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Former Navy Corpsman & Actor Bill Cosby Speaks Out on Veterans’ Healthcare

By Staff Writer: Rick Townsend 

September 11, 2006
(Special Edition)

Last week, on September 6th, well-known actor and civic activist Bill Cosby was the guest speaker at a veteran’s rights rally sponsored by ‘Operation Firing For Effect’ in Newark, New Jersey. Mr. Cosby publicly voiced his concerns about the current state of veterans’ healthcare in the U.S. The Newark Rally was the latest rally in a continuing series of events sponsored by the grassroots veteran’s rights group, Operation Firing For Effect (OFFE).

Bill Cosby, a well-known television and movie personality, flew in from Los Angeles to speak at the rally, and said he agreed to fit the rally into his schedule because he believes veteran’s issues have been lost as the debate in Washington remains focused on the current wars. Bill Cosby is also a former U.S. Navy Corpsman who served for 4 years during the 1950s and saw firsthand the horrors of war injuries and death. 



Former Navy Corpsman Bill Cosby addresses veterans

and supporters at OFFE Rally

"I can't believe they bring home our warriors and then turn out the light on them," said Cosby. "People coming home sick and not allowed to be. This is a cause no one can deny."

Cosby pointed out that when we were attacked (on 9/11/2001), all the politicians sang 'God Bless America’. "Then they went in a back room and said 'Let's make some cutbacks (to veterans programs)," Cosby added.

In a phone interview, New Jersey OFFE Chairman and rally organizer, Don Scholtes said, “The rally was extremely positive and powerful and I predict the overall effects from this event are yet to be recognized. Mr. Cosby’s comments were right on the mark,” Scholtes stated.


Scholtes told the FBN that he was very pleased with the way the rally unfolded. “Mr. Cosby has gained a great deal of respect and admiration from many veterans across this country, especially our disabled veterans. His endorsement and active involvement in the grassroots movement to improve and protect the healthcare entitlements earned by our former military personnel makes Mr. Cosby a ‘Great American’ under any definition,” Scholtes said. 


The primary issue highlighted by the Newark Rally was mandatory / assured funding for veterans’ healthcare and services. On March 16, 2006, the United States Senate voted against mandatory funding for veterans’ healthcare (Ref: Stabenow Amendment No. 3141), which would have guaranteed assured funding for veterans’ healthcare. The Amendment was defeated by the narrowest of margins, eight votes, (YEA 46 / NAY 54). Many veterans across the country were very disappointed that it took only 8 Senators to determine the failure of an Amendment that would have affected over 26 million veterans.

OFFE is a national grassroots veteran’s rights organization that has been pushing for increased funding for veterans' medical care and services. OFFE is the creation of Gene Simes and Veterans For Veteran Connect, Inc. VFVC is a registered non-profit 501 organization devoted to providing a voice for this country’s former military personnel and their families on issues of importance to them. Although the VFVC is not a Congressionally Chartered veterans’ service organization (NVSO), many veterans have joined this grassroots effort in hopes of accomplishing things the NVSOs cannot, because the NVSOs can only do so much under the Congressional restrictions of their charters.    

Mr. Gene Simes (OFFE) attended and spoke during the 4 hour rally. Simes told the group that if they did nothing, nothing would change. “The future treatment of our veterans is in our hands. We have the power to influence the way our children and grandchildren are treated if they join the U.S. military. Today’s infants are tomorrow’s military forces,” Simes told the 200+ group. “Mr. Cosby is the first celebrity to speak out in support of increased funding for veterans’ healthcare,” Simes said. “I pray that other celebrities will follow Mr. Cosby’s lead and join our national movement to improve and protect the entitlements and services earned by our men and women in uniform,” Simes added.  


Cosby receives standing ovation from veterans and supporters


OFFE Public Relations Director [Name Omitted] of Jefferson Ohio also spoke at the rally. [Name Omitted] is a long time veteran’s rights advocate who has been at the forefront in the battle to protect veteran’s entitlements and services for more than 20 years. [Name Omitted] pointed out the connection between veteran’s affairs and military enlistment and retention. "Veterans’ affairs are a national security issue. How are we going to recruit a young American whose father has post-traumatic stress from Vietnam or Iraq and can't get help from the VA because the wait is too long or he makes too much money or doesn’t have a Purple Heart?," [Name Omitted] asked. “It used to be the VA was for all veterans in need of medical care or educational assistance or help buying a house. A veteran was a veteran. It appears that just joining the military no longer means as much any more, and that is not a good thing,” [Name Omitted] added.   


U.S. Navy veteran Bill Cosby talks to fellow veterans about issues important to them


Other speakers at the OFFE Rally were; Herb Worthington, past president VVA of NJ who spoke about veteran’s entitlements; Joseph Tuckman, who talked about the needs of homeless veterans; Patrick Kelly, addressed Anthrax vaccinations; Bob Stephens, talked about living with PTSD; Dr. Walter Glenn Folrek, spoke on PTSD care; Rev. Louise Bates Jennings, spoke on homeless outreach programs; Mayor Wayne Smith, of Livingston NJ publicly pledged his support for our mandatory funding; Jim Collura, represented the Newark Counsel on Veterans Affairs; Dolores Reed, addressed VA inefficiencies; Rep. Frank Pallone, (D-6th Dist.), who spoke at the rally said that the best way for veterans to get and keep Congress' attention is to keep raising their issues.


OFFE Rally organizers; Bob Stephens, Former Navy Corpsman & Actor Bill Cosby, Don Scholtes, and Bob Whitley pose for pictures after the rally

In a FBN phone inquiry, a spokesman for the Veterans Administration in Washington declined to address any specific criticisms of the agency's budget at last week’s OFFE rally. Instead, he cited a speech President Bush gave to the American Legion the week before, in which President Bush noted that the budget for veterans' health care has grown 75 percent since he took office.

OFFE organizers counter that the increases haven't kept pace with a patient population that has grown from 4 million to 7.5 million. Many Vietnam veterans have begun to use the system for the first time and are joined by veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan.

OFFE’s next project is a meeting with law makers and elected officials in Washington, DC on September 18, 2006. For more information, visit:



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