•Many veterans concerned DAV leadership is gaming the system to line their pockets.
By Dave Gahary
In 2013, this reporter wrote a series of articles and conducted an interview with an AMERICAN FREE PRESS subscriber, concerning the country’s largest charity for disabled veterans, who were paying certain employees more than the president of the United States, while almost completely ignoring the plight of the estimated 250,000 homeless veterans spread out across this once-great nation.
Now, secretly-recorded videos taken in August, 2011 at the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) National Convention in New Orleans, Louisiana, reveals an organization that will do whatever it takes to add members to their rolls, even if they have no disabilities and regardless of what the organization’s own governing documents require. National Membership Director Anthony L. “Tony” Baskerville was caught on video admitting that the DAV will not question the validity of an applicant’s claim that they are disabled, stating, “You don’t have to prove anything here.”
The DAV was founded in 1920 for disabled veterans of the U.S. armed forces returning from World War I, to help them and their families adapt to living with physical and mental disabilities. Chartered by the U.S. Congress and headquartered in Cold Spring, Kentucky, 1.2 million veterans are members of DAV, which makes it the largest charity of its kind. Every state in the union has a DAV Department, including Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico, and each of those has Chapters associated with it, currently around 1,300. The primary function of the DAV has been to serve as a veteran’s advocate for filing Veterans Administration (VA) disability claims, for which it has had great success, notwithstanding the record claims backlog of the VA. Over the past several years, the DAV has attracted annual donations exceeding $100 million in the form of contributions and grants from individuals and corporations.
Page 2 of the DAV’s national constitution, bylaws and regulations is clear as to who is eligible to join:
Article III — Membership
Any man or woman, who was wounded, gassed, injured or disabled in line of duty during time of war, while in the service of either the military or naval forces of the United States of America, and who has not been dishonorably discharged or separated from such service, or who may still be in active service in the armed forces of the United States of America is eligible for membership in the Disabled American Veterans.
At the convention, which this reporter attended as a commander of a DAV chapter in New Jersey, at one of the sessions in which Baskerville was chairing, the membership director became visibly irritated by the line of questioning of a member, who revealed that the application to join the DAV is flawed because anyone can claim they are disabled when they are not, Baskerville stated, “Alright,” then “Thank you, next,” in an annoyed, loud voice.
There has been an ongoing concern with many DAV members that there are those in the organization, including its leadership, that may not be disabled, and may be taking advantage of the benefits of membership and leadership fraudulently.
Picking up from the previous line of questioning, another member, stepping up to the microphone, who noticed the obvious flaw in the membership vetting process, stated, “I’ve always been under the impression that you have to be disabled before you can join this organization. What stops a person from lying?”
“I’m not gonna question him,” snapped Baskerville. “I’m not gonna question why he wants to be a member of the DAV. He said that he had a disability in the service. It is not for me to question him. He’s the one who wanted to join us. That’s what you call comradeship. You believe in what another man has to say. You trust people. That’s what this world should be about.”
In Baskerville’s world, his DAV “comrades”—his fellow DAV national officers—get paid between $5,000-$10,000 per week. The more members he can add to the rolls, regardless of their physical state, the more he can be rewarded.
Dave Gahary, a former submariner in the U.S. Navy, is the host of AFP’s ‘Underground Interview’ series.