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MOAA Advocacy In Action


(L-R) COL Mayo "Biff" Hadden US Army-SF (Ret) receives Georgia Military Veterans Hall of Fame Medal from Georgia Senator Ed Harbison (also a recipient)

MOAA Announces Dates, Topics for Spring Advocacy in Action Campaign

By: Dan Merry

MOAA Announces Dates, Topics for Spring Advocacy in Action Campaign

MOAA’s annual Advocacy in Action (AiA) event is taking shape, and while there’s more than a month until the official launch, there are several ways MOAA members can begin showing their support as the campaign draws closer.

 

First, the basics: The 2022 AiA event will be held virtually from April 1-29. Based on Capitol Hill security measures and nationwide health challenges, we will again exercise appropriate measures of caution to bring our messages to legislators via virtual engagements. However, there may be opportunities for you to engage your legislators in person (safely) when they are home during Congress’ spring break (April 11-22).

 

This year’s advocacy topics:

  • Support the Major Richard Star Act (concurrent receipt for combat-injured servicemembers)
  • Reduce TRICARE Mental Health Copayments
  • Enact a 4.6% Military Pay Raise in the FY 2023 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA)

 

Learn more about each topic, and how MOAA chooses the topics, below. But first:

 

What You Can Do Now

Contact a MOAA Chapter. Most engagements during the April campaign will originate from MOAA’s councils and chapters. Their legislative leaders and volunteers make most of the appointments and arrangements with legislative offices. One of the advantages of the virtual environment is the use of online meeting platforms (Zoom, Teams, etc.) which can facilitate engagement from home; please contact your local chapter to see if they can add you to their efforts – it could be as easy as sending you a link to a meeting.

 

[Find Your Local Chapter] | Check out MOAA’s Virtual Chapters]

 

Save the Date. If you are not near a chapter, please mark your calendar for April 1 as the kickoff for AiA engagements. We will share another article like this one with more up-to-date information, talking points, and fact sheets on our three topics, as well as links to the latest information and MOAA’s web-based letters, along with the phone number for MOAA’s Capitol Switchboard if you would rather call your legislators.

 

Stay Informed. Be sure to subscribe to the weekly MOAA Newsletter for the latest AiA news and updates (MOAA members can click here to update their newsletter preferences). Keep up with all the latest advocacy news at MOAA’s Advocacy News page.

 

How MOAA Picks the Topics

People often ask how we come up with the topics each year, and some wonder if their priorities are being considered in that process. I can assure our members we consider all the priorities, which are usually found within groupings of these priorities on our website. The decisions are driven by guidelines established by our board of directors. We want to ensure we are taking care of the currently serving troops and their families – as members of an officer association, we should be proud MOAA maintains this important perspective.

 

[RELATED: Apply to Join MOAA’s Board of Directors]

 

We also want to address an issue within our health care portfolio, as our members continue to see this as one of their priorities. When conditions permit, we also seek to leverage momentum on important issues – often the case in the second session of a Congress as they wrap up work from the previous year.

 

This year’s topics:

  • The Major Richard Star Act (concurrent receipt for combat-injured servicemembers). Target legislation is H.R. 1282 with 186 co-sponsors as of Feb. 14 – picking up 35 new co-sponsors this session. The Senate’s bill, S. 344, has 55 co-sponsors as of Feb. 14. We will build on this momentum from last year to get these bills to a floor vote, or have the bill’s language made part of the FY 2023 NDAA with support from House and Senate leaders. This legislation impacts over 50,000 combat-injured service members who were not able to serve their full 20 years due to those injuries. Passage of this bill will also impact current and future members who may face the same fate of early retirements due to combat injuries.
     
  • TRICARE Mental Health Copayments. MOAA supports the Stop Copay Overpay Act (H.R. 4824) – mental health is increasingly important, and the issue is getting attention on the Hill due to pandemic impacts and the effects of social media on children’s well-being. This topic acknowledges the national shortfall of access to quality mental health care and addresses TRICARE’s financial barrier to care when it is available – a problem MOAA can help fix. This legislation will benefit our currently serving families on TRICARE Select and our working-age retirees and their families.
     
  • Military Pay Raise at 4.6%. This will be worked in the FY 2023 NDAA with insights in the president’s budget and input from the Armed Services Committees in both chambers. Some legislators are interested in adjusting pay tables for the junior enlisted. We have yet to see details of any such plans, but in the meantime, we remain focused on the 4.6% raise for all ranks. This topic addresses the currently serving and their families (pay and benefits) and is significantly important to those who are about to retire.

 

What’s Next?

We will follow up with several actions over the coming weeks:

  • The MOAA AIA website will be live in mid-March for those who want to get a head start on lobbying for these three important topics. Watch for updates at MOAA.org/AiA.
     
  • As noted above, around the same time our website goes live, a follow-up article at MOAA.org will share links to everything you would need to go it alone with your legislators. However, we ask that you consider reaching out to your local chapter to possibly join their efforts.
     
  • Your April issue of Military Officer (available to Life and Premium members) will include a message from MOAA’s president highlighting the AiA efforts, as well as more details on the topics and what we are trying to achieve with your help. Very important: The publication also will include tear-out letters for you to fold, seal, stamp, and mail to House and Senate leaders, making them even more aware of our efforts and seeking their support. These letters will highlight the Major Richard Star Act.
     
  • Throughout April, we will provide articles and links to Calls to Action via our new Legislative Action Center, which allows you to send messages to your legislators via our web-based letter service.
     
  • April 11-22 is the congressional working period in the states and districts: Your legislators will be home and hard at work campaigning. This is a golden opportunity to seek an appointment in person or virtually, depending on the comfort level of those involved.

 

Thank you for reviewing this timeline and putting some of these dates on your calendar. MOAA’s reputation for advocacy is largely the result of our grassroots network across the nation; certainly, one of the main reasons The Hill news outlet has recognized MOAA as a top lobbyist for 15 years in a row. Our members have always been a part of this continued success.

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Major Breakthroughs on Toxic Exposure Reform From VA, Congress, White House

By: Kevin Lilley

MARCH 02, 2022

Major Breakthroughs on Toxic Exposure Reform From VA, Congress, White House

Army photo

In a little more than 24 hours, the push to provide veterans exposed to toxins during service with the benefits they deserve took significant steps forward on all fronts, from the halls of Congress to the State of the Union address to a major change in VA policy.

MOAA has worked with both the legislative and executive branches for years to secure comprehensive toxic exposure reform, looking to avoid the mistakes and major delays from previous generations and create a transparent, rapid process for determining and rewarding benefits to veterans. The issue took center stage March 1 as part of the president’s State of the Union address.

“The VA is pioneering new ways of linking toxic exposures to diseases, already helping more veterans get benefits,” President Joe Biden said. “And tonight, I’m announcing we’re expanding eligibility to veterans suffering from nine respiratory cancers. I’m also calling on Congress: Pass a law to make sure veterans devastated by toxic exposures in Iraq and Afghanistan finally get the benefits and comprehensive health care they deserve.”

[TAKE ACTION: Ask Your Lawmakers to Support the Honoring Our PACT Act]

Here's more about the VA expansion and the latest from the House of Representatives, which began consideration of an omnibus reform bill March 2 with a vote on the measure expected March 3.

VA Changes

Hours before Biden’s address, the VA announced plans to add nine new cancers to the list of presumed service-connected ailments:

  • Squamous cell carcinoma of the larynx.
  • Squamous cell carcinoma of the trachea.
  • Adenocarcinoma of the trachea.
  • Salivary gland-type tumors of the trachea.
  • Adenosquamous carcinoma of the lung.
  • Large cell carcinoma of the lung.
  • Salivary gland-type tumors of the lung.
  • Sarcomatoid carcinoma of the lung.
  • Typical and atypical carcinoid of the lung.

VA Secretary Denis McDonough called the move “the right decision,” adding that the “rarity and severity of these illnesses, and the reality that these conditions present a situation where it may not be possible to develop additional evidence prompted us to take this critical action.”

The announcement marks the beginning of the rulemaking process. The VA said it would allow for public comment on the proposal and would “conduct outreach to impacted veterans and survivors” after the process is complete.

The Honoring Our PACT Act

The morning after Biden’s address, MOAA joined House leadership, veterans advocates (including comedian Jon Stewart), and others at a media event supporting the passage of the Honoring our PACT Act (H.R. 3967), a comprehensive reform measure supported by MOAA and dozens of other military and veterans advocacy groups.

 

stewart-pact-act-h.jpg

 Jon Stewart speaks during a March 2 press conference in support of the Honoring our PACT Act in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Mike Morones/MOAA)

The bill would provide access to care for 3.5 million veterans exposed to burn pits, said Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.), the chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs and the bill’s sponsor. It would add 23 respiratory illnesses/cancers – including those in VA’s proposed rule – to the list of presumptive ailments, and would also make the following significant changes to benefit eligibility:

  • Recognizing radiation exposures for veterans who served in the Enewetak Atoll and Palomares, Spain, and Agent Orange exposure for those who served in Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia.
  • Adding hypertension as an Agent Orange presumptive illness.
  • Eliminating the sunsetting for benefits related to Gulf War illnesses.

“There is no other toxic exposure legislation in Congress like it in scope or soundness,” Takano said. “And with the support of 42 veterans organizations and 100 co-sponsors, we have the momentum.”

MOAA has supported the legislation since its introduction in June.

“We look forward to collaborating with Congress to ensure implementation of these long-needed reforms to the presumptive process, and to ensure these new standards are applied to the provisions in the bill not yet supported by scientific evidence,” MOAA President and CEO Lt. Gen. Dana T. Atkins, USAF (Ret), said. 

More Members Mean More Influence Over Our  Health Care

Get involved and make sure your interests are addressed. Because the larger our voice is, the greater our impact will be.

 

JOIN OR UPGRADE NOW

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kevin Lilley

Kevin Lilley

 

Lilley serves as MOAA's digital content manager. His duties include producing, editing, and managing content for a variety of platforms, with a concentration on The MOAA Newsletter and MOAA.org. Follow him on Twitter: @KRLilley

 

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