Surviving Spouse Corner: What’s in a Name?

Surviving Spouse Corner: What’s in a Name?

For many years, spouses of MOAA members were referred to as "auxiliary members" when their spouse member died.


When MOAA established the Auxiliary Member Advisory Committee (AMAC), a focus group of auxiliary members to advise the association’s president on matters of importance to those who had lost their military spouse, the committee suggested it might be time to move away from the term "auxiliary."


The military was starting to refer to family members who had lost a military member as "survivors." The definition of "auxiliary" -- giving help or support, especially to a more important person or thing -- was not how spouses felt. They were the ones who had managed the household, made frequent moves, gave up careers, and raised families while the military member served. They were "survivors."


Therefore, in 2013, MOAA’s board of directors voted to change the name "auxiliary member" to "surviving spouse" and declared them full members with all the rights and privileges of membership, including a position on the board of directors.


Since then, two surviving spouses have served on the board of directors: Joyce Hart, who was succeeded by Gail Joyce. In addition, Capt. Kathy Thorp, USN (Ret), is a surviving spouse on the board of directors.


The AMAC became the Surviving Spouse Advisory Council and remains at the forefront of leadership in MOAA for all surviving spouses. Through their dedication and hard work, they implemented the training module for surviving spouse liaisons for MOAA’s regional leadership conferences, contribute monthly columns to The MOAA Newsletter, chartered the Surviving Spouse Virtual Chapter, advocated for the successful elimination the SBP/DIC offset, established the annual Surviving Spouse Liaison Excellence Award, and conducted the first Spouses and Surviving Spouse Summit at MOAA’s 2021 annual meeting.


The Surviving Spouse Advisory Council also has expanded focus from advocacy only to a comprehensive development of services benefiting the spouse and surviving spouse community within MOAA.


We hope you will join the Surviving Spouse Advisory Council at the second annual Spouse and Surviving Spouse Summit at MOAA’s 2022 annual meeting in Kansas City, Mo., on Oct. 28.


The Surviving Spouse Advisory Council looks forward to continued support to educate, encourage, and engage spouses and surviving spouses of MOAA.


Read past Surviving Spouse Corners.


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About the Author

Lt. Col. Suzanne Walker, USA (Ret)
Lt. Col. Suzanne Walker, USA (Ret)

Walker joined the MOAA staff in 2004 as the executive assistant to the president and the association's meeting and conference director. Among her current duties, she serves as staff adviser to MOAA's Surviving Spouse Advisory Council.