By Contributing Editor Blair Drake
The Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) has selected the 2021 recipients of its annual awards that honor lawmakers, individuals, businesses and nonprofits whose efforts improve the lives of servicemembers and veterans and their families.
Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) will receive the Arthur T. Marix Congressional Leadership Award. As chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Inhofe championed the Senate’s bipartisan FY 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that includes pay raises for troops, continues stringent oversight of military privatized housing, and addresses mental health and suicide prevention. He also was an original cosponsor of the Military Widow’s Tax Elimination Act of 2019, which led to the repeal of the “widows tax,” a financial penalty affecting more than 66,000 military survivors across the country. Speier was instrumental in including improvements to the Exceptional Family Member Program in the FY2021 NDAA, which provides assistance for military families with special needs and ensures those needs are considered during the military assignment process. She also secured $6 million in the House Defense Appropriations Bill to pay for the improvements.
Shane Hand, legislative assistant to Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.); Maj. J.C. Henry, USAF (Ret), staff member, Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs; and Maj. Craig Overholt, USA, defense fellow, will each receive the Col. Paul W. Arcari Meritorious Service Award, which honors congressional staff members who have made significant contributions to the uniformed services community. Hand worked to secure passage of the TRICARE Extended Care Health Option (ECHO) Improvement Act, which provides improved benefits under TRICARE’s ECHO Program for military families with special needs dependents. Henry worked to ensure the FY2021 NDAA included help for thousands of veterans with the inclusion of bladder cancer, hypothyroidism, and Parkinsonism to the list of conditions connected to Agent Orange exposure. Overholt, as a defense fellow working on the staff of Rep. Donald Norcross (D-N.J.), helped draft legislative language that was adopted in the FY 2021 NDAA aimed at making sure military families have access to affordable child care and provided support for in home child care providers. Overholt is the first defense fellow to receive this award.
Kathy Prout and VetsAid will each receive MOAA’s Distinguished Service Award. Prout, the surviving spouse of Rear Adm. James Prout, who died in an F/A-18 Hornet crash in 1995, was a leading force in the grassroots advocacy effort to repeal the widows tax, rallying other surviving spouses and meeting with members of Congress countless times. VetsAid, a national nonprofit and benefit music festival started by Joseph Fidler — better known as legendary guitarist Joe Walsh — has raised more than $1.5 million for veterans service groups since its inception in 2017.
“This year’s award recipients have made impressive contributions to the military community,” said Lt. Gen. Dana T. Atkins, USAF (Ret), MOAA president and CEO. “From fighting for and enacting legislation that improves important benefits to raising funds for military and veterans’ charities, the efforts of these individuals and this nonprofit are making a direct and lasting impact on veterans, servicemembers, their families and survivors.”