MOAA Interview: Outgoing Board Chairman Reflects on His Tenure and the Path Ahead

MOAA Interview: Outgoing Board Chairman Reflects on His Tenure and the Path Ahead
Gen. Walter "Skip" Sharp, USA (Ret), chairman of the MOAA board of directors, addresses MOAA's 2021 Annual Meeting on Oct. 15 in Arlington, Va. (Mike Morones/MOAA)

During his time on MOAA’s board of directors, including two years as chairman, Gen. Walter L. “Skip” Sharp, USA (Ret), helped guide MOAA to significant legislative victories for active duty servicemembers, veterans, their families, and surviving spouses.

 

This includes the elimination of the Survivor Benefit Plan-Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (SBP-DIC) offset and the passing of the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act of 2022.

 

Sharp shares his thoughts on MOAA’s accomplishments under his watch and what he sees for the association’s future.

 

Q. What accomplishments by MOAA are you most proud of while serving as chairman?

 

A. MOAA has helped ensure well-earned and promised benefits have been maintained and have continued to strengthen. If you look at the advocacy record, we have focused on what we believe, and what the great majority of the military believe, are the top legislative issues: the benefits that are needed and rightfully due to veterans and are essential for an all-volunteer force.

 

We’ve also been very successful advocating across the country, with 350,000 members and nearly 400 chapters. That advocacy works. Knowledge of what the military needs and what they rightfully deserve is not just done from here at headquarters. It’s done across the U.S. with our many different members talking to their elected officials.


Second, I’m very proud of the association creating The MOAA Foundation. It’s already had some great successes: grants for councils and chapters, the COVID Relief Fund, the Crisis Relief Fund, and career transition services and spouse training. I’m excited about the potential for its growth.

 

MOAA’s other charitable organization, the MOAA Scholarship Fund, continues to give out many grants and zero-interest loans to military children. The amount of dollars and the number of students we’ve been able to help continues to grow.

 

The third is organizational. We are very proud of the 2022-26 Strategic Plan and the metrics that go along with it to evaluate what we are accomplishing. I am proud of our ability to really understand our finances, not only what we have been spending and where we’ve been getting money from, but also what that means for the future.

 

[FROM MOAA'S PRESIDENT: Your Voice Is Needed Now to Address Critical Issues]

 

Q. When you became chairman, you noted you hoped to see more virtual chapters. Since then, several new virtual chapters have been created. What positive effects can you see from them?

 

A. I think virtual chapters are critically important and will continue to grow into the future. They aren’t regional, so I think you have an opportunity within virtual chapters to get people together who are concerned about, want to discuss, or are interested in a topic, an area, or a segment of our membership.

 

Geographic chapters are still very strong, and they are all very critical. But I think they also have learned as we went through COVID they can continue to function, in some cases function even stronger, by doing things virtually. There’s a place and need for both types of chapters.

 

Q. MOAA was part of a large coalition of legislators, advocacy groups, and others supporting the PACT Act. What were your takeaways from that experience?

 

A. We’ve got a very strong Government Relations team at MOAA headquarters. They did an absolutely super job in helping push through that legislation with other veterans’ organizations.

 

But what we also brought — that I think was critical — is the advocacy from across the country. That groundswell of 350,000 members pushing toward these critical pieces of legislation is what really helped push it across the line.

 

[RELATED: MOAA.org/PACTResources]

 

Q. What legislative priority would you most like to see accomplished by the next board of directors?

 

A. I see a continual erosion of access to health care, especially within military treatment facilities, but also across the board. I think that is our focus now in many cases, and I think it will become an even stronger focus in the future.

 

Second is the economy over the next few years. We’ve been fairly successful in making sure pay raises are in accordance with the cost of living and the civilian population. But I see that as potentially at risk because of where I think defense budgets are going to end up.

 

[RELATED: Help MOAA Reverse Planned Cuts to Your TRICARE Pharmacy Benefit]

 

Q. What are the biggest challenges facing the organization?

 

A. From an organizational perspective, it is membership and revenue. To do what we need to do — to have a top-notch staff and up-to-date technology to do the programs we want to do and to help the military community — that takes money.

 

A large part of our revenue comes from membership dues. I firmly believe most people stay involved in MOAA because of what we do advocacy-wise, and I think we need to ensure people understand that costs money, and it costs money to get and keep the right talent.

 

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Q. What are your future plans?

 

A. I am involved in several nonprofits to support veterans, and I’ll continue that. I will do my best to continue to support MOAA and its great mission. I am very excited about Gen. Gary North, USAF (Ret), taking over as chairman.

 

It’s been such an honor for me to be on MOAA’s board of directors for the past six years and the chairman for the past two years. Everyone on the board and the MOAA staff understand what never stop serving really means, and they continue to demonstrate that every day.

 

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About the Author

Kipp Hanley
Kipp Hanley

Hanley is MOAA's staff writer. He has spent the last 26 years working in  journalism and public relations.