This year the Ohio Chapters all participated in the Advocacy in Action campaign. All Congressional Districts and our 2 Senators were divided amongst the Chapters and we were able to cover every District.
The 3 topics for discussion were:
1. Comprehensive Toxic Exposure Reform. Service members, Veterans and families of every generation face lifelong challenges of toxic exposure.
2. Basic Needs Allowance. Young military families facing food insecurity. Provide a basic need allowance of $400 monthly subsidy to service members with household gross income at or below 130% of the poverty line.
3. TRICARE young adult parity. (The Health Care Fairness for Military Families Act, H.R. 475). Ensure military families have the same health care protection for their young adult children as their civilian counterparts.
This year was a great success. All Chapters reported considerable to strong support from Ohio Congressional leaders to support these initiatives. Many are sponsors of bills or are looking to sponsor bills to support these initiatives.
Greater Cleveland Chapter
The Greater Cleveland Chapter of the MOAA led the Advocacy in Action (AiA) engagement with Ohio congressional representatives of the 9th, 11th and 14th districts. During the month of May 2021, chapter members COL (Ret.) Bart Stovicek, COL (Ret.) Cary Weatherhead, and Katherine Reinhardt participated in video conference calls with congressional staffers from Ohio Districts 14, 11, and 9 to discuss MOAA legislative priorities on Toxic Exposure – TEAM Act (Toxic Exposure in the American Military), TRICARE Young Adult (TYA), and Basic Needs Allowance.
We held our initial meeting with Mr. Zach Moses, Senior Legislative Liaison for Representative Dave Joyce, OH D14. Mr. Moses was very knowledgeable of the details for each piece of legislation associated with each priority and acknowledged the need to address the issues. He was particularly interested to know how many active service members, or military families reside in Northeast Ohio. He could not commit to any action but assured our team that he would share our input with the congressman.
Our second call with Mr. Brehon Pittman, the Veterans and Military Affairs point of contact to former congresswoman Marcia Fudge, OH D11, was informational. While no immediate action was expected due to the vacancy resulting from Representative Fudge’s appointment as Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Mr. Pittman’s response to our appeals was quite positive.
COL (Ret.) Stovicek held the last virtual call with LtCol Cole Hodge; Defense Fellow detailed to the office of Representative Marcy Kaptur, OH D9. This meeting was the most encouraging of the three. Given his military status, LtCol Hodge needed no convincing. He assured us that he would address these “no brainer” issues with congresswoman Kaptur.
Despite the encouraging dialogue we had with each of our representative’s staff there has been little movement by the Ohio delegation toward support to the legislation proposed. Representative Kaptur and Ohio’s newest congresswoman Shontel Brown, OH D11, each co-sponsored HR 475, The Healthcare Fairness for Military Families Act. Congressman Joyce has remained silent on all issues.
Advocacy in Action offered an opportunity to engage with our elected representatives to discuss priorities to our military community. Despite the underwhelming response from the Ohio delegation, we gained valuable experience, and will continue to advocate for those who serve.
Central Ohio Chapter
COL Jane Lengel and CAPT Michael Mentas met with the Representative Balderson Staff on Thursday May 13th using the Video conference.
The Staff were extremely interested and determined to brief Congressman Balderson about the 4 HR’s and affirm his commitment to support. They requested that we send them the articles describing the 3 AIA concerns and we sent that info the same day.
Dayton Area Chapter
Terry Cooney (past DAC President and currently our Legislative Representative) and Tom Robisch comprised the team that contacted staffers from the 4th, 5th, and 10th Congressional Districts. All such meetings were conducted via virtual platforms (set up by Terry), and MOAA’s fact sheets for the targeted legislative proposals were provided to the staffers ahead of time. My characterizations of the meetings are as follows:
4th District, Congressman Jim Jordan. We met with Marshall Macheledt, Legislative Assistant to Rep. Jordan, on 3 May at 1:30 PM. Mr. Macheledt was knowledgeable with respect to the proposed legislation, and we had a cordial and productive discussion of those issues. Terry and I were able to convey all the points outlined by MOAA, and Marshall appeared to understand the problems these bills seek to address as well as MOAA’s positions. While the meeting was friendly, it appeared to me that Mr. Macheledt tried very hard to be noncommittal; he did not express any support or disapproval. We do not have any pictures from this meeting.
5th District, Congressman Bob Latta. We met with Mike Davin, Senior Legislative Assistant to Rep. Latta on 6 May at 11:00 AM. The meeting was quite friendly. Mr. Davin was familiar with the proposed legislation, and we discussed how these bills would address the existing problems. He appeared to be supportive of all of them. He said he thought Rep. Latta would become a cosponsor of the Veterans Burn Pits Exposure Recognition Act (HR 2436), but I note that he has not yet done so as of the afternoon of 15 June (or for any of the other bills). We do not have pictures of this meeting.
10th District, Congressman Mike Turner. We met with Capt Dylan Klossner, an active-duty USMC Judge Advocate officer, who is serving as a military fellow in Rep. Turner’s office. This meeting was also very friendly. Capt Klossner was knowledgeable concerning the proposed legislation and appeared to be quite supportive of all of them. Since our meeting, Rep. Turner has signed on as a cosponsor for the Toxic Exposure in the American Military (TEAM) Act (HR 2127) and the Health Care for Fairness for Military Families Act (HR 475).
Mahoning-Shenango Valleys Chapter
COVID-19 has kept many of the council and chapter representative from physically meeting the Ohio Congressional legislators. As the President of the Mahoning-Shenango Valleys Chapter, LTC Hosler was responsible to coordinate and speak with Congressman Bill Johnson (OH-06 District) and Congressman Tim Ryan (OH-13 District). Both Representatives were unavailable, and he met virtually with their staffers.
On Tuesday, 11 May, LTC Hosler met virtually with Ms. Laura Wilson a staff representative for Congressman Bill Johnson and Mr. Jeremy Christopher and Mr. Ryan Keating staff representatives for Congressman Tim Ryan. Unlike a face-to-face visit that normally lasts ten minutes, this virtual visit lasted almost twenty minutes each.
These were two good sessions and we discussed the three MOAA legislative issues. LTC Hosler had previously provided them with the MOAA Fact Sheets for each issue and addresses each issue separately. All representative staffers had read the fact sheets and were aware of them as they served as a focal point of the meeting.
All staffers indicates that their Congressmen were supportive of the MOAA legislative issues and will express the importance of co-sponsorship of these bills. Jeremy Christopher indicated there were several other toxic exposure bills before Congress and indicated they might be rolled into one all-encompassing bill.
Ohio Western Reserve Chapter with Rep Anthony Gonzalez (OH-16) and Rep Bob Gibbs (OH-7), 13 May 2021.
Rep Gonzalez participated in the video conference, as did several members of his staff. Rep Gonzalez was very supportive of all the bills we talked about, particularly HR 475 TRICARE Young Adult. He said he did not know too much about HR2339 (Basic Need Allowance) but was interested and would look up more information about it. I would recommend someone from MOAA follow up with his office. During the month of August, Rep Gonzalez signed on as a cosponsor for HR2339.
Rep Gibbs was unable to attend the scheduled video conference because of a last-minute call to a vote. His office manager Madeline Perrino took the call with us. She took notes while we talked and referenced the documents on each bill that we sent her. Her responses were very supportive, and she stated will pass all this information to Rep Gibbs and recommend he support all the MOAA recommended bills. She was very supportive of all four bills we discussed. We had some minor technical problems but none of those has any significant impact on the conference with Rep Gibbs’ office.
Ohio Council and Chapters
On May 19, 2021, MG(R) Dan Hahn and Col Dick Calta discussed 3 critical MOAA legislative issues with Senator Portman’s Office in support of Ohio’s MOAA Council and Chapters Advocacy in Action, 2021.
Shown in this screen shot with Dan and Dick are Robin Janofsky and Michael Dustman of Senator Portman’s office.
The legislative actions discussed were Comprehensive Toxic Exposure Reform, TRICARE for Young Adult, and Provide Basic Need Allowance for families facing food insecurity.
Senator Portman is supportive of all 3 measures and is a cosponsor of the Burn Pit Exposure Act and looks to cosponsor the more comprehensive Toxic Exposure Bill.