* Information from MOAA via their Legislative Action Center is provided in this post...For more about MOAA's legislative advocacy mission, including how you can make your voice heard, click here.
* “In 2019, MOAA Government Relations will engage the 116th Congress early and often on issues of greatest importance to our members, the men and women in our uniformed services, their families, and their survivors,” says Col. Dan Merry, USAF (Ret), vice president of Government Relations. “As military experience among members of Congress has declined over the years, with just over 17 percent having experience in uniform at the onset of 2019, these goals are instrumental to our efforts to inform and influence members of Congress and their staffs.”
* The split political power between the two houses promises to bring new challenges and opportunities. Those cannot be addressed until the new Congress is sworn in and committee assignments have been finalized.
* However, a first step in any new congressional session is to reintroduce legislation that was not passed in the previous legislative cycle. MOAA's national and grassroots supporters will work directly with members of Congress to ensure our interests are properly represented by proposed and reintroduced legislation.
HERE ARE THE LEGISLATIVE ACTION GOALS FOR 2019
The Goal: Ensure any TRICARE reform sustains access to top-quality care.
* Background: Access to quality care is paramount for all beneficiaries in TRICARE programs and VA Community Networks - regardless of location. Access has been enhanced by technology, such as the DoD-VA Electronic Health Record and the expansion of telehealth capabilities.
* MOAA's Stance: Savings gained from reforms should benefit the health care system and beneficiaries. Military treatment facilities (MTFs) remain instrumental to an operational medical force, which is necessary to support a military ready force, and should continue to support beneficiary care to sustain medical training platforms.
* Actions: Strengthen our partnership with Defense Health Agency (DHA) working groups and executive sessions. Engage The Military Coalition's Healthcare Committee. Continue to administer and drive results of MOAA's health care surveys. Closely monitor the new role DHA has for oversight of MTFs.
The Goal: Prevent disproportional TRICARE fee increases.
* Background: The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) recently introduced, as a potential option, TRICARE for Life enrollment fees and minimum out-of-pocket requirements as ways the federal budget could escape red ink. Independent of the CBO report (PDF), DoD and Congress have stated retiree health care costs are spiraling out of control, and beneficiaries do not pay enough for their health care. Based on DoD's own data, MOAA knows this is not true - the difference is attributable to rising institutional and readiness costs. Despite that, the report and the ongoing budget pressure have turned TRICARE For Life into a potential target for fee increases to offset readiness or other programs.
* MOAA's Stance: Military retirees, through their service and sacrifice, have paid in full for their TRICARE For Life benefits. Congress - not DoD - should determine appropriate TRICARE fees.
Actions: Reverse or significantly decrease the 2018 TRICARE Prime copayment increases for grandfathered/Group-A beneficiaries. Modify fee structure to reduce out-of-pocket costs for successive specialty appointments, such as physical therapy or mental health care. Protect TRICARE For Life as a second payer to Medicare Part B.
The Goal: Sustain military pay comparability with the private sector.
* Background: A residual 2.6-percent pay-raise gap still exists between servicemembers and private-sector civilians, attributable to three years of pay-raise caps. Political pressure to reduce costs might lead Congress to again cap military pay raises, widening the pay-raise gap between military and civilians.
* MOAA's Stance: As the cost of labor increases across the nation, so too should the paychecks of our uniformed servicemembers. Adequate pay and allowances - including competitive raises - are key to recruiting and retaining an effective all-volunteer force. This issue affects all currently serving uniformed personnel and their families, and succeeding on this issue has a positive, far-reaching impact. Any pay raise set by the FY2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) must match the Employment Cost Index (ECI) increase of 3.1 percent -- anything lower will make the pay gap wider.
* Actions: Maintain continuous, unified messaging to legislators and service leadership, advising annual military pay raises approved by Congress correlate with ECI to help overcome damage done by the three recent pay caps (2014-2016). Coordinate with The Military Coalition to address this wide-reaching imperative of support to those in uniform, and seek closure of the 2.6-percent gap as soon as feasible.
The Goal: Stop erosion of compensation and non-pay quality-of-life benefits.
* Background: Other components of compensation are equally essential to recruiting and retaining the all-volunteer force. Political pressure to reduce costs could encourage Congress to reconsider the calculations for the basic allowance for housing (BAH), as it has done in recent years. First was an attempt to do away with BAH for dual-military families. The following year, Congress attempted to do away with the with-dependent rate BAH for those dual-military couples with children.
* MOAA's Stance: Other pays and allowances are essential to shaping the force with the proper skill sets and experience. As the Blended Retirement System matures, these pays will become even more important to recruiting and retention.
* Actions: Continue to oppose proposals to reduce compensation or undermine long-term retention. Assess progress of the Quadrennial Review of Military Compensation's review of Regular Military Compensation and potential changes to a salary system.
The Goal: End financial penalties for military survivors.
* Background: Nearly 67,000 military survivors lose between $900 and $1,500 per month due to the widows tax. The widows tax is the amount of Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) payment offset by Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC).
* MOAA's Stance: SBP and DIC are two different payments for two different reasons. The offset should be eliminated, and DIC should be improved to align with other federal survivor benefits. Additionally, survivors' and dependents' educational assistance benefits should be increased.
* Actions: Ensure legislation is introduced in the 116th Congress to address survivor benefits. Educate legislators, staffers, and other stakeholders about the inequities. Mobilize MOAA members and The Military Coalition to engage and press for legislation to be included in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
The Goal: End concurrent receipt penalties for military retirees.
* Background: Retirees with a 40-percent or lower disability rating and those with a 30-percent or higher disability rating who are forced to retire before completing a full 20-year military career, are prohibited from receiving military retired pay concurrent with VA disability compensation. Political pressure to keep budget costs down has remained the main threat to getting legislation passed to end these financial penalties.
* MOAA's Stance: All eligible retirees should receive both retirement and disability compensation.
* Actions: Ensure legislation is introduced in the 116th Congress to address Chapter 61 inequities. Educate legislators and congressional staff about the impact these financial penalties have on some of our most vulnerable retirees. Mobilize our membership and The Military Coalition to engage Capitol Hill.
The Goal: Achieve equity of benefits for Guard and Reserve members with their active duty counterparts.
* Background: An operational Guard and Reserve is an essential component to the national defense strategy because they make up approximately 38 percent of U.S. uniformed manpower.
* MOAA's Stance: Achieving pay and benefits parity with active duty forces is vital to recruiting, retaining, and sustaining forces for the Guard and Reserve supporting our nation's defense strategy.
* Actions: Encourage Congress to advance equal pay and benefits for similar service by the Guard and Reserve relative to active duty troops. Build partnerships with federal agencies, such as the Department of Labor, Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, and state governors to expand and strengthen employer support for Guard and Reserve members. Appeal to The Military Coalition and its Guard and Reserve Committee to expand influence and reach in all areas affecting pay and benefits issues.
The Goal: Strengthen DoD-VA collaboration and services to support wounded warriors and an expanding population of women veterans.
* Background: Programs developed to support wounded warriors and their families and caregivers since Sept. 11, 2001, continue to be essential to readiness and the war-fighting mission of the future. Veterans who served in past and current wars still struggle to obtain needed benefits due to the lack of congressional action on key issues, particularly toxic exposures and their long-term impacts. The Pentagon has worked to forge collaborative relationships with other government and nongovernment agencies - most significantly the VA. Also evolving is a greater appreciation for the specific differences in health care and support for women veterans.
* MOAA's Stance: Improving upon this collaboration will require investments in leadership, resources, and funding - to include oversight and reporting.
As we progress, DoD's and the VA's evolving systems must continue in sync and remain fully aligned to delivering seamless care and benefits.
* Actions: Monitor the FY 2019 NDAA requirement for a review and assessment of DoD and service wounded warrior programs. Seek legislation forcing the VA to address known gaps in benefits to veterans. Involve The Military Coalition's Veterans Committee to expand influence and reach in all areas affecting veterans' issues. Engage and advocate on behalf of the VA - when needed - to ensure the agency is adequately resourced and equipped to deliver benefits to veterans without backlogs or delays. Preserve the integrity of and access to DoD and VA health systems for dually eligible beneficiaries.
The Goal: Ensure timely access to service-earned VA benefits.
* Background: The veteran population of nearly 22 million is projected to decline in coming years. Demand for VA health care and benefits, however, steadily grows because of the aging and unique demographics of this population.
* MOAA's Stance: Major health care and benefit system reforms have been implemented in recent years but require an ongoing commitment and investments to meet demand and ensure timely access. Continuing implementation will pose challenges to fund evolving technologies, infrastructure, electronic health records, full staffing at every echelon, and the various support systems that tie these efforts together. Further, political forces continue to threaten or erode the core VA health and benefit missions and foundational services.
* Actions: Oppose efforts to use veterans' disability benefits compensation or other benefits to pay for VA system improvements and diminish or restrict access to service-earned benefits. Press DoD and the VA to achieve true interoperability of electronic medical, personnel, and benefits records to improve medical outcomes and delivery of benefits. Mandate DoD and the VA to develop protocols and establish a mechanism to address service-connected illnesses and environmental exposures and institute a framework for managing toxic exposures that might happen in the future.
The Goal: Protect military and veteran family support programs and policies.
* Background: Congress and DoD recognize military and veteran family quality of life is critical to recruiting and retaining the all-volunteer force. Often, support programs for military and veteran families are the first to be cut when government funds become tight.
* MOAA's Stance: It is necessary to update family support programs and policies to reflect the needs of today's military families. Spouse employment, children's education, special needs, commissaries and exchanges, and morale, welfare, and recreation (MWR) programs are essential today. Adequate, affordable, and safe housing remains a concern for all military families, especially those in high-cost areas where options are limited.
* Actions: Educate members of Congress and their staffers on the importance of military family readiness and issues affecting military and veteran families. Protect programming and subsidies essential to MWR and family readiness. Eliminate health and safety hazards in military base housing. Decrease military spouse unemployment and underemployment. Ensure quality of life and health of military and veteran families.
The accompanied pictures are from the Wreaths Across America ceremony at the Sandhills State Veterans Cemetery, Spring Lake on December 15, 2018. This was a most memorable JOINT group - the MOAA Uniformed Services Nurse Advocates Virtual Chapter is grateful to USAA for their Chapter Sponsorship and other member donations were able to distribute wreaths to 4 sites around the country, thus the USAA and MOAA signs. The Cape Fear Chapter was represented by COL (Ret) Ok Sun Hodges whose spouse MAJ (Ret) Alexander Hodges was interred there this past year; COL (Ret) Diana DiStefano (Sandhills Chapter), COL (Ret) Jeri Graham, COL (Ret) Diane Scherr, COL (Ret) Ed Baisden and COL (Ret) Deb Betts also noted.
Lt.Col. Long was born in Ashe County, NC on July 22nd, 1925, the 11th child of George and Flora Long. With the attack on Pearl Harbor, Joe joined the Army Air Corp, volunteering for pilot training. He was diverted to gunnery school and served on B24 aircraft until 1946. After the war, Joe entered the University of North Carolina, graduating in 1950 with a BS in Commerce and was commissioned as a 2nd Lt. in the United States Air Force. Upon graduation, Joe entered pilot training. He served 14 years with the Strategic Air Command (SAC), flying B29’s on reconnaissance missions during the Korean War. He served as an instructor at SAC with his experience in B29, B47, B50, and B52 aircraft. While assigned to Lowry Air Force Base, he earned a master’s degree in Industrial Management from the University of Colorado in 1963. In 1967, he volunteered for Vietnam serving as a forward air controller. Upon returning, he was assigned to the Military Airlift Command and flew the C141 in support of the war. Between 1968 and 1972 he flew hundreds of troop support missions over to Vietnam and Air Evac missions back to the United States. For his last mission, he was designated to transport 65 senior ambassadors to Ethiopia for a UN meeting. He finished his career with a 2-year assignment with the Joint Military Assistance Group where they helped modernize the Korean Military Forces. He served a total of 35 years and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, 8 Air Medals, 1 Joint Service Commendation Medal and 2 Air Force Commendation Medals. Shortly after retiring in 1978, he was part of a large group to work on assistance to the Shah of Iran to shape a modern military force.
After retiring, he served many volunteer hours with the Military Officers Association of America, Federal Retiree Task Force, the 4th Branch and his local MOAA chapter. He also worked with the Red Cross on their emergency notification system for active military. He never stopped serving!
Joe married Martha Price in 1946 and they became parents to Pattie. Martha passed away after a lengthy illness after 54 years of marriage. In 2003, he and Joan Freeman Shaw were married. Their blended family includes 5 children,10 grandchildren and 7 great grandchildren. Joe and Joan reside at Searstone Community in Cary, NC.
Council/Chapter Name / Award
NC00 - North Carolina State Council / 5 Star
NC01 - Cape Fear Chapter / 5 Star
NC02 - Coastal Carolina Chapter / 4 Star
NC04 - Charlotte-Metrolina Chapter / 5 Star
NC07 - Southeastern NC Chapter / 5 Star
NC08 - Tarheel Central Chapter / 4 Star
NC09 - Triangle Chapter / 5 Star
NC10 - Western North Carolina Chapter / 5 Star
NC21 - High Country Chapter / 5 Star
On July 4th, 2018, the High Country Chapter (HCCMOAA, NC-21) and the Town of Boone NC unveiled and dedicated the Watauga County Veterans Memorial. The ceremony was the culmination of a three year effort to design, construct, install and fund this ambitious project. HCCMOAA came up with the concept and developed the strategic plan which took the project from vision to fruition. HCCMOAA partnered with the Town of Boone, which donated land for the memorial site and many hours of in-kind support, to help make this striking tribute to veterans a reality. Chapter members chaired key committees comprised of subject matter experts and volunteers which handled the competition/design, advertising/publicity, engineering/construction and fundraising phases of the project. MOAA provided the overall project leadership and collaborated with many local organizations to advertise and promote the memorial. Literally hundreds of individuals, corporations, organizations and state and local governments helped us reach our goal of $165,000 through financial and in-kind contributions. A remarkable achievement for a chapter our size.
The stainless steel sculpture titled “Time and Honor” was chosen from 19 proposals submitted in response to a regional competition. The artist selected was Suzie Hallier from Banner Elk, NC who designed and built the memorial. The sculpture is in the form of an ellipse increasing in size from left to right and culminating in five pillars which honor our five armed forces. The ellipse prominently features the words “Duty Honor Country”, the West Point motto long ago adopted by all services to reflect the determination, perseverance and dedication of all who serve this great country. Knee walls surrounding the sculpture depict the dates and lives lost in the Revolutionary War, Civil War, WWI, WWII, Korean War, Vietnam War and current and future conflicts in defense of freedom. These are the most prominent of the 82 conflicts in which one or more of our services have fought. A third wall dedicates the monument to all veterans who served and acknowledges the contributions which made the memorial possible.
This MOAA led effort was an outstanding example of many diverse community elements joining forces to achieve an objective which honors in perpetuity our veterans who are with us today and those who gave their lives in the service of our Country.