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Surviving Spouse Corner

2016 Year in Review

By Gail Joyce, Surviving Spouse Advisory Committee Member

     Last year was a time of change and new challenges. We began 2016 with a new name — the Surviving Spouse Advisory Committee (SSAC) — one the committee felt brought a better understanding of who we are.

     In April, we participated in Storming the Hill in Washington, D.C., with 160 MOAA members, visiting our elected representatives to discuss important legislation that would affect the military and their families, including the Survivor Benefit Plan/Dependency and Indemnity Compensation offset. We asked that the offset be fully repealed, but if sufficient funds could not be found, that the Special Survivor Indemnity Allowance (SSIA) be extended and increased to continue phasing out the offset completely.

     Even though our work on a full repeal of the offset continues, in the FY 2017 Defense Authorization Act, the SSIA has been extended through May 2018 at the current $310 monthly rate. This will give us a chance to push Congress this year to increase and further extend the allowance or eliminate the offset in its entirety.

     Our efforts to increase the number of surviving spouse liaisons at the council and chapter level continue as well. The number of surviving spouse liaisons has increased by 145. However, that number only represents a little more than half of the total chapters. We will continue to promote the importance and benefits of a surviving spouse liaison. Our goal remains 100-percent participation.

     In October during MOAA’s 2016 annual meeting, we honored two highly qualified and deserving surviving spouses with the Surviving Spouse Excellence Award: Paula Muth of the Heartland (Neb.) Chapter and Barbara Smith of the Hampton Roads (Va.) Chapter.

     We also had two very productive committee meetings in 2016, during which we made decisions to:

         - increase the member term limit from three years to four years, with an option to extend for up to two more years if a member is willing and able. This should provide more continuity and improve productivity;

         - change the start date for new SSAC members from April to October to coincide with the orientation/installation of new members of MOAA’s board of directors. New SSAC members can participate in the board of directors orientation and be better informed about MOAA;

         - increase the committee from six members to eight members on a trial basis. Two new members will be “virtual members,” with no expectation of attending SSAC meetings in person. This might help bring in younger surviving spouses who are unable to travel for extended periods because of jobs, children, or aging parents; and

         - find new ways to recruit and engage surviving spouses by:

             * using Military Officer magazine and social media to reach a younger demographic and

             * reaching out to and involving other organizations, such as the Retired Officers Wives Association, the Society of Military Widows, the Survivor Outreach Services, etcetera.

     Because of the decisions made in 2016, we will be a stronger committee in 2017 and the years to come.

Last Updated: January 29th, 2017