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fromthepresident Fierce Advocates I


In mid-April, MOAA members and leaders from across the nation converged on Washington to “storm” Capitol Hill on two topics: health care reform and the SBP-DIC “widows tax.”


If the number of steps on a fitness tracker is any indication, “Storming the Hill” was a huge success. Approxi- mately 160 MOAA stormers walked many miles while calling on nearly 535 congres- sional offi ces. We can’t thank our par- ticipants enough — the scores of council presidents and spouses, members of the board of directors, advisory committee members (including 15 currently serving spouses and seven survivors), and our headquarters staff . In refl ection, let me share some personal observations. This year, stormers consciously focused


on two topics — health care reform and the Survivor Benefi t Plan (SBP)-Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) off - set. Armed with the facts and supporting analysis, we described our objection to disproportional TRICARE fee hikes in the president’s budget proposal and urged Congress to repeal the unfair widows tax. Storming eff ectiveness starts with


MOAA’s members — true force multipli- ers. I witnessed it fi rsthand during my calls on the Nevada delegation. The con- stituent presence of council and chapter leaders opens doors. As one staff er told us, legislators make every eff ort to meet per- sonally with visiting constituents. And our spouses contributed a particularly com- pelling perspective, bringing the issues to life for legislators and their staff ers. The storming process was further en-


hanced by the many thousands of MOAA members who set the stage by sending


MOAA-authored messages to their legisla- tors the previous week. Such timing is es- sential. We canvassed the Hill a mere week before the military personnel subcommit- tee’s drafting of the FY 2017 defense bill, so the topics were fresh on their minds. I’m confi dent our eff orts made a dif-


ference. We increased cosponsorship for House and Senate bills to aid survivors aff ected by the $15,000 widows tax, and that eff ort was bolstered by extra Hill vis- its organized by MOAA’s tireless survivor advocate, Kathy Prout. I also believe our ef- forts improved congressional recognition of MOAA’s view that true health care reform has to be about improving access, specialty care referrals, and continuity of care rather than simply shifting disproportional cost shares to benefi ciaries. By the time you read this column, we’ll


have seen fi rst drafts of the FY 2017 defense authorization bill* — the ultimate measure of how successful our eff orts were in get- ting legislators to view these important health care and survivor issues positively. Our team will continue to advocate fi ercely on your behalf through the spring and sum- mer as House and Senate leaders adjudicate their diff erences on these issues and more. This year’s lessons learned will make next year even better, as we never stop serving.


— Lt. Gen. Dana T. Atkins, USAF (Ret)


*read more: See Washington Scene, page 33, for news on the defense authorization bill. 10 MILITARY OFFICER JUNE 2016


PHOTO: ROB CANNON


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