By Morgan Brown and Jim Lokovic
As we visit chapters and discuss the power of membership, the topic of AFSA’s participation in The Military Coalition (TMC) often comes up. As an individual Association, our current membership strength is over 100,000 members. However the combined membership of the 32 associations that comprise TMC is about 5.5 million. Some have asked, “Since the TMC is powerful due to its collective size, why don’t all of the TMC associations just incorporate into one giant association?”
The reason is that, although the TMC associations come together on issues of common concern, the core missions of the individual TMC associations are not the same. AFSA’s unique, primary focus is on the well-being of current and past Air Force enlisted members of all components (Active duty, Guard, and Reserve), and their family members and survivors. However, other associations focus primarily on commissioned officers, or veterans, or retirees, or members of the Selected Reserve, or military family members, or survivors. The way associations do business and their non-profit status may also vary. For example, several TMC associations are educational associations, while some are actual on-the-Hill lobbying groups, like AFSA. Some, like AFSA, are federally chartered in public law, others are not. You can take a look at the TMC member associations and their individual natures/missions by going to: http://www.themilitarycoalition.org.
While TMC as a whole effectively capitalizes on collective power, the individual associations sometimes see issues differently. A case in point was a recent hearing on the proposals of the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission (MCRMC), or more specifically, on recommendations to change the military retirement and healthcare systems. While we have reported to our members about that hearing and our strong position on the MCRMC proposals—and we have let Congress know where we stand--suffice it to say that positions of the handful of associations called to testify before that particular hearing varied. Some said they are ready for TRICARE to go away and for it to be replaced by a system similar to that used by federal civilians. And some associations are ready to try a new, perhaps less certain, blended military retirement system that would provide a benefit for shorter lengths of service and involve market investments.
AFSA is a proud member of The Military Coalition. There are many, many issues of common concern, and the power of TMC’s collective membership comes into influential play in generating Congressional support. The energy and influence of the TMC has made a great difference in the lives of those who have served and those who support them. However, all TMC associations are not the same; each primarily exists to promote the interests of its members—and that’s a good thing.
But also please keep in mind that on those matters that are unique to our members, we need the power to compete in the arena of differing proposals. To succeed, we must continue to grow—to get more members. Therefore, if you want to help make sure that this Association is a “big fish” in the Congressional pond, please do your part by encouraging your friends and colleagues to join us. It can make a real difference when we want our Voice to stand out among the many associations.
AFSA Has Your Back as Battles Take Shape
Hello AFSA Nation. As always, thank you for your continued support of our Association. We remain ever committed to being “The Voice of the Enlisted.” Your support and membership provide the strength we need to be effective at the Chapter levels, and on Capitol Hill.
2015 has started with a bang! I hope that you are taking advantage of our new 5 Year for $25 Cyber Membership. You get all the benefits of a traditional membership with one exception. You receive a digital copy of our AFSA Magazine rather than a hard copy. For those members desiring a hard copy, we still have our traditional membership rates and terms.
2015 will be a very busy year from a legislative standpoint. You can count on AFSA to be there advocating for you when it counts the most. Sequestration budgets are still putting a squeeze on our military leaders who are fighting to try to make ends meet. Our troop strength is down challenging our nation’s ability to respond when our Air Force is called into action. Many key modernization programs are not receiving the funds they need jeopardizing our ability to equip our Airman at needed levels. In addition, cuts to benefits each and every one of you count on are being proposed.
Here is a short list of things that keep AFSA awake at night that we are addressing. Your membership dollars are at work!
· Pay: The Cost of Living continues to rise each year. Unfortunately, pay increases and COLA are not keeping pace. Each year we lose more and more buying power. The past two years, the 1.8 percent pay raise passed into law by Congress was not upheld. Instead, we received 1.0 percent which cost many of us hundreds of dollars each year. We were relieved that some plans to freeze pay raises were not enacted. However, know that AFSA will tell your story to all of the 535 members of Congress who will listen. All Airmen wearing the uniform, and those retirees who wore the uniform, deserve pay raises and COLA increases that at least keep up with Cost of Living increases. We will share this story.
· Healthcare: Proposed healthcare increases for all military provided services have been proposed. Increases impact all TRICARE services, prescription costs, co-pays, and more. AFSA is continually fighting to ensure that any increases are minimal. Up to this point, we have been unable to prevent some erosion of our healthcare benefits. However, if you compare what was proposed versus what actually occurred, we can take pride in working to prevent many more worst case scenarios.
· Commissary: Every year Congress wants to cut commissary subsidies that will raise store prices, reduce hours, and potentially result in closure of some stores. You can thank AFSA and other member groups of The Military Coalition—Congress’s plans fail! The Commissaries are alive for now!
· Education: AFSA will continue to fight to ensure reasonable Tuition Assistance is available to all eligible. In addition, we will resist plans to erode benefits as recommended under the Post 9-11 GI Bill!
· Retirement: Massive changes are being proposed to our military retirement system. We are pleased to announce that AFSA’s work with The Military Coalition has resulted in Congressional pledges to grandfather in any changes. Regardless, some proposed changes are radical to say the least. AFSA will pay close attention to all proposed changes, educate our membership on planned changes, and fight valiantly to ensure our retirement system remains fair and viable!
As always, feel free to contact me at any time. As International President, O look forward to your cards and letters to ensure your AFSA remains focused and relevant. God Bless You—and God Bless America! My mail address is AFSA.President@roisc.com.