How to Fix the Problem of Stolen Valor at VSOs

| May 18, 2014

This article is a bit long. And it’s probably going to p!ss off a few folks.

However, I don’t much care if it does. I’m fed up with a particular problem, and I’m going to vent.

And I’m also going to identify a way to fix the problem.

Introduction: Stolen Valor (and More) at VSOs

I don’t think that anyone would dispute the fact that there is a serious problem in Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs). If anyone doubts this I invite them to take a look at this short list of “stellar individuals” – which only scratches the surface of this type of sh!tbaggery:

All were frauds in one respect or another. Many claimed honors they simply didn’t rate or experience/service they simply didn’t have. Some didn’t qualify for VSO membership at all. At least two of them turned out to be thieves of more than valor – one stole from fellow vets, while the other apparently stole from his own family.

(Note: I’m not singling out VFW or the American Legion here. I’m certain there are sh!tbags in other VSOs who are just as fraudulent as the above Nasty Nine. But as far as I can tell, we haven’t busted any of those here at TAH.)

As I said:  this list only scratches the surface. And don’t even get me started about the fakes we’ve seen in Motorcycle Clubs or other organizations.

The common factor for all of these walking anal orifices? Besides the fact that they’re all sh!tbags of the first order, they managed to join their VSO and/or make their claims because either (1) they were never asked to provide proof, or (2) they provided fake docs. Except in the case of Boyer, I rather doubt their local post/chapter members knew they were “rockin’ the lie” and gave them a pass. And as longtime TAH readers know, Boyer’s case is somewhat different from most. (smile)

In short, the situation is SNAFU – but not FUBAR.  What I’m going to do is tell our VSOs (and any other organization that needs to verify military service) how they can un-f**k the current situation and fix the problem. The solution is simple, affordable, and is implementable within two to three years.

It can happen. But it won’t happen unless the VSO membership at large demands it.

The Source of the Problem

The source of the problem, IMO, is simple: the VSOs trust applicants. They accept documentation provided by applicants as Gospel truth, without any form of independent verification.

Years ago, that worked. First, there really was no choice. Independent verification really wasn’t possible right after World War II or the Korean War. And even during Vietnam, the process wasn’t all that readily available or well-known.

Moreover, fake documents were easier to spot. Photocopiers were just not that common until after Vietnam, nor were they as good as they are today. Also, the documentation issued as proof of having served in the military (the DD 214) was until fairly recently produced on multipart forms. More people had served, so there were many who knew what “right looked like”.

The situation today is different. DD 214s are printed on plain paper, on a laser printer. They no longer have physical signatures. And there are reputedly numerous ways to produce or acquire fake documents.

In short:  accepting documents today directly from an applicant is now a crapshoot. A knowledgeable faker can produce or acquire passable fake docs – legality be damned. And at the same time, because fewer serve today fewer folks are around who know what “right looks like” when it comes to military separation documents.

A Possible Fix

The fix is simple. VSOs must quit freaking accepting documentation provided directly by individuals as documentation of eligibility – now. It’s simply too easy for unscrupulous individuals to fabricate or otherwise acquire passable fake documents regarding service, awards, qualifications, and the like.

This brings up a legitimate question: how in the world will VSOs verify eligibility for membership?

Fair question. However, there’s a simple way to do that. Require the documents proving eligibility to be sent directly to the VSO post/chapter from official sources. That greatly reduces the opportunity for fraud.

How to Verify – With Trust

Here’s the procedure a VSO would need to use to accomplish the above.

Step 1: at your next National Convention, adopt changes to your constitution requiring the following:

a. All members must provide proof of eligibility for membership.

b. Documents verifying membership eligibility will not be accepted directly from individuals. They must be received from official sources.

c. Membership shall be provisional until such time as documentation is received from official sources verifying the applicant’s eligibility.

d. Items a-c above apply to current members as well. Current members shall be retained as full members until such time as their proof of eligibility is received from official sources. On receipt, it will be reviewed. If they are found to be ineligible, their membership shall be immediately revoked.

e. All membership revocations will be immediately reported to the VSOs national headquarters.

f. Items a-c will be implemented immediately. Items d. and e. shall be completed within two years.

g. Any posts/chapters not complying with a-f shall have their post/chapter charter revoked.

Step 2: Implement the following at post/chapter level.

a. Require all current members to sign a SF180 allowing release of unredacted copies of all their DD 214s and DD 215s (or, for World War II veterans, the equivalent documents) to the VSO post/chapter. (The unredacted documents are required to guard against the possibility of error due to a name collision and for those VSOs requiring service characterized as honorable.)  For those currently still serving, require a memo from their military personnel office verifying eligibility to be sent directly to the VSO.

b. Require the same of new applicants.

c. Establish a suspense tracking file for both current members and new applicants.

d. New applicants applying are provisional members until such time as their proof of eligibility is received from official sources.

e. Existing members are retained if documentation received shows they are eligible. If it does not, they are dismissed from the organization.

Appropriate appeals and/or “reclama” processes will also need to be developed, as on rare occasion NPRC “screws the pooch”. But that’s frankly the easy part. Getting the above implemented is the “biggie”.

Funding Verification

Funding this initiative would be very simple. A records request – whether a FOIA or a limited authorized release – typically costs the sender less than a dollar. The cost is for a first-class stamp; an envelope; a sheet or two of paper; and the cost of printing that sheet or two of paper.

There’s really little additional cost. The only ones I can possibly think of is the additional time needed to (1) mail the request, and (2) maintaining the suspense file for members in probationary status while they are awaiting a reply from NPRC.  And most if not all of that is unpaid volunteer time, since I’m relatively certain that most VSO post/chapter officers serve as volunteers.

There is no additional cost with reviewing the documents received from official sources. The VSO would presumably do that anyway, whether the documents were received from the individual or via mail.

On rare occasions, a follow-up request might need to be submitted. That would also be covered by the funding method I describe.

Bottom line: for most posts, annual monetary costs for verification should be the cost of (1) a roll of stamps, (2) a box of 100 envelopes, (3) a ream of paper, and (4) some printer ink/toner. Let’s say $75 per year to be generous.

Here’s how to fund the verification. There are two options.

Option 1: raise the local post portion of the VSO post’s dues by $1 annually.  Put the extra $1 per member into a separate fund earmarked to fund verification activities. Any surplus above $75 at the end of the year would go to the post’s general fund.

Option 2: create a separate fund for verification activities. Assess each applicant a $1 non-refundable fee to fund those verification activities. Any surplus above $75 at the end of the year would go to the post’s general fund.

One-time verification of existing members would be funded by a special, one-time verification fee of $1, assessed to each member. The proceeds from this collection would go into the verification fund noted above. (This would IMO probably also give an “early warning” of who might be “dirty”, as I’m relatively certain they’ll be among those complaining loudly and publicly about having to cough up $1 for independent verification of their qualifications.)

Possible Objections and Their Counters

Obviously, this isn’t an exhaustive list.  But I think these will be the most common objections.  So I’ve presented them here, along with suggested (and in some cases, somewhat smartassed) answers for each.

Objection 1: “What, don’t you trust me?”

Answer (to new applicants): “We don’t know you from Adam (or Eve, depending on the applicant’s gender). Why the hell should we trust you, given the number of fakes out there?”

Answer (to existing members): “Sadly, we can’t. We’ve found too many fakes, some of whom were in leadership positions and/or who scammed their posts/chapters. Sorry, but we need to do a one-time mass verification to root out fakers.”

Objection 2: “That violates my privacy! You can’t ask me to do that – it’s against the law!”

Answer: “Um, no it doesn’t, and it isn’t. Membership in (whatever VSO) is voluntary. The Privacy Act’s restrictions don’t in general apply to private organizations, anyway. Besides, this is no different than applying for a loan. Try doing that without answering their questions and see how far that gets you.”

Objection 3: “This is a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist!” or “This isn’t necessary!”

Answer: “Nice to meet you, Pollyanna. Now, welcome to the real world. Yeah, the problem exists and this is indeed necessary. See TAH for literally dozens of examples. Now, do you want to be a member or not?”

Objection 4: “How do I know you’ll keep my info private?”

Answer: “Well, you were willing to give us a copy of your DD 214 before, which contains the same info. The NPRC already has your info on file. Why are you objecting to asking for the same info from official sources that you were willing to give us yourself a few minutes ago?”

Objection 5: “This is an outrage!”

Answer: “So is Stolen Valor. Which you wanna be: part of the solution, or part of the problem?”

Objection 6: “I’m calling my Congressman!”

Answer: “Want his address and phone number? I kinda doubt he’s going on the record as favoring helping someone commit Stolen Valor. But maybe I’m wrong. Knock yourself out.”

Conclusion

The above isn’t perfect; it will doubtless need a few tweaks.  As I noted above, some kind of appeals process will almost certainly be necessary, if for not other reason than to account for potential government error.  And a second similar piece will be needed for VSOs (like DAV) that require proof of disability – though a simple letter from the individual requesting the standard VA disability letter be mailed directly to the VSO requiring same should be all that’s required in such cases.

But there’s also no doubt in my mind that this – with possibly a few mods – will work. And while it won’t completely fix the problem, it will reduce it by multiple orders of magnitude.

But I’m still not holding my breath.

Why? Because as the old saying goes – “Money talks; BS walks”. And maybe I’m just getting old and cynical, but I doubt any of the VSOs want to chance seeing a big chunk of their membership walk.

Because if that chunk walks, not only does their BS walk. So does their dues money.

. . .

OK, I’m getting down off the soapbox now. Fire away!

Category: Pointless blather, Veterans Issues, Who knows

Comments (51)

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  1. HMCS(FMF) ret says:

    Hondo – you know how I feel about it. While it won’t get rid of all of the turds in the punchbowl, it will get the mess under control.

    One question – what to do about those that embellish their awards/rank (like Bernasty, Toney, Visconi)?

    • Enigma4you says:

      Honor Code…

      • HMCS(FMF) ret says:

        “Code of Conduct”… you join our VSO, you follow the following code (and sign a copy of it, to be maintained in your tickler file). Post does a formal investigation on serious infractions of the code, presents it to the membership and puts it to a vote (jury of their peers). Report member dismissals to State and National for entry into a national database that all VSO’s can access (not just for membership, but for providing vets with assistance for disability).

        If a person was booted out for a violation of the Code, allow them to use the local organization to help them with VA issues (GI Bill, disability claims, etc.). It would be easy to turn them away completely, but then they would be a poster child for the press to use (“the VSO’s don’t take care of their own”) – allow them associate membership at most (use facilities, bingo night, etc.), but no involvement in formal post functions, like meetings. Maybe even consider readmission after a period of time, based on the infraction severity.

        One last thing – Posting of member profiles on post website. Info must be vetted by leadership prior to putting up on the website. Do it like a professional resume or CV (photo, brief bio and position at the post). I’m sure that the VFW post that had Bernath’s bio caught all sorts of Hell for all of the crap he put on there (plus it looked like shit).

  2. ATerminalLanceCoolie says:

    HCMS, my vote on embellishment is give them one chance to repent. If they’re willing to cease their unscrupulous activity, and “go straight”, let them. If they won’t admit their error then and there, screw them. They don’t deserve the right to be a part of that VSO if they’re willing to continue their lies. Give them their chance to avoid being on TAH’s douchebag rolls. Just make sure that’s the only chance they get.

  3. Jonn Lilyea says:

    Maybe they don’t need to do FOIAs on every member, but at least do one on their officers. While it would be nice that they could do one on the complete membership, they could save themselves a lot of embarrassment if their officers were squeaky clean – and knowing that they’re going to be checked might prevent the phonies from moving into leadership roles.

    • OldSargeUSAR says:

      Would the clerical staff at St Louis go a little nutz when the blizzard of FOIAs arrives? Possible leading to less than thorough checking of records.
      Pls excuse my being cynical, skeptical….

      • Hondo says:

        Indeed a possibility, OldSargeUSAR. But since there’s no way for the VSOs to check official Federal records themselves, it’s either take that risk or live with the current situation.

        I don’t think the current situation is tolerable any more. But I also don’t know of any other alternative than the one I’ve suggested if VSOs are going to get serious about ridding themselves of valor thieves.

        I’m open to suggestion, though. Better ideas are always welcome.

        • PFM says:

          Well, any Active or Guard/Reserve could log on to IPERMS. All you need is a CAC reader and a system with the software loaded. And an internet connection, of course :). I carry around a little netbook for when I travel.

    • HMCS(FMF) ret says:

      Jonn, that probably is a good start, but I’d take it a step further. If a member is up for a leadership role, they sign a SF-180 and submit it as part of the process. Stop any phony that may be playing the system before they take a leadership position. No docs from NPRC, no leadership post. And if your embellishing (aka: doing a Toney/Bernath)and it comes out during the vetting, the liar has one chance to “come clean” to the membership, or show them the door.

      • OWB says:

        The leadership could institute this procedure immediately for themselves and encourage state/regional officers to do the same while they work on new procedures for the general membership and post officers. Meanwhile, members could and should pressure state officers to prove to us that they meet their own eligibility requirements.

        Solve all the problems? No, but it would stop the posers from running for office, or at least reduce the number significantly.

    • Agreed-and if leadership were required to prove it, those in leadership would be less likely to sweep under the rug anyone in the rank and file who lies, embellishes, etc.

      Also, because nominations are one month, elections are the next and assumption of the office is as much as 6 weeks later (after State convention in which state officers are installed), there is plenty of time for receipt of records from NPRC.

      One other point, if someone does not qualify for membership in VFW, that does not mean they can simply join the auxiliary. Aux membership is through a family member who qualifies, not the applicants service in ‘other’ time frames. And, not all Posts have Men’s Auxiliaries. Though, the Ladies Aux will be voting this year on changing the name to “Auxiliary to the VFW” and opening membership to men on this, the 100th year anniversary of the Ladies Auxiliary to the VFW.

  4. RunPatRun says:

    Wonder if there is a way to verify in the same manner as Troop Swap and the POS Rep App?

    https://www.troopswap.com/

    POS Rep verifies through partners, and once verified your profile has a abdge added:

    http://pos-rep.com/

    I think both of these verify veteran status, but not dates of service, or campaign and service ribbons for the VFW. Just wonder if there is a more efficient and effective means to verify eligibility.

  5. Just an Old Dog says:

    Tracks exactly what I’m thinking, another thing would be for the VSOs to expand their “auxillary” programs. That would be a legitimate outlet for those who want to be a part of the orginization but don’t qualify due to lack of service, etc.

  6. Tom Huxton says:

    Part of the problem is the “Good old Boy/ Drinking Buddy Voucher” System. Leadership tends to be a long runnng clique group. Problems get swept under the rug and history gets shined and embellished. Everybody knows about Billy bob being away in service for six years, but nobody gets told about the courts marshall and BCD when he returns. He gets recruited upon return and he is still “waiting for the paperwork”.

    The stories are more interesting than the truth. The corporal promotes himself to a staff Sgt with needle and thread on the bus ride home. The records clerk pins on a CIB and braid to impress his girl. Of course the photos outlast the uniform in the closet, and Mom sends everyone a copy.

    Then there is identity theft. A cousin with a similar name dies unexpectedly and quietly after honorable service and the paperwork gets passed around. Hey, free medical care.

    Some folks have no life of their own. It is all a lie or built to order on the spot. The drunk chick buys into it, marries the turd and passes it along for years. The turd is too dishonest to come clean and will bluff or become irate when doubts appear. His character flaws are attributed to his horrific military history.

    Fraud has become a part of our lives. Squatters move into houses they do not own. Paperhangers record leins, mortgages, marriages and wills in obscure places and wait for the mark to die, then appear in Probate for the payoff. Bankers and realtors file phony paperwork for profit or to cover their embezzlements. Lawyers drain trust funds. Stockbrokers churn accounts. Sherrifs seize drugs and money and cut the perp a break. Little old ladies steal the bake sale account. Employees make short change and get creative when selling stolen production and inventory. Dad wants to provide for the family with insurance; the beneficiary immediately devises an “accident”.

    Then there are politicians……

    Do not trust anyone’s story.

  7. Valkyrie says:

    What is the benefit of belonging to a VSO?

    • OIF '06-'07-'08 says:

      Val, there are very few benefits of belonging to a VSO, but, and this is a big but, does not mean that the few benefits have no value.

      For the $35.00 a year I pay for my VFW membership, those benefits can add up over the year to actually pay for the membership itself.

      I get my hair cut at Sports Clips and when I show my VFW card, I get a 10% discount. I have my hair cut at least every two weeks, so that savings alone does help.

      • Valkyrie says:

        I know they do a lot of good for the community, I just didn’t know what an individual got out of membership.

        • Martinjmpr says:

          Val: I’m not even sure if they actually “do a lot for the community.”

          One way to find out would be to determine what would happen if/when the local VFW or AL chapter shuts its doors.

          If the functions that used to be performed by the chapter are then picked up by some other group, then it can be said that the chapter was providing a viable service to the community.

          But if not, then it would seem that whatever “service” the chapter provided was one the community determined they could do without.

          Honestly I think a lot of the “services” that VFW and AL provide are more about maintaining their own visibility and perceived importance. If/when their chapter fades away, the community might well discover they haven’t really lost a service that they, the community, wanted.

    • Just an Old Dog says:

      Valkyrie,
      They can be an assett, especialy if you got a good group of people. They can help guys work through the VA system, get their records straight, etc.
      I belonged to the VFW for a year, never as much as went to a meeting. I imagine it can be a place to hang out with other vets

    • FatCircles0311 says:

      Basically networking, help with benefits, and finding out about what is available to you.

      At national level you get some discounts on certain products/services as well.

  8. Enigma4you says:

    VSO’s give a voice to Veterans in congress. That have very active and powerful lobbying groups.

    They also assist veterans in dealing with the VA.

    They serve the community by providing scholarships, sponsoring local sports teams, establishing local museums and monuments as well as preserving the same.

    A good VSO is way more than a drinking club.

  9. OWB says:

    Agree completely with you, Hondo. However, there will likely be some hefty expense when the life members are thrown out and demand a refund of their dues.

    • OWB says:

      Was hoping that someone else would point this out, but lifers could get a refund of their dues, with the annual dues they would have paid deducted from that refund. Maybe most cases would result in no refund at all? New life members would be the only ones costing the organizations much money, if any.

      • Hondo says:

        Another option would be to involuntarily convert them to “Lifetime Auxiliary Member” status instead, OWB. After all, they never did qualify for full membership – they applied in bad faith.

        Seems to me that way they’d have no legal leg to stand on to demand a refund of squat. They haven’t lost anything; they just got administratively converted to the correct form of life membership corresponding to their actual situation.

        Whether they choose to continue to attend their VSO’s meetings as a nonvoting auxiliary member, with everyone now knowing that they’re a damned liar, would be up to them. (smile)

        Disclaimer: I’m not a lawyer, so I have no idea if that would survive a lawsuit. But it seems to me like a good option.

  10. 2/17 Air Cav says:

    The proposal assumes that leadership gives a shit about the, presumably, small minority of fakes. I like Jonn’s idea that officer candidates update their separation docs direct from the source. As I’ve mentioned a few times befire here, in one instance, an organization has institutionalized the opportunity for bullshittery. That’s the Vietnam Veterans of America where anyone who served during the decade plus of the era can be a member. Well that and a check that clears. If they would change their name to Vietnam Era Veterans of America, that would be just dandy. All Vietnam Vets are Vietnam era Vets but not all Vietnam era Vets are Vietnam Vets. It ain’t rocket surgery!

  11. 2/17 Air Cav says:

    And don’t anyone go correcting me on that line about all VN Vets being VN era Vets. Yeah, I know about the official dates and those who were in Vietnam before the official start date.

  12. FatCircles0311 says:

    It’s funny because this year the VFW raised their annual dues by $5.

    Also if they were charted by Congress why don’t they just deal directly with NPRC to verify eligibility of applicants to begin with?

  13. C2Show says:

    I wonder if the phonies are going to read this article and then get some kind of idea to join small, rinky dink organizations to stay under the radar.

    Of course, phonies don’t like staying under the radar and enjoy the attention and accolades they receive from newspaper reporters.

    Gotta wonder how many phonies are in smaller organizations like Odd Fellows or small biker groups or some masonery organization.

    • FatCircles0311 says:

      The allure of that VFW piss cutter is just too much.

      It garners respect and it’s about time the VFW organization keeps it that way by rooting out the phonies.

      • C2Show says:

        That is exactly why someone should make a database for VSOs to maintain and upkeep. So they can stop these phonies from rejoining or showing up in other VSOs that are prominent.

        This would stop people like Ed Cameron, Bernath, “Easy Rider” Phil Monkress and that loser in San Antonio, forgot his name from ever trying to join/rejoin.

  14. C2Show says:

    They probably should make a database for phonies, so VSOs know not to let any of these morons back in. So they don’t go skipping from VFW to VFW or VFW to AL or AL to VFW, etc.

    • HMCS(FMF) ret says:

      Agree – a “Wall of Shame” for those that lied to get in, embellished their service or did something that “brought discredit to the organization” (criminal activity, staling from the organization, etc…). Name, photo, basic information on what they did to be kicked out. All VSO’s at the national level to have access to update/revise information as needed.

      Make the bright lights shine on them…

  15. Green Thumb says:

    Right on.

  16. streetsweeper says:

    A positive way is for the officers to provide a current 214/215 from STL. Why? Because STL certifies the copy the veteran receives with a notary seal assigned to them. VSO’s should still verify through STL, however.

  17. Dave Hardin says:

    As I said in a previous post maybe we can start a new section on the site. Any VSO, moped group, news organization, hunting club, homeless shelter, or retired home for strippers that holds up some idiot running around with patches, pins, tabs, medals, and a tattoo on his dick without checking him out first should be featured in our new section called ‘Gullible Fucks’. If we posted the pictures and names of every VFW etc. Post leaders that had these people in their ranks maybe they will put down a beer long enough to check this shit.

    • HMCS(FMF) ret says:

      Dave – I think that would be a great start. And “Gullible Fucks” would be so appropriate for the section. Not only call the fools that steal valor, but the people that either enable them or turn a blind eye to them.

  18. MCPO NYC USN Ret. says:

    Good start.

    In addition, it should be a crime to falsify member info in the application process for any VSO recognized by Congress. That would cover at least the VFW and American Legion.

    Comprehensive Stolen Valor Act Reform needs to include such a provision that is very broad covering “all information for any membership and or benefits reserved soley for elegible Veterans”.

  19. Richard says:

    Hondo, while not unique it is a little unusual to see a long post on TAH where I agree with every word. I don’t see anything I disagree with. Credibility is important. It is a problem. In my opinion, your solution is correct. Even the objection/response language seems right. VSOs can afford the buck a member fee. If there is a problem, ask and I can help with money.

    Here is the problem, there is the solution so how do we make it happen?

  20. Ex-PH2 says:

    This debate is worthwhile, but it was not so very long ago (1990) that the local AL and VFW posts did not want Vietnam era or in-country vets because the war in Vietnam was not an officially declared war.

    However, most of their members were WWII and Korean War vets, and they were getting ‘old’, with memberships declining.

    I started getting stuff from AL in 1992, and went to one of their meetings and decided to not join up, because they were literally arguing over Vietnam at that meeting, which had opened with someone mentioning which members had died the previous month. And the women members were only allowed to be auxiliary at that time.

    Still have no wish to join up, although the local AL post is (a bar) open to the public and has Friday night fish fries or something.

    With my increased awareness of fakes and phonies, I’d be looking for fakes and phonies.

  21. Martinjmpr says:

    I agree 100%, but I also think the chance of this ever happening is close to 0%. And the reason is simple: Survival.

    From my limited exposure to them (trial memberships in both the VFW and AL), the VSOs seem to be dying with their Vietnam-era members.

    Wife and I joined an AL post in 2010 or so and I was the youngest guy there by a LONG shot. I was 49. Go to your local VSO and try to find more than two active members who are under the age of 50. Flip through the Legion or VFW magazine and what do you see? Ads for power scooters, Jitterbug phones and retirement communities (I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with any of these, it’s just that when the ads in the VSO magazine look pretty much identical to the ones in the AARP magazine, you can forget about recruiting people younger than 50.)

    I know it’s a cliche, but every VFW or AL post I’ve been to seems to be an “old man’s drinking club” first and foremost, regardless of whatever Little League team they sponsor or whatever Summer Festival Parade they carry the colors in.

    Seems to me that VSOs can go one of two ways: They can either transform themselves into something that offers a genuine service to both the veteran and the community (and I’ll be honest, I don’t know what that would look like) or they can continue to recruit every warm body whose check will clear the bank and who claims to qualify for membership.

    My guess is that they’ll do the latter and they will continue to shrink and shrink until they finally disappear out of irrelevance.

    It might be heresy to say it, but maybe we need to consider the possibility that the day when the VSO was an important social institution is gone.

  22. 2/17 Air Cav says:

    I think it’s fine that Veterans get together, drink beer, bullshit, and do this and that together. It beats checkers in the park or the local watering hole where the freakazoids drop in and ruin an evening. These are chiefly social clubs and I think that’s great. But as soon as one of them purports to represent the views of Vetearns, invites the politicians in for a formal lie and platiude session, I got no use for ’em.

  23. Martinjmpr says:

    Continuing my thoughts above – you can’t fix a problem until you convince the people in positions of influence that there’s a problem that needs fixing. I would guess the “stolen valor” problem ranks near the bottom of the list of “things we need to fix” among the officers of the AL and VFW.

    In fact, I think the reason it will never be fixed is that it conflicts directly with the one thing that they regard (correctly) as their BIGGEST problem, and that is dying/declining membership.

    Since they come from the military (well, except for the fakers), they will probably apply the same solution to the problem of “not enough bodies” the same way the military does, i.e. by relaxing standards.

    To put it a different way, I imagine if I was the Commanding General or Grand Admiral or High Muckety Muck (or whatever they’re called) of a VSO, and Hondo just pitched his idea to me, complete with powerpoint slides and a binder full of reference material, my response would be something like this:

    “So let me get this straight: We’re facing declining and dying membership, posts closing, diminished influence with Congress, increasing irrelevance in modern society, and your solution is to implement a program that will cost us both time and money, cause membership to plunge, and might even discourage veterans from applying for membership because they don’t want to go through the ‘vetting’ process? Yeah, I’ll get right on that.”

    And BTW, I’m not saying I don’t agree with what Hondo recommends, I’m saying that the fact that such measures are needed is one of the many reasons that I feel no particular desire to rejoin any VSO. They simply don’t seem to offer anything I’d be interested in.

    • Hondo says:

      Sadly, martinjmpr, I agree with you. I really don’t expect this to be implemented by any VSO.

      Money talks. And they don’t want to chance seeing their BS fakers walk – along with their annual dues.

      I hope I’m wrong, but I’m not optimistic.

  24. Jabatam says:

    Hondo

    My only beef is that not all MC’s are the same. I’m the bullshit sniffer in mine (which includes several soft-skill MOS folks and a handful of infantrymen)

  25. Jacobite says:

    I think Martinjmpr really hit something on the head with this statement right here –

    “It might be heresy to say it, but maybe we need to consider the possibility that the day when the VSO was an important social institution is gone.”

    As a group, our youngest veterans, and newest military retirees, do not socialize in the same way our predecessors did. We didn’t before we got in uniform, we didn’t while we were in uniform, and we don’t now that we’re out. Some few VSO posts in tradition steeped and culturally stable locations around the country may continue to do well, but by and large I see things going the way Martinjmpr predicts.
    This just ISN’T our grandparent’s country anymore, and we are drifting away from that foundation more and more every year.

    • Intel POG says:

      Jacobite,
      I do take hope in one thing. I joined the VFW and Legion when I got out of the service. I was around 26 years old. I would stop in for a beer occationally, but with getting married, then the kids, I didn’t really have much time to socialize or be more active in the activites. Now that I’m 41, and the kids are older, myself and some “Younger” (relative term) veterans are starting to step up. Right now we have 5 officers under the age of 50 in my post. And our commander is 48. So, I’m hoping as the years go by, and people have more time on their hands that there will be replacements. We will see.

      Full disclosure, my post is in a smallish town in Maryland and is about 70 years old.

  26. CLAW131 says:

    I have been a Life Member to VFW for over 30 years. Shortly after moving from Wyoming to Idaho nine years ago, I thought I’d check out the local VSO’s. Found out the nearest operating post hall was 60 miles away. I went to a meeting at the local Guard Armory and was not even able to get the Post Commander to shake my hand nor have the Post Adjutant take down any contact info. Guess I was too young (age 53)for them. Went in to the back room for a cup of coffee after the meeting broke up and was ignored by all. So much for getting new blood into the post.

    • OWB says:

      Similar experience here. However, there are posts out there that cater to just about anyone’s needs/wants. The post I hang around mostly is not the one closest to my home, but they meet just for business, no drinking, just barely have enough “kitchen” to make coffee. And they focus entirely upon community service to include an honor guard.

      And we have some younger guys joining. Setting a meeting time (day vs evening) is the largest issue currently facing us. The young guys work during the day but the old guys don’t drive after dark. In a way, it is very nice that that is the biggest problem we have.

  27. Martinjmpr says:

    What does it really take to join an organization like a VSO? Money, but not that much, really. The main thing it takes is time which is to say “committment.”

    I’ll be honest right up front: The reason I never continued with any of my VFW or AL memberships was because it didn’t seem to me that the benefits I would get outweighed my committment of time and energy.

    I suppose it would be different if I had a bunch of buddies in the same time that I’d served with and wanted to continue my association with them at the VFW or AL but that’s not the case – as with many of us, the guys (and gals) I served with are scattered all over the country and AFAIK only one is active in any VSO.

    It would be interesting to see a breakdown of VSO membership over the years. Things like average age of new members, how long new members remained associated with the group, etc.

    It may be that membership in VSOs has always been for those who were old – maybe veterans right out of the war zone are too busy living their lives, working in their careers and raising families to bother with VSO membership and it may be that the desire to associate with other veterans doesn’t hit until the the kids are grown and the vet is retired or in his twilight years.

    For those who tout the lobbying efforts of the VSOs, that’s all well and good but if all they are is a lobbying group like the AARP or NRA, they can accomplish that function without local chapters, can’t they? After all, I’ve belonged to the NRA for over 30 years now but I don’t recall ever going to any meetings or organized gatherings. I send them a check and they send me a magazine and lobby on my behalf.

    It may be that this is what the VSOs will eventually become but that’s not really what they are now.