by Jere Beery, Staff Writer
On Friday of last week a delegation from Operation Firing For Effect met with Mr. Brian K. Bond, Deputy Director, White House Office of Public Liaison, and Mr. Matt Flavin, Veterans/Military Family Liaison for the White House. Both Bond and Flavin are members of President Obama’s White House Staff.
The purpose of the meeting was to reaffirm President Obama’s commitment for mandatory funding of veterans healthcare and services. On May 2, 2008, then Illinois Senator Obama signed OFFE’s resolution for full mandated funding of the VA.
In attendance during the White House meeting; OFFE National Chairmen, Gene Simes, OFFE Public Relations Director, Jere Beery, OFFE Indiana Director of Operations, Lisa Wilken, OFFE Illinois Director of Operations, Millicent Bess, and OFFE Iowa Director of Operations, Jerry Bohr.
The meeting lasted about an hour and a half, and a number of subjects were addressed. In addition to full mandatory funding of veterans healthcare, Lisa Wilken presented a comprehensive report of the shortfalls of the VA in treating women veterans.
Wilken pointed out that although 10% of our military consist of female personnel; the VA is only capable of caring for 1% of these women veterans. Millicent Bess gave a report on Illinois veterans that were being routinely mistreated by law enforcement, and Jerry Bohr reported on the failure of state divorce courts to comply with federal statues contained in USC, Title 38, Section 5301.
Jere Beery gave an innovative and comprehensive presentation on the future of veterans’ healthcare. Beery pointed out that ‘healthcare’ was a valuable commodity in the twenty first century and could be used to entice enlistment and retention in our military. He also pointed out that ‘veteran affairs’ is directly related to national security (via enlistment, retention, and morale within the armed forces), and therefore affects all Americans. Beery suggested that by improving the quality and accessibility of VA healthcare we are in fact investing in national security.
He said between the new GI Bill and the promise of high quality healthcare benefits, recruiting efforts could be greatly enhanced. According to Jere Beery such a public relations campaign could result in increased enlistment numbers and improved morale within our all volunteer armed forces.
In short, the White House meeting was very productive and focused. Mr. Matt Flavin stated several times that President Obama was committed to improving and protecting the healthcare system that services our veterans. Mr. Flavin stated that the administration was devoted to bring the VA into the 21st century. He said that accountability and transparency were essential to winning the veteran’s trust in the VA system.
Before adjourning the meeting Mr. Gene Simes volunteered the OFFE team to help President Obama accomplish his objectives. Simes said Operation Firing For Effect was a grassroots organization that could be of great value to President Obama in the future.
He said that OFFE was in a unique position and was capable of addressing issues that the Congressionally Chartered veterans service organizations would either not address, or could not address be cause of the restrictions placed on them by their charter. Mr. Flavin assured Mr. Simes that he would bring these issues to the attention of President Obama.
Both Flavin and Bond took several pages of detailed notes.