April 23, 2008
Congressman Bob Filner and OFFE Meet in DC
Operation Firing For Effect delegation in room 334, Canon House Building
On Tuesday, April 15th, a delegation of approximately 40 civic leaders and veteran’s advocates from Operation Firing For Effect (OFFE) met face-to-face with Chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee, California Congressman, Bob Filner. The meeting was held in room 334 of the Cannon House Building.
Prior to the start of the OFFE presentation, Debra Simpson from Senator Hilary Clinton’s office came into the room just long enough to tell the gallery that she had a meeting to attend at the Pentagon and would not be able to stay. But, she did show up and sign in.
Once Congressman Bob Filner arrived, OFFE Public Relations Director, Jere Beery opened the OFFE presentation with a brief introduction of the room to the Congressman. Next, OFFE National Chairman, Gene Simes took the floor and briefly explained why we had come to DC, and to introduce a video statement filmed exclusively for OFFE by country music star, Willie Nelson (U.S. Air Force veteran). During the compelling 6 minute video titled; ‘911’, Willie Nelson states; “Now is the time for us as proud Americans to revaluate, improve, and protect the healthcare system that services our veterans. The time has come for America to stand up for our troops”. Willie Nelson is a proud supporter of full mandatory funding of veteran’s healthcare, and celebrity spokesperson for the OFFE group.
Also attending the meeting were OFFE leaders from as far away as California and New Mexico, to Ohio and Indiana. The state of Illinois was represented by a number of OFFE delegates, and their presentation for full funding of the VA healthcare system included two short videos featuring; Illinois Lieutenant Governor, Pat Quinn, and Cook County Commissioner, Larry Suffretin. The Illinois videos focused on the recent 94% approval from the state’s primary ballot for full mandated funding of the VA from 23 counties in that state.
It was very obvious to everyone in attendance that Congressman Filner was impressed by the words of Mr. Willie Nelson, Pat Quinn, and Larry Sufferton.
Congressman Filner then took the floor to address the OFFE group. For the next 80 minutes the Congressman addressed the attendees. He encouraged OFFE to continue doing what we are doing, and he reinforced every goal we were attempting to accomplish. Congressman Filner said, “Full mandatory funding would take the politics out of the yearly budget debates, and eliminate the attachment of ‘pork’ to VA spending. He also said, in his opinion, all Agent Orange claims from Vietnam era vets should be approved immediately, including blue water vets. There is no logical or ethical reason to deny healthcare coverage and/or compensation to any veteran that is sick and has served this country honorably. Congressman Filner was well received by the OFFE delegation, and the Congressman appeared to be very impressed with OFFE’s presentation.
The OFFE New Mexico delegation was headed-up by Deputy Secretary of the New Mexico, Department of Veterans Affairs, Joe Thergood, and NFL star Doug Craft. Both men echoed the call for full mandatory funding of veteran’s healthcare and pledged their continued support of OFFE and our objectives.
Another highlight of the meeting with Congressman Filner was when OFFE Public Relations Director, Jere Beery suggested the Congressman author a Bill placing a ‘moratorium’ of all scheduled VA closings and reductions of veteran’s healthcare and medical services. The moratorium would include a freeze on all future sales and leases of VA property, until such time Congress has the opportunity to review the state and future of veteran’s healthcare in this country. Congressman Filner commented twice on the moratorium concept, and said he would follow up on the idea. At the conclusion of the Congressman’s talk, it was very apparent that this Congressman ‘gets it’. Everyone in attendance agreed that our former military families in this country have a real show of advocacy from Congressman Bob Filner. So, suffice to say, OFFE expects to see some fireworks within the Committee on Veterans Affairs in the very near future.
One other noteworthy moment of the all-afternoon meeting was when Senator Barack Obama’s representative, Mr. Erick Person (8 year Marine veteran), was challenged by several supporters from the OFFE Illinois delegation. Apparently, Senator Obama had snubbed these very same veterans last year - and the OFFE Team from Chicago didn’t miss a beat to grasp the opportunity to voice their disappointment with the Senator’s aide. At one point, OFFE Director of Operations for Illinois, Mr. John Monaghan asked Mr. Person if Senator Obama had voted in his home state’s primary election in February. According to Mr. Person, he was fairly certain that Senator Obama had indeed voted in the Illinois primary. Mr. Monaghan then asked him if he thought Senator Obama read the entire ballot. Once again, Mr. Person replied with an educated guess of, probably. Monaghan then asked if Senator Obama was aware that over 1.3 million votes from 23 counties in his home state had approved mandatory full funding of veteran’s healthcare on their primary ballot with a 94% approval, and that Senator Obama has yet to acknowledge the voices of the voters in his own state concerning the future of veteran’s healthcare. How did Senator Obama vote on this issue? Monaghan asked the Senators aide. Mr. Person was somewhat speechless and apologetic for not knowing how his boss voted on this very important issue. Mr. Erick Person had walked into a hornet’s nest, and would later be over-heard to say, “I now know why everyone calls your movement; Operation Firing For Effect”. Before he left, Mr. Person re-assured the OFFE Team several times that he would personally deliver our message to Senator Obama with as much passion as he had received it.
All in all, everything went very well in Washington last Tuesday. The OFFE Team, as a group, is very difficult to go up against in a debate. They know their subject matter very well, and it showed. From homeless veteran concerns, to issues of importance to female veterans, to the protection of veteran’s disability compensation from third party awards in civil courts, to Native American veterans traveling hundreds of miles to the closest VA medical center for their earned healthcare, to blocking efforts to use VA property and assets for purposes other than servicing our veterans, OFFE fired one volley after another. It would be impossible for me to explain all of the positive ideas and input everyone contributed in a single press release. However, we will have the link to Congressman Bob Filner’s comments posted on our web site soon, www.offe2008.org. I strongly recommend everyone take the time to hear what Congressman Filner has to say about the current political state of veteran’s healthcare.
Room 334, of the Cannon House Building was reserved for this meeting many weeks in advance by OFFE National Chairman, Gene D. Simes.
Other OFFE speakers included; Eric Massa / Congressional Candidate from New York, Bruce Parry, Dave Rogers, Fred Gajewski, Robert Daly / Coalition of Veteran’s Organizations (CVO) of Illinois, Lisa Wilkin / OFFE Director of Operations Indiana, Calvin Murphy / OFFE Director of Operations Michigan, John Monaghan / OFFE Director of Operations Illinois, Rusty Rustan / OFFE Director of Operations California, Larry Weese / Director of Operations Ohio, Tom Sullivan / OFFE Native American Affairs, Ted Roybal / OFFE Director of Operations New Mexico, John Tong / Circle of Friends for American Veterans.
Additional attendees include; Commander Vincent P. McCabe / Military Order of the Purple Heart, Chapter 179, Sam Lutvak / Past Commander of the Jewish War Veterans, Ethel H. Fine / Professor of Anthropology, Stuart Nelson / Blinded Veterans Association, Jim Semerad / Navy League, Fred Gersh / OFFE Washington DC Representative, Milton Hanas / OFFE Treasurer; Bob Fink / OFFE Historian, OFFE supporters; Jessica Monaghan, Gabriel Gallogs, Mitchell Smith, Don Stout, Andy Koelz, and Henry Moore.
Although Senator John McCain’s office promised several times prior to the meeting to send a representative or aid, McCain’s office was a no-show. Since the 15th, Gene Simes has reestablished communication with Senator McCain’s office.
The OFFE Team is now tackling their Willie Nelson Memorial Day Signature Guitar Raffle scheduled for Monday (Memorial Day) May 26th in Waterloo, New York. If you would like to take a chance on winning this very special ‘Support Our Troops’ Willie Nelson autographed acoustic guitar, you will find entry form at or web site also, www.offe2008.org. Proceeds will be used to produce several public announcements featuring Willie Nelson (and possibly some of his friends) for airing prior to the November general election. The message these PSA’s are meant to convey is; regardless of which political party moves into the White House after the November election, the American people demand veteran’s healthcare be mandated and fully funded.
Special thanks to Mr. John Blanchard and NASA Education Corporation for sending a film crew to document the meeting. Thank you Eric Behler and Jimmy Warren!
We will have additional video posted on YouTube as soon as possible. Stay tuned!
[Postscript] Since the April 15th meeting in DC, OFFE has been contacted by the office of Texas Congressman Chet Edwards. Mr. John Conger is Legislative Director for Congressman Edwards, and has voiced an interest in several innovated concepts currently being developed by Operation Firing For Effect.