Each year, VCOC actively advocates legislatively. At the State Level, VCOC participates in the annual Joint Leadership Council Day in Richmond, and is a member of the Virginia Joint Leadership Council (JLC). At the Federal Level, VCOC particpates in the annual MOAA National Storming of the Hill in Washington, D.C.
From the Virginia Department of Veterans Service Website: "The mission of the Joint Leadership Council of Veterans Service Organizations (the JLC) is to provide advice and assistance to the Governor, General Assembly and the Department of Veterans Services (DVS) on matters of concern to the veterans community and provides a conduit of information to and from the veterans service organizations on policy and legislation, pending and enacted, as well as information on existing services."
The JLC is composed of one representative from each qualifying veterans service organization (VSO), to be appointed by the Governor, and the Commissioner of the Department of Veterans Services and the Chairmen of the Board of Veterans Services and the Veterans Services Foundation or their designees, who shall serve as nonvoting ex officio members. COL Monti Zimmerman, USA (Ret) is the VCOC representative to JLC.
Virginia Joint Leadership Council Legislative Initiatives 2021
During the October 21, 2020 meeting, the JLC adopted the following seven initiatives for 2021, and forwarded them to DVS and the General Assembly, may be viewed at: JLC 2021 Intiatives. Feedback and questions regarding the intiatives may be directed to COL Zimmerman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
View status of the 2021 Virginia General Assembly Miltary and Veterans Bills, as of February 9, 2021, at following link:
Virginia General Assembly Military and Veterans Bills Federal
MOAA has determined the top three Legislative Affairs topics for 2021, as detailed in below article by MOAA Vice President, Government Relations, Col Dan Merry, USAF (Ret).
Advocacy in Action: Details on MOAA’s Spring Campaign
By: Dan Merry
FEBRUARY 09, 2021
We all miss the opportunity for in-person meetings on Capitol Hill with our legislators and their staffs. This annual event has been popular with our Chapters and Councils, as well as our Board of Directors and the MOAA staff.
The big event this year is Advocacy in Action, the new name for our annual legislative push on Capitol Hill.
Last year, due to the pandemic, we were forced to pivot our engagement to virtual platforms — this gave us an opportunity to include others in these meetings over the month of May. Not quite a bright silver lining, but it did give many others the opportunity to be part of our advocacy mission from home and helped generate over 19,000 letters spread out over every congressional office — all 535! Our members conducted 253 meetings in virtual platforms — on top of those letters and phone calls — to ensure 100% contact.
Based on too many unknowns this year, MOAA will repeat the virtual meetings, again targeting the month of May. Check your MOAA Newsletter and MOAA’s Advocacy News page for updates.
Our topics this year address those who are currently serving, veterans and recent retirees, and members of the National Guard and Reserve forces.
Topic 1: Comprehensive Toxic Exposure Reform
This focus on comprehensive toxic exposure reform highlights those currently serving, veterans, those recently retired from active duty, and the Guard and Reserves. When most people hear about toxic exposure, they think of Agent Orange and Vietnam, and we work that, too. However, there is a significant lack of awareness of the current toxic exposures for those in uniform today and since 9/11.
Among one of the more notable and impactful exposures are from the burn pits and other fires during the Gulf War in Afghanistan and Iraq. Additionally, there are exposure risks from firefighting chemicals and contaminated drinking water, to name a few.
We seek the basics: expanded health care for those who were exposed, the creation of an advisory council, and to reauthorize the Agent Orange authorities which expired in 2015. This issue hits more than the servicemembers — it is a direct impact to the families who are or will be the caregivers.
Topic 2: TRICARE Young Adult Parity
There is a glaring disparity between commercial health care plans that cover adult children to age 26 and TRICARE, which requires a separate premium for young adult coverage. In 2013, TYA monthly premiums were $152 for Standard and $176 for Prime; today, those monthly fees are $257 and $459 respectively, which is an unsustainable curve, charting a course for TYA plan failure.
The Health Care Fairness for Military Families Act of 2021 (H.R. 475), sponsored by Reps. Elaine Luria (D-Va.) and Michael Waltz (R-Fla.), expand TRICARE eligibility to young adult dependents up to age 26. Learn more about the legislation at this link.
Military kids face unique challenges — the average military kid will move six to nine times during their school years and experience repeated family separations. Yet, current law leaves military kids transitioning to adulthood without the same health care protections afforded to families with commercial plans. Ensuring health care access and affordability is particularly important during the current pandemic.
As COVID-19 impacts higher education pathways and makes it more difficult for young adults to find jobs, we must ensure military families who have sacrificed so much in support of our nation have the same health care protections for their young adult children as their civilian counterparts covered by commercial plans.
Topic 3: Basic Needs Allowance
This proposed allowance would address our servicemembers and their families who are most vulnerable to food insecurity and are finding it difficult to make ends meet. The subsistence allowance would be provided automatically to servicemembers whose gross household income (not including their Basic Allowance for Housing, or BAH) is below 130% of the federal poverty line. This recurring struggle was exacerbated by COVID-19 layoffs.
While a small number of servicemembers qualify for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), many do not because their BAH is considered income. These families turn to food pantries instead: The Armed Services YMCA reported a 400% increase in grocery demand at their food pantries on and near military installations during the pandemic.
(A note for those reaching out to their legislators: This issue is intended to be a “leave-behind” issue, to be supported by upcoming publications and other materials. However, if you have personal examples or are in a military district with many servicemembers, feel free to touch on this if time permits.)
Upcoming online materials will have all the information you need to start making appointments and garnering support from your legislators on these important issues.
Please remember our entire Government Relations staff, along with The Military Coalition and other partners, continues to work MOAA’s other legislative priorities throughout the year.
Maj. Richard Star, a Voice for Disabled Veterans, Loses Battle to Cancer
Maj. Richard Star, USAR, an Iraq and Afghanistan war veteran who spent his final months fighting for servicemember benefits while also fighting stage 4 lung cancer, has died. View the MOAA article of February 13, 2021 here: Maj. Richard Star, a Voice for Disabled Veterans, Loses Battle to Cancer
The Star Act will allow servicemembers forced to medically retire from injury on duty to be authorized for concurrent receipt, which is receiving retirement pay from DoD for their service, while also receiving disability pay from the VA to compensate for injury.
As in 2020, our Council will continue vigorous advocacy with our Virginia Delegation for ultimate passage of the Major Richard Star Act.
In reminder, MOAA is exempt from federal taxation under Sec. 501(c)(19) of the Internal Revenue Code. As such, MOAA and its affiliates must avoid engaging in partisan political activities. View guidance here: MOAA Guidance on Partisan Political Activities
Feedback and questions regarding VCOC Federal Legislative Affairs may be directed to CDR Linc Smith, USNR (Ret) at email@example.com. MOAA Take Action Center
View the MOAA Take Action Center here: MOAA Take Action Center
A world of federal and state legislsative Advocacy
To above pictured Zoom Meeting with Senator Mark Warner (D VA), E-mail letter of appreciation, 10 Sepetember 2020:
Thanks again to each of you who participated in our zoom call on August 19, 2020 to discuss how I can better serve veterans in Virginia. I value your voice and the dedicated service that you provide to our veterans every day. We have a lot of work to do, but rest assured our veterans remain my top priority. Thank you for your service to our country and to Virginia veterans!
Senate and House
Click below for Virginia Senate Listing:
Click below for Virginia House Listing:
Storming of the Hill 2020
Virtual Storming 2020
VCOC Chapters have been actively participating in the MOAA National Virtual Storming of the Hill in 2020. In advance of the MOAA National Virtual Storming 2020, VCOC President Col Boyd Nix, USAF (Ret) sent a letter in support of the MOAA Position of halt to military medical cuts, view here:
While the ongoing pandemic forced the cancellation of in-person events connected to Storming the Hill 2020, MOAA continues its advocacy mission with a Virtual Storm highlighting the need to protect the military health care benefit earned by millions of servicemembers, past and present. For 2020, MOAA National Storming runs from 1 May to 31 June 2020.
The top two issues for storming this year are:
1. Thank you to Congress for passage of the SBP-DIC Offset "Widows Tax" elimination, included in the NDAA.
2. In view of the COVID-19 Pandemic, halt to proposed military medical billet reductions.
VCOC is also advocating with our Virginia delegation for the Major Richard Star, USA (Ret) Act, Concurrent Receipt: Major Richard Star Act.
Check the MOAA National Website for Virtual Storm news, resources, and updates. You can download materials, as well as find links to send critical messages to your legislators at: MOAA National Storming 2020.
VCOC chapter participation (with lead officers noted), specific to MOAA National Virtual Storming of the Hill 2020, click here to view: VCOC Storming 2020. Screen shots of VCOC Summer Storming 2020 pictured at left.
VCOC Legislators of the Year
Each year, VCOC awards Legislator of the Year for both the State and Federal levels. For 2020, VCOC voted Congressman Denver Riggleman (VA 05) as Federal Legislator of the Year, and Senator Bryce Reeves (R 17th) as State Legislator of the year.
Normally, VCOC presents the VCOC Legislator of the Year award to the respective awardees at the annual VCOC Congressional Affairs Luncheon, Capitol Hill Club, DC. Due to the COVID Pandemic, the VCOC Congressional Affairs Luncheon 2020 was cancelled. In lieu, the award is being individually presented at the district offices of the awardees.
Pictured at left, VCOC Vice President CDR Linc Smith, USNR (Ret), presents the VCOC State Legislator of the Year to Senator Bryce Reeves at his district office in Fredericksburg, VA, 29 October 2020.
Pictured below, presentation of VCOC Federal Level Legislator of the Year to Congressman Denver Riggleman at his district office in Charlottesville, VA, 13 November 2020. From left to right, Central Virginia Chapter Legislative Affairs members COL Wes Loffert, USA (Ret), Capt Trish Sifka, USAF (Former), VCOC Vice President CDR Linc Smith, USNR (Ret), Congressman Denver Riggleman, CVC President LtCol John Down, USAF (Ret).
RACMOAA Conduct 13th Annual Legislative Affairs Forum
By CAPT Mary Lou Wassel, USNR (Ret)
Due to continued COVID 19 virus precautions, the 13th Annual RACMOAA Legislative Forum was held virtually via ZOOM in two sessions on 15 December (pictured below). Invitations were sent well in advance to seven area Senators and 14 area House Delegates, representing our member constituents, as well as, to senior DVS staff, select representatives of the VCOC-MOAA, and JLC.
The first ZOOM Session was held at 0730 with 21 people present, and the second at 1500 with 19 individuals present. Legislators and staff from six senators’ and seven delegates’ offices participated in the discussions. LTC Ken Ruppar, Chapter Chaplain, delivered the Invocation. The Summary of the 2021 JLC Initiatives, including each of the eight priorities and two letters of support, was presented by COL Mark Rich, Chapter President, MAJ Mariah White and LTC Craig Pinsker, Chapter Legislative Co-Chairs.
Questions from legislators, staff, and invited guests were fielded by presenters. Suggestions for possible coalitions from legislators were noted and appropriate follow-ups will be made. Legislators were advised that the JLC would be meeting on 16 Dec to finalize the initiatives and individual point papers in advance of Session.
LTC Don Wolfinger, USA (Ret), Greater St. Louis Chapter/MO Council Legislative Affairs, presented the MOAA State Legislatvie Affairs Forum Brief at the VCOC First Quarter Meeting, 4 January 2021. Click on below link to view.
MOAA State Legislative Forum Brief