussion of state-level issues. The webinar is used to advance the initiative and share ideas among MOAA members.


[RELATED: Learn More About MOAA's State Legislative Consortium, and How to Take Part]


The growing number of webinar participants signals state-level legislation is important to MOAA members. In a recent webinar, 82 participants from 31 states tuned in, up from 36 participants from 22 states during the inaugural November 2019 meeting.


Once members are empowered to create their own state-level advocacy agenda, they can work alongside representatives from the DSLOs, which help state policymakers enact legislation. MOAA’s assistance has helped pass important state-level legislation in the past.


“MOAA councils and chapters can play a big role in that perspective by being a voice on the ground to assist in supporting issues and legislation,” said Col. Harold Cooney, USA (Ret), immediate past president of the Cumberland Valley (Pa.) Chapter and recently retired director of the Northeast Military State Policy Office of the DSLO. “It’s a relationship that’s got a lot of potential.”


The DSLO has nine offices that cover all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The liaisons have worked with state policymakers to enact more than 600 pieces of legislation over the past eight years, according to the DSLO.


“Assistance stems everywhere from written and oral testimony to providing information,” Cooney said, noting DSLOs have a big impact in states that have a smaller military population. “Legislators get pulled in many directions by constituents, so if you can consolidate that, it sure is helpful.”


Cooney said MOAA’s New York Council of Chapters was critical in passing the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children legislation in 2014, which allows military children to keep credits when transferring to a new district because of a duty station move.


“The council of chapters in New York was most influential in helping make contacts and lobby,” Cooney said. “I’m a federal employee. I can’t lobby, but they can lobby, and so they did.”


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About the Author

Amanda Dolasinski
Amanda Dolasinski

Dolasinski is a former staff writer at MOAA.