By Dave Culmer
Military Veteran Service Organizations (VSO’s) tout themselves as advocates for Veterans, but all that glitters is certainly not gold and all that needs to be heard is rarely told.
In their respective individual monthly house organs, they feed you a lot of Veteran fluff, blind you with fancy footwork shuffle, work the old three card Monty on you, while they switch the pea from under the shell you bet on. The “bait and switch” con game could have easily been started by VSO’s.
Of the approximately 30 recognized VSOs chartered by Congress, Veterans seem to have gravitated to the American Legion (Am Leg), the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), Disabled American Veterans (DAV), and the Military Order of the Purple Hearts (MOPH), collectively known as the “Big Four.”
Chapter and Post Headquarters where monthly meetings are held, such as the Am Leg and the DAV, often have active bars and are frequently staffed by Veterans or by paid bartenders.
The “Advocate” stuff is my problem. None of the Big Four EVER bang on the desk of the Veterans Administration or the Department of Veterans Affairs, if you prefer, to effectively complain about REAL problems and issues.
A few examples would be a couple years ago at a VA facility in Texas, Norma Perez a Phd., told her adjudicators to classify service connected compensation claims for Post Trauma Stress Disorder (PTSD), as “personality disorders” to keep the VA from having to pay disability compensation. As a result, there were some “Dog and Pony show hearings” — as they used to say in the Service when a guy beat a court martial, “and back to duty.”
Unlike Elvis, Ms. Perez never even left the building! Not one VSO Commander ever spoke up or spoke out!
Phil Thomas, Los Angeles VA Hospital Director was charged with misappropriating funds from the VA funds, and quietly retired. Three years later Chuck Dorman was misappropriating funds from the same VA hospital, and he transferred to the opposite coast. Not a peep from any VSO.
A couple years ago at the Los Angeles VA, $200,000 of federal government money was embezzled from the Veterans golf course that is open to the public. The perpetrators were caught and plead “no contest” in a California Supreme Court, not a U.S. Federal Court. The judge tapped them on the wrist with a token $45,000 fine and they were set free to spend the other $155,000 as they pleased. Not a peep from one VSO and this same Veterans golf course remains open to the public operated by a special-interest, non-profit organization.
The current Los Angeles VA director, Donna Beiter, was adjudicated in federal court for violating a Veterans Constitutional Rights when she sent armed VA police outside the VA to trample on the First Amendment Free Speech Rights of members of the peaceful Old Veterans Guard while protesting the misappropriation of Veterans property.
That was two years ago and she’s still bagging a hefty six-figure annual salary as head of the largest VA in the nation, in full violation of her oath of office. Again, not a peep from one VSO commander as they all should be demanding her resignation or termination. Meanwhile, the homeless Veteran population continues to grow and the backlog of disability claims has reached catastrophic levels under her failed leadership.
The great VA “Land Grab” is occurring across the United States. Los Angeles has more than 20 parcels of land leased out to non-Veteran lessees and the VA will not account for the money realized through these leases.
Do you think it would be appropriate for a VSO to speak out, particularly since Donna Beiter is a co-defendant with Secretary Eric Shinseki in a lawsuit brought by the ACLU for the misuse of Veterans land and the mistreatment of disabled homeless Veterans? I think so!
Who do you think made Agent Orange a front page story 30years ago? A VSO? Hardly, it was Vietnam War Marine Combat Veteran Jim Hopkins who drove his personal jeep through the front lobby of the Los Angeles VA Wadsworth Hospital and started shooting his gun that finally got the attention of the politicians and VA.
VSO’s solicit nationally for donations and contributions for “Our Military Fighting Men and Women” but Mr. and Mrs. John Q, Public don’t know that the VSO’s are sucking up to the VA to keep the plush offices they are provided by, guess who? The Veterans Administration. Department of Veterans Affairs.
Perhaps if the VSO’s paid their own rent they might grow some hind legs on which to stand in order to say to the Department of Veterans Affairs, STOP! This is wrong it hurts Veterans, it’s illegal and against the law.
If the VSO’s paid their own rent in Washington they could stop groveling and sucking up to the VA and would gain the self-respect that they THINK they now have.
Lastly, if there was a nationwide movement for each of the 24 million American Veterans who are members of a Service Organization, to stop paying their monthly and annual dues, do you think the VSO’s would get the message?
Your Friendly America Legion Service Officer, Dave Culmer
About the Writer: Dave Culmer, Retired, U.S. Marine Corp – Korean and Vietnam War Veteran. Dave is a Lifetime Member of Disabled American Veterans, Chairman of the National Veterans Foundation; Service Director for the American Legion of the Los Angeles County Council; Greater Los Angeles Mental Health Consumer Advocacy Council; Past Chairman, Los Angeles County Veterans Advisory Commission.