Electronic Voting for Active Duty (Discussions ongoing with TN Secretary of State).
Medical Cannabis (SB1104/HB1441) – (Bills were not advanced – issue is dead for 2023).
Restoration of the Second Free Auto License Plate for 100% Disabled Veterans (SB1162/HB0700)
Identify and Implement Processes/Procedures on Veteran Hiring (Discussions underway with TN Department of Veterans Services on how to proceed).
Other Important Veterans Bill of Interest:
Veterans Bill of Rights (SB376/HB446) Focuses on six key areas:
Access to Jobs
Access to Mental Health Services
Access to Degrees, Certifications and Occupational Licenses
Access to Housing
Access to Healthcare
Annual Reports and Recommendations
We ask all Chapter members to reach out to their state legislators and ask that they support this piece of legislation. It has the capability to provide extensive support to veterans in the state.
MOAA National Advocacy in Action Priorities :
Restore Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) to 100% - currently only 95% of housing costs are covered.
Reverse TRICARE Pharmacy Cuts – the TRICARE retail pharmacy network shrunk nearly 25% recently due to contract changes by the Defense Health Agency
Please go to the MOAA Web Site (https://moaa.quorum.us) to support action on the following National issues:
Support Concurrent Receipt (Major Richard Star Act) (Bill needs to be reintroduced).
Oppose TRICARE for Life Fees (discussions now underway – need your voice).
Support the Expanding America’s National Cemetery Act (Ask for protections to be included in FY2023 NDAA).
Fix the TRICARE Young Adult Coverage Gap (Support co-sponsorship of The Healthcare Fairness for Military Families Act (HR1045)).
MTC Legislative Update for February 2023
The chapter’s Legislative Liaison, CDR Ted Edwards, USN, Retired, is out of the country and unable to complete his monthly report. The following information has been compiled to inform members about the status of state and Federal legislation.
Regrettably, icy weather caused the cancellation of the annual Veterans Day on the Hill slated for February 1, 2023. The event is organized by TNVET, a compilation of various statewide veterans’ groups, with the primary purpose of supporting and advocating for legislative bills that TNVET member organizations formulated and approved. The four key legislative bills proposed for this year follow:
Electronic Voting for Active Duty (Montgomery County Pilot Program).
Restoration of the Second Free Auto License for 100% Disabled Veterans.
Identify and Implement Processes/Procedures that Document that the State is accomplishing its “Hiring Qualified Veterans Within Departments” process.
A review of legislative bills filed by the 113th General Assembly on Feb 3, 2023 with the subject of “Veterans” found at Tennessee General Assembly Bills By Subject (tn.gov) indicates that there are 12 bills which have been filed by legislators from the Tennessee House and Senate. One filing for HB0700 and SB1162 increases from one to two, the number of free plates for Purple Heart and disabled veterans. Other bills cover topics ranging from a Veterans’ Bill of Rights to waivers to knowledge tests for temporary commercial learner’s permits to lifetime enhanced handgun carry permits for retired veterans. If you would like to comment on the proposed bills or advocate for the TNVET proposals, please locate your respective legislators at Find My Legislator - TN General Assembly.
On the Federal level, MOAA’s Legislative Action Center found at MOAA | Legislative Action Center (quorum.us) allows you to send messages to Federal legislators on critical topics affecting the entire military community to include dependents and surviving spouses. More detailed information about the respective advocacy efforts for each group can be found at MOAA | Action Center (quorum.us). Please review this critical information and advocate today!
MOAA remains a highly effective lobbying group at the state and Federal levels because of your continued engagement. Please lend your voice and insights to legislation being proposed and submitted which impacts everyone in our cherished military community.
MTC Legislative Update for January 2023
Happy New Year to all of us in the Middle Tennessee Chapter. We begin another year of good fellowship and support of our uniformed services in their many aspects of our national life.
January 3rd at Noon Eastern Time is the turnover time for our Representatives and Senators. Things in Washington are unsettled as I write, but they will get resolved so that Congress can get working on its many responsibilities. Across the Potomac River in Alexandria, our MOAA Legislative Advocacy people continue their work of serving our membership and families in real time. The January issue of Military Officer magazine always articulates the Mission Advocacy priorities for the year, and please do take time to read it. Reading it will alert your attention to ideas and initiatives that we discuss in the whole of 2023.
Here is an important quote about how we cooperate to align with “strategic enablers” that serve veteran health needs. The source is the new VA Undersecretary for Health, Dr. Shereef Elnahal. “Partnering with VSOs (Veteran Service Organizations), states, and advocates, and interagency cooperation.”, page 15. All such groups have priorities that differ and yet align toward the larger picture of the meeting needs of the greater uniformed services community. The PACT Act recently passed and all manner of legislative support for the VHA reaches us individually as we need them, and they support all who look to organizations like MOAA for leadership. Watch for news on these items all year long in this column.
Our chapter is closely aligned with Operation Stand Down Tennessee. OSD TN is opening a third location on January 9th in Columbia to deliver more services in Middle Tennessee. Their Grand Opening will be January 18. Our close relationship with OSD TN is a shining example of how we continue to serve long after hanging up our uniforms.
Finally, on page 41 is a wonderful article about our Chapter President, LtCol Karon Uzzell-Baggett, USAF (Retired). Take care to read it twice. It shows how we never stop serving and how after our uniformed service finishes, we then find new ways to serve. Additionally, pages 64-65 of the same edition feature an outstanding article on the Surviving Spouse Liaison for our chapter and the council, Mrs. Patricia Bergquist. She is a true warrior when it comes to fighting for military members and their families
With the new year I begin serving as the Legislative Affairs Officer. This brings me to the beginning of a role that I have not served before. With that beginning and to make contacts that will serve us, I have written to Congressman Green and to our two senators to make contact with their staff members that relate to uniformed service matters.
Congressman Green’s staffer for uniformed services matters has been most helpful, and we have meet by Zoom. He will be keeping me informed of matters, and he will also welcome correspondence from us about our concerns. The senators have been less so.
Our MOAA Military Officer monthly magazine has a large section to let all of us know of initiatives and legislation activity. Let that reading be a primary way for you to be informed even as it lags behind reality through the publishing process. The annual National Defense Appropriation Act (NDAA) legislation passed in December, and of immediate importance to us is the 5.9% raise in retirement pension benefits and a raise in the prescription medications co-pay for those who use Express Scripts pharmacy.
What you can do to help me serve you better is to tell me which of many matters most interest you. And you can always write to your congressman to address your concerns – TN-07. What other districts are related to our Chapter membership? Good wishes to all of you.
MTC Members Participate in TNVET 2022 Day on the Hill
On 2 February 2022 hundreds of Veterans descended on the TN State Capitol in support of a number of legislative initiatives important to veterans.
MOAA was very well represented at the event with four Chapters (Fort Campbell Chapter, Memphis Chapter, Middle TN Chapter, and the Stones River Chapter) in attendance. MTC was represented by (pictured above from left to right) CDR (Ret.) Ted Edwards, USN; COL (Ret.) Doug Minton, USA; Lt. Col. (Ret.) Karon Uzzell-Baggett, USAF; LTC (Ret.) Thad Vann, USA; and LTC (Ret.) Mike Patenaude, USA. Not shown but very much present was COL (Ret.) Sam Whitson, USA who was in session as a State Representative.
Tennessee Veterans (TNVET) has completed work on their website and it is now ready for public consumption.
As a reminder our Chapter is associated with TNVET as the a result of our belonging to the Tennessee Council of Chapters, MOAA (TN CoC).
TNVET is currently composed of 12 state veteran organizations, who have join forces in a cooperative effort address the legislative needs of veterans, active duty military and their families. These members represent all the branches of the military service. The focus and goal is to work with legislators of the State of Tennessee to develop and support legislation that addresses the needs and issues of those who have served or are serving in our United States military forces.
As a reminder to our members, The Military Officers Association of America, and the Middle Tennessee Chapter as an affiliate, are Section 501 (c) (19) organizations. This allows contributions to be tax exempt. We are prohibited from advocating for issues that may represent one political platform over another or supporting a candidate for elected office. To this end, we limit our chapter advocacy to MOAA supported national issues and veteran and military issues at the state level that do not represent one political platform.
To protect our status, we want to ensure any literature from our chapter complies with these limitations. We provide some printed materials at our meetings and occasionally include handouts from our presenters. If an individual member wishes to provide material of interest at one of our meetings, we request an emailed copy of these materials by the last day of the preceding month, so our board has time to review.
2021 Veterans and Military Legislation from the 112th General Assembly
The attachment below comes from a database prepared by the state legislature to provide updates on bills. The description of each bill is created when the bill is generated, but doesn't always reflect what is going on with amendments, which may make the bill vary significantly.
What gets most of our veteran bills left in a committee at the end of the year is the dreaded "fiscal note". A fiscal note comes from the Comptrollers office and assigns an estimated cost of the bill (how much the state would lose, or gain, in revenue). These estimates can be pretty enlightening at what they consider the cost to be, even with input from the affected Department.
In almost every case, if there is a fiscal note which the governor has not funded on a bill, it stands little to no chance of passing.
For further study of a specific bill, go to Tennessee General Assembly Search (tn.gov) and type in the bill number (ie SB 1183 our bill for VA leave time). When the bill page comes up, look at the amendments and fiscal note pages for further information.
The Middle TN Chapter Board and Membership has a mandate to always remain politically nonpartisan as an affiliate organization of MOAA National. As such, we do not support or oppose any candidate for political office. We will periodically provide notice that a member is continuing to serve by running for office; however this is not to be construed as an endorsement of his or her political views.
Normally during this time frame each year we would organize visits to our elected officials when they are home during Congressional break and when the TN State Legislature is out of session. However, this being an election year we are unable to accomplish these tasks without being drawn into the election fray.
So, while the Chapter cannot become actively involved in supporting a candidate, we whole heartedly support the individual involvement of our members on a personal basis. An informed and active electorate is important to the success of our state and nation, so it is up to each of us to become informed on the issues and to vote and encourage all that you know to do so as well.