MOAA annually participates in the “Advocacy in Action” in which MOAA council leadership takes a trip to visit Capitol Hill and meet with each state’s Senatorial and Congressional delegations to discuss key defense issues. The Ohio Council of Chapters (OCC) is represented by members of the Ohio Council of Chapter staff and leaders from the MOAA Chapters in the state who meet with their respective representatives.
Advocacy in Action – April 2023
Reported by President William Radcliffe and 1stVP Michael Mentas
CAPT Michael Mentas, 1st VP, and LTC William Radcliffe, President of the Ohio Council of Chapters of MOAA visited all 17 congressional offices. We were able to meet with some of the principals but more often it was with a staff person. Between the two of us we met with someone in all 17 offices on Wednesday, April 26, 2023.
TEAM MEMBERS WHO ESCORTED US TO THE CONGRESSIONAL OFFICES:
Mike Mentas: Meghan Aloshen, Product Manager/Graphic Designer for MOAA
Bill Radcliffe, spokesperson for Support the All-Volunteer Force:
RADM Scott Deitchman, PHS doctor at CDC HQ in Atlanta, and MOAA Board Member. Scott was the spokesperson for the Pharmacy issue.
VADM Fred Midgette, Coast Guard and MOAA Board Member. Fred was the spokesperson for the Basic Housing Allowance issue.
SUPPORT THE ALL-VOLUNTEER MILITARY FORCE:
In 2022 the armed services fell short of their recruitment goals by as much as 25%. This is a serious shortfall, especially given the current state of world affairs. Congressmen and women need to be aware of the seriousness of this problem and support legislation that will give young people incentives to join and reenlist. There are several issues that need to be addressed; MOAA has selected two critical issues for the 2024 NDAA.
RESTORE THE TRICARE PHARMACY NETWORK: The Defense Health Agency (DHA) slashed network requirements as cost cutting measures within the new pharmacy contract. TRICARE lost many independent pharmacies and decreased locations by 25% – from 55,000 to 42,000 locations. Major pharmacies (Kroger and Walmart for example) have dropped out because the reimbursements are below their costs. DOD touts that there are pharmacies available within a 15 minute drive of 98% of TRICARE recipients. MOAA points out that the remaining 2% number 160,000 users, many of whom are in poorly served rural areas or in institutions such as nursing homes and assisted living facilities.
MOAA is supporting a piece of legislation requiring an independent investigation using current data to determine the effect of this shrinkage on TRICARE recipients.
RESTORE THE BASIC HOUSING ALLOWANCE TO 100%: In 2015 DOD began reducing the BHA to 95% of housing costs in order to fund its request to raise and arm special operation units. Congress required DOD to fund this request from budget reductions in other areas; BHA was one of those cut. Using government estimates for total monthly expenses, an E-5 (in a military housing area representing the national average) is $433 short on what they need to make ends meet each month. Worse yet, military personnel are required to move frequently throughout their careers, costing the families money, and in many cases the spouses lose their jobs, further reducing the family income.
Restoring the BHA to 100% will reduce the monthly shortfall (although it is not the total solution).
Mike Mentas and I, together with our escorts, visited all 17 congressional offices. Many of the principals were in the Capitol voting on critical debt ceiling issues that day, so most of our visits were with staffs. (In my case, the absence of the principals was beneficial: in their absence staff members were working on low priority issues so were available to visit with our team without being rushed.) We both found OVERWHELMINGLY BIPARTISAN SUPPORT for these issues given the dangers to our national defense today. A congressman on the Armed Services Committee told his chief of staff to arrange a meeting with the Chair to see what can be done to get this legislation to the floor. Several requested the name of the individual who drafted the language for the Pharmacy legislation. The individuals with families in Ohio were very familiar with the loss of pharmacies (Kroger is headquartered in Cincinnati).
A SURPRISE: While waiting for the last bus to take us back to the hotel, we stood at the bus stop with another group of five individuals. RADM Scott Deitchman, CDC staff MD, reports: “…we fortuitously met some people who want to be allies on the TRICARE pharmacy issue. They are representatives of NCPA, the National Community Pharmacists Association. Their members include many independent pharmacies who had to drop out of TRICARE under the new payment scheme. They are hopping mad about it, and they have a point of view that complements that of our members.” (Report to Karen Ruedisueli, MOAA staff member responsible for the Pharmacy issue.)
CONCLUSION: Mike and I were escorted by individuals who brought skills to our visit that enhanced our communications with congressional offices. That, plus the materials prepared by MOAA that we left with each office, produced a very successful series of visits which we are confident will lead to outstanding results. National defense is a topic that is transcending political differences characteristic of Washington, D.C. today.
We recommend to anyone considering participation in a future Advocacy in Action to volunteer!