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June 2020 News From MOAA National

Dateline: 6/4/2020

Make Your Voice Heard: Call, Write, and Post to Preserve the Military Health Care Benefit

By: Kevin Lilley

 

Thousands of supporters have used MOAA’s Legislative Action Center (http://takeaction.moaa.org/app/write-a-letter?0&engagementId=507024) to ask their lawmakers to preserve the military health care benefit. This Virtual Storm sends a clear message to our leaders, but MOAA members and others can emphasize the importance of this issue by reaching out in other ways.  “COVID-19 limits our in-office time with these legislators, but that doesn’t mean we should avoid direct communication,” said Col. Dan Merry, USAF (Ret), MOAA’s vice president for government relations. “Lawmakers know their constituents have a vested interest in issues when they take the time to engage with their offices personally. Your lawmaker needs to know how important this care is to you and your family. That can start with a simple phone call.”
The Legislative Action Center also provides easy access to phone numbers for representatives; talking points to engage staffers or the lawmakers themselves on what they can do to stop medical billet reductions and military treatment facility (MTF) reorganization; and a brief feedback section to inform MOAA of your interaction.
Why take the extra time? Re-evaluating military medical reforms in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic will strengthen your earned benefit and ensure continued access to high-quality care for you and your family. Without action from Congress, these reforms – based on outdated and incomplete analyses – could weaken a system already stressed by pandemic response efforts.

More Ways to Help
Join a Chapter. Not a member of your local group? Find it here (https://ebiz.moaa.org/PersonifyEbusiness/Default.aspx?TabId=161). Chapters offer grassroots support for all MOAA advocacy efforts, even more important now as lawmakers and staffs spend more time in their districts.
Activate Your Network. Send the links above to friends, co-workers, fellow officers, or anyone else who will be affected by this reform effort.


Hidden Heroes: Military Caregivers Face Unique Challenges Amid COVID-19

By: Amber Monks

The coronavirus pandemic has taken a toll on countless communities but has affected one vulnerable population on several unexpected levels: Caregivers of veterans. These “hidden heroes” face increased demand for medical supplies, and isolation from their support network, along with increased risk of infection for their veterans and themselves.

In a time when caregivers need support more than ever, the Elizabeth Dole Foundation (https://www.elizabethdolefoundation.org/) continues to take the journey with them during uncertain times.  MOAA has partnered with the foundation in the past, including on Tips for Lifelong Caregiving, a comprehensive website offering financial and other guidance. Recently, MOAA asked Rashi Venkataraman Romanoff, vice president of programs and partnerships at the foundation, to share resources to help those affected by the COVID-19 crisis and educate community members on how to help neighbors in need.  

“Military caregivers and military families have really been disproportionately affected by the current crisis,” Romanoff said. “A lot of these veterans were already in an immunocompromised or immunosuppressed state.”  The pandemic has also led to unwelcome supply issues, she said. “For things like wound care or ventilator support, these caregivers are now in competition with state public health systems, hospitals, and health care providers,” Romanoff said. “Access to medical supplies has really emerged as a top need. We're seeing that the prices for these supplies on average through some subsequent survey work are increasing about between 40 and 50%.”

Since the start of the pandemic, new concerns have arisen among caregivers. People who live in rural areas have seen decreased delivery options and limited access to essential needs in grocery stores and pharmacies.  Caregivers have had an elevated concern of securing back-up care as everyone is at a greater risk of infection. And they are worried what will happen if they become unable to care for their veteran due to the coronavirus.  The concern of increased isolation has also been a top finding of the foundation’s research. Romanoff said. “One of the things we've found even before this crisis hit is that military caregivers often feel isolated from communities, because they're doing this work at home,” she said. “It’s not readily apparent that these caregivers are doing this work each and every day. That can be very isolating to experience day in and day out.”

How to Help

“This is a really good time to get to know your neighbors.” Romanoff said. “If there’s someone in your neighborhood or if there’s someone in your community that is in the role, reach out, maybe offer to make a meal. Even a quick phone call can be a nice way to let someone know you are thinking of them.” Setting up time to communicate with friends and family can alleviate mental stress and create a sense of connectedness during physical isolation periods, she added.  The Dole Foundation has consolidated many of its resources online so that they are accessible to all during the pandemic. They've also launched a new webinar series with Wounded Warrior Project and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs titled "Caregiver Community Connection" that is aimed at bringing timely resources and activities to caregivers and their families.

Florida Chapter Runs Care Packages for Troops Project

By: Contributing Editor Blair Drake

 

Members of the Sarasota (Fla.) Chapter have supported U.S. servicemembers through the Support our Troops initiative for the past 17 years, distributing more than 50,000 boxes for care packages. Members of the community fill the preaddressed boxes with suggested items and mail them to deployed U.S. troops.Traditionally, members gather prior to a parade (Memorial Day or Veterans Day) for a “box party,” where they assemble the 1,000 boxes, which are delivered from the U.S. Postal Service on a pallet about 7-feet tall. Members place in each large, priority mail flat-rate box a letter from the chapter, suggested items to send and items to avoid, tips for writing a personal note to troops, and instructions for mailing the box, including how to fill out the customs form. Each box also is addressed senior leaders of various units serving overseas, who will distribute the care packages to servicemembers in their units.  Cost to the chapter is minimal; they pay for printing the letters and address labels and other office supplies such as paperclips and rubber bands. The U.S. Postal Service provides the boxes. And during the parades, a local car dealership typically provides a pick-up truck for chapter members to use. The cost of postage is covered by the those who send the care packages.While there is no way for the chapter to track how many packages actually are sent to troops, Wozniak said the chapter often receives thank you letters and certificates of appreciation from the units.

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