Surviving Spouse Corner: Reflecting on 2021

Surviving Spouse Corner: Reflecting on 2021
Surviving Spouse Advisory Council member Pat Green addresses MOAA members and staff at a gathering in Arlington, Va., in October 2021. (Sean Shanahan/for MOAA)

The Surviving Spouse Advisory Council (SSAC) began 2021 once again dealing with the fallout of the pandemic. Yet, we continued to support surviving spouses and spouses in a positive way and promote MOAA’s strategic priorities at every opportunity through education, encouragement, and engagement. We are proud of what we were able to accomplish during a most unsettling time.


Some of our accomplishments for 2021 include:


Surviving Spouse Liaison Training. SSAC members led surviving spouse liaison trainings during virtual meetings of four Regional Leadership Workshops and one in-person workshop. Average attendance for each workshop was 120, with 20 attending the surviving spouse liaison training. The year’s final workshop was held in person in San Diego, where about 125 council and chapter leaders registered and 26 participated in our training. SSAC members continue to finetune the training based on evaluations and comments from participants.


Surviving Spouse Virtual Chapter. Membership continues to grow, with 177 members from 35 states. The chapter now meets monthly, on the third Tuesday of each month.  Every other month is a business meeting with a speaker and the other months are an informal social gathering to exchange information and ideas. Attendance varies, but usually includes 30 at the social meetings and about 60 at a more formal meeting.    Former SSAC member Micki Costello is president with Gail Joyce as vice president of the virtual chapter. For more information, visit the Surviving Spouse section of


Articles for MOAA Newsletters. SSAC members write monthly Surviving Spouse Corners, which are published on the first Thursday of each month in The MOAA NewsletterRead past Surviving Spouse Corners.


Surviving Spouse Liaison Excellence Award. This year, we were able to choose two excellent recipients of the award — one representing a chapter and one representing a council. Read more about the recipients, Donna Martin of the Greater Birmingham (Ala.) Chapter, and Sharon Douglas of the Arizona Council of Chapters. Congratulations to two very deserving, hardworking surviving spouses!


Surviving Spouse/Spouse Summit. The highlight of the year was a new endeavor, “The Surviving Spouse/Spouse Summit,” held during the MOAA annual meeting in October in Arlington, Va. Over 75 surviving spouses, spouses, and military members attended the inaugural two-hour event that featured five panelists who spoke about relevant issues. Pat Green, of the SSAC, moderated the panel discussion and the lively question-and-answer session that followed. Overall, it was a huge success and something we plan to build on for future events. 


Chapter Leaders Roundtable Discussion. SSAC members participated in the roundtable discussions about important chapter issues. This was an excellent opportunity for SSAC members to get to know chapter leaders from other states. 


MOAA Surviving Spouses and Friends Facebook Group. This group has over 600 members and provides updated information on important surviving spouse issues, especially regarding the Surviving Benefit Plan/Dependency and Indemnity Compensation offset. Former SSAC member Kathy Prout is the administrator, with current members Kathy Thorp and Nancy Mullen assisting. 


Future Projects. We will continue to work on increasing surviving spouse membership for chapters, national MOAA, and the virtual chapter. We plan to develop a webinar on surviving spouse and spouse issues, and we will continue work on organizing future Surviving Spouse/Spouse Summits. Improving the training guidelines and support materials will also be at the top of our to-do list for 2022. We look forward to a very productive and exciting 2022.


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About the Author

Virginia "Gail" Joyce, Surviving Spouse
Virginia "Gail" Joyce, Surviving  Spouse

Joyce is a MOAA board member and chair of the Surviving Spouse Virtual Chapter.