MOAA Knows Why You Serve
We understand the needs and concerns of military families – and we’re here to help you meet life’s challenges along the way. Join MOAA now and get the support you need.
(Updated October 18)
MOAA engages with Congress on all manner of issues related to the uniformed services community. These efforts can include collaboration with other like-minded organizations and with The Military Coalition. We also rely heavily on our members who make their voices heard by contacting lawmakers via MOAA’s Legislative Action Center, by participating in our annual signature advocacy event, and through local efforts at the chapter and council level.
For more than 90 years, this work has led to real results – pay and benefits protected from budget-driven threats, continued access to quality medical care, and countless other areas of concern to our members, our military, and the wider uniformed services community.
No list could encompass everything MOAA’s achieved since 1929, but below, you’ll find some of the highlights, broken into six categories. Click the links for details on each of the items (or scroll below the boxes to see the full list), and reach out to MOAA’s legislative team at email@example.com to discuss your concerns on these or other topics. Note: Items with an asterisk (*) are regularly under attack or underresourced.
With hundreds of thousands of beneficiaries potentially affected by these changes, MOAA immediately pressed DoD officials for the statistics and analysis behind these moves, and asked Congress to exercise its oversight authority and ensure continued access to quality care. Media outlets amplified MOAA’s messages of concern.
These messages grew louder as both the military and civilian medical systems began buckling under the strain of COVID-19. MOAA led the charge to ensure continued access to quality care as MHS reforms are implmented. With the FY 2020, 2021 and 2022 NDAA laws, MOAA has achieved three consecutive halts to planned medical billet cuts along with enhanced congressional oversight to MHS reforms, including:
This issue also impacts Families, Retirees, and Survivors.
A quick look at this list and others like it show the wide range in year-over-year pay raises among the military community. MOAA has fought to ensure those who serve get what they’ve earned, and has been part of efforts in recent years to secure the largest raise in a decade.
This work hasn’t always broken records, but it’s proceeded, largely with success, toward a goal of pairing raises with the Employment Cost Index (ECI), a metric that, by statute, links military pay increases with civilian economic indicators. The basic pay raise has not dipped below ECI since FY 2016.
This work not only benefits the current force but helps increase the base pay for future military retirees, which will lead to greater benefits after service.
MOAA helped bring to light a series of health-threatening problems faced by military families in privatized housing, ranging from mold to rodent infestation to unanswered repair requests.
With pressure from MOAA and other advocacy agencies, Congress and DoD officials eventually acknowledged these unsafe, unsanitary conditions. The FY 2020 NDAA included a number of provisions to improve the day-to-day lives of military families, part of the most sweeping military housing reform in a quarter-century:
MOAA’s work on this issue continues, as do efforts to urge Congress to include protections and oversight of government-owned housing and barracks in these reforms.
MOAA, working with organizations including MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger and the National Military Family Association, highlighted the number of military families facing food insecurity. Together, we advocated for the creation of a Basic Needs Allowance (BNA), a monthly payment to servicemembers whose gross household income falls below 130% of federal poverty guidelines for the member’s location and household size. Of note, the proposed legislation we advocated for excluded the basic allowance for housing (BAH) in the calculation of gross household income.
Several factors played into the rise of food insecurity among military families:
After a successful virtual Advocacy in Action event in 2021, language was included in the FY 2022 NDAA directing DoD to create the Basic Needs Allowance; however, the inclusion of BAH in the calculation of gross household income is at the discretion of service secretaries, leaving MOAA and other advocacy organizations unsure how well the BNA will address food insecurity.
With real estate and rental markets skyrocketing in the wake of the pandemic, MOAA and other advocacy organizations spoke with DoD officials urging them to address the failure of the basic allowance for housing to keep pace. In response to our efforts, DoD identified 56 geographic areas as having rising rents and an inadequate supply of rental housing. Servicemembers in these areas (estimated at more than 200,000) were granted eligibility for a 10% to 20% boost in their housing allowance, depending on location.
MOAA continues to track this issue, focusing on forward-thinking solutions that will allow DoD to more quickly and effectively address changes in the housing market.
The amount of paid parental leave varies between services. In the FY 2022 NDAA, Congress addressed those inequities with the goal of standardizing paid parental leave across the branches of service and providing equity with plans offered by civilian employers.
The FY 2022 NDAA provides a total of 12 weeks of paid parental leave during the year following the birth or adoption of a child, or the placement of a child for long-term foster care. This leave is offered to primary caregivers, in conjunction with six weeks of maternity leave for those who give birth, as well as to secondary caregivers.
A new category of bereavement leave is also included in the FY 2022 NDAA, providing up to two weeks of leave in the event of the loss of an immediate family member.
The FY 2022 NDAA authorized $50 million for local school districts with large numbers of military-connected students and an additional $10 million for schools serving military children with special needs. This important funding ensures military kids in public schools receive the high-quality education they need and deserve.
MOAA and other advocacy groups secured a major victory for servicemembers and military families with the passage of the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008, better known as the Post-9/11 GI Bill. Among other benefit improvements, the legislation:
In 2010, MOAA backed improvements to the bill that included coverage of job training courses, access to benefits for National Guard members on Title 32 orders, and the expansion of transferability to members of the commissioned corps of the U.S. Public Health Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
More recently, MOAA joined dozens of advocacy groups fighting on behalf of students and veterans to secure passage of legislation protecting these benefits during the coronavirus pandemic.
Despite the critical role played by those who serve in the National Guard and Reserve, these military members can be overlooked or treated unfairly when it comes to ensuring their access to earned benefits. Health care may be the clearest example of this; MOAA has worked for years to help these servicemembers get the benefits they deserve, and to do so without exorbitant cost shares.
MOAA supports a comprehensive reserve retirement policy based on an age-and-service – including operational service – formula. For this reason, MOAA backed language in the FY 2008 NDAA that reduced the age Ready Reserve members could draw retired pay (normally age 60) by three months for every aggregate 90 days of active duty performed in a fiscal year after Jan. 27, 2008.
Seven years later, the FY 2015 NDAA allowed those 90 days to stretch over two consecutive fiscal years.
The TRICARE For Life (TFL) program launched in 2001. Since then, TFL has come under budgetary attack in multiple legislative cycles, with MOAA and other advocacy groups working to preserve the benefit for Medicare-eligible uniformed services retirees and their families.
MOAA’s advocacy efforts, including congressional testimony, statements for the record, and engagement with Armed Services Committee staff and member offices on Capitol Hill, successfully blocked five consecutive administration budget request proposals for a TFL enrollment fee in fiscal years 2013-2017.
These proposals included enrollment fees based on military retirement income level that would have been indexed annually based on either retiree COLA or health care inflation.
MOAA has long fought legislation that would burden TRICARE beneficiaries with additional costs as a way to address budget shortfalls in other areas. As Congress considered potential military health system reforms, MOAA was instrumental in:
Language passed in a late-2013 continuing resolution would have cut any cost-of-living (COLA) adjustment for military retirees by 1 percent, costing an E-7 retiring after 20 years $83,000 before age 62 and an O-5 retiring after 20 years $124,000 over the same span. Any increase of less than a percent would mean no raise for these retirees, though the law prohibited any negative adjustment.
Despite opposition of the proposal by many lawmakers, the provision became law the day after Christmas. MOAA and some other members of The Military Coalition – a coalition of dozens of groups representing millions of servicemembers, retirees, their families, and survivors – testified to Congress on the harm this measure would do to military retirees.
Some of those figures, including MOAA’s example of a typical enlisted retiree losing $83,000 after 20 years of service, were cited in lawmakers’ efforts to rescind the measure.
This work on the Hill, alongside the phone calls, letters, and visits from MOAA members and The Military Coalition, led to the inclusion of repeal language in a separate bill, speeding the process to ensure rapid passage. The bill rescinding this attempt to reduce military retired pay became law Feb. 15, 2014, averting financial disaster for existing retirees and those to come who entered uniformed services prior to Jan. 1, 2014.
Unfortunately, COLA will likely be targeted again to pay for programs outside of the personnel accounts. Back in 2010, a commission appointed by the President noted a $17 billion yield for DoD if it were to eliminate COLA increases during what are considered working-age years (up to 62). The cost of the repeal MOAA helped secure in 2014 carried an estimated cost to DoD of $6.8 billion over 10 years. Read more about this at this link and stay connected on this important aspect of military retired pay.
MOAA has been fighting for concurrent receipt, the ability to receive both retired pay and VA compensation in full each month, since the early 2000s. While that fight continues, a key milestone came with the passage of the FY 2004 NDAA in 2003, which authorized a 10-year phase-in of concurrent receipt for all retirees with a 50% or greater VA disability rating.
The next year’s NDAA expanded that benefit further, eliminating the phase-in for those with a 100% service-connected disability rating to allow immediate payment.
MOAA’s work on concurrent receipt has come on many fronts. Updates on recent efforts can be found at MOAA.org/concurrent-receipt.
TRICARE policy is governed by statute and sometimes requires legislation to expand coverage for evolving medical technology and treatment protocols. One of MOAA’s enduring priorities is monitoring coverage benchmarks and advocating for TRICARE policy updates.
Recent coverage expansions include: Lab developed tests (including diagnostic genetic testing); expanded eligibility for Continuous Glucose Monitors; concurrent hospice care for terminally ill pediatric patients; 3D screening mammography; breastfeeding supplies and lactation counseling; increased respite care hours and coverage for vehicle and residence adaptations for TRICARE Extended Care Health Option (ECHO) enrollees.
For decades, survivors of deceased military members forfeited part or all of their purchased Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) annuity when they received Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) from the VA. This was known as the SBP-DIC offset, but most who followed the issue had a more sinister name for it: The “Widows Tax.”
This unfair policy cost up to $12,000 a year for nearly 67,000 surviving spouses. With leadership from MOAA’s surviving spouse community, in true grassroots fashion, the issue became the focus of advocacy efforts, media outreach, Military Officer features, and more traditional advocacy measures.
After years of work on all fronts, MOAA helped secure passage of a widows tax repeal as part of the FY 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which became law in late 2019 with an implementation period completing in January 2023.
“The inclusion of the widows tax repeal in the NDAA was only possible through a persistent, unified voice,” said MOAA President and CEO Lt. Gen. Dana Atkins, USAF (Ret), following Senate passage. “MOAA’s 350,000 members have advocated aggressively in support of repeal, and we have worked in sync with fellow veteran service organizations.”
On Aug. 10, the president signed into law the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act of 2022. This marked the end of a long legislative road to comprehensive toxic exposure reform which will expand health care coverage to millions of veterans.
The bill’s passage was a result of a combined effort from MOAA and more than 60 other veterans service organizations, alongside veterans and their families, other advocates and advocacy groups, and a bipartisan group of legislators from both chambers. MOAA members sent 14,000 messages, including emails, letters, and phone calls, to legislators in support of the legislation and helped secure its passage.
Legislation like the PACT Act is what happens when veterans and their supporters lock arms and unite to fix a wrong that has been decades in the making. As a result of these efforts, the bill adds nearly two dozen conditions to a list of ailments presumed connected to toxic exposure by the VA, increases veterans’ access to health care, and will also expand VA research into burn pit-related illnesses and improve VA’s screening process for those illnesses. The list of veterans covered by the bill includes post-9/11 veterans and those Vietnam veterans exposed to Agent Orange in Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Guam, American Samoa, and Johnston Atoll.
MOAA has always appreciated the strength of those who care for those who’ve served, and has worked to ensure their benefits aren’t neglected. In 2010, for example, MOAA helped secure respite care, a stipend, health benefits, and other considerations for these important members of the military family as part of the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act.
More recently, MOAA has been a leader in securing multiple improvements in VA caregiver programs via the MISSION Act, which expanded the Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers beyond the post-9/11 generation. These caregivers will have access to a monthly stipend, training programs, respite services, mental health counseling, CHAMPVA health care (if eligible), and other benefits.
Activities of the 117th Congress included the passage of much-needed veterans legislation to improve the quality of care and benefits veterans, and their families, receive through the VA. That legislation includes, but is not limited to:
2020 also was a banner year for all those serving in and out of uniform. Some of the bills listed below have taken years (and several Congresses) to get across the finish line. Thanks to the unrelenting efforts of MOAA members, partners, veterans, and their families – answering calls to action and sharing our stories – we collectively were able to do so:
The Retired Officers Association (TROA), founded in 1929, officially became the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) on Jan. 1, 2003. As TROA, the group supported the legislation that would become the bedrock for future benefits. Here’s some of the work done by TROA prior to that changeover, with portions excerpted from A History of The Retired Officers Association, published in 2000: