Every year, I spend several days at the Annual Conference of the National Organization for Veterans Advocates.

This great group of 500+ attorneys and agents that represent Veterans gets together twice a year and provides training for attorneys and agents that represent Veterans.

Over the coming days and weeks, I will be posting some of the great information that I learned.

This Veterans Service Organization is Doing Far Less to Help Veterans.

I returned home from a conference recently to  a letter from the DAV – apparently, they are sending their Claims Winnebago around to  North Texas to try to take money from more Veterans up this way.

In the letter was this statement: “A DAV NSO….will provide you the best counseling and claim filing assistance you can get from any source, anywhere.”

By the way – I went out to where the DAV Winnebago was and watched for 30 minutes – not a single Veteran showed up.

The letter added that the DAV NSO was “rigorously and professionally schooled in the full range of benefits for military veterans”.  Many VSOs are NOT trained – and REALLY screw up the Veteran’s claim.

Here’s a test:  call your DAV rep and ask any one of these questions to see if he really has been “rigorously schooled”:

* How does the “sheltered employment” rule apply to TDIU?

* What is the name of the report prepared at the Point of Injury when a soldier is suspected of having a Traumatic Brain Injury?

* What is the difference between the presumption of aggravation and the presumption of soundness?

I haven’t met a DAV rep yet that knows these answers.  Nor have I met a  DAV member who is satisfied with the DAV’s service.

I’m not saying these folks aren’t out there – and maybe the DAV is the greatest thing since sliced bread – but I’m finding that the organization is increasingly one of the least popular veterans service organizations.

Here are a few reasons why the DAV’s influence is slipping away as a Veterans Service Organization.

* The DAV pays 9 executives a combined $2.4million dollars. That’s your dues money paying for their lavish lifestyle.  One of these guys – a RETIRED National Adjutant, is still paid $360,000 a year out of your DAV membership dues (this is, I believe, more than the President of the United States makes).

* The DAV’s operating expenses have soared (not sure why, since they haven’t increased services to my knowledge)

* The DAV simply does not appeal to a new generation of Veterans and has experienced a 14% decline in membership in just the past few years.

Here is how VA Watchdog Jim Strickland (and friend of the Attig Law Firm) describes the “service” you get at the DAV:

Your comment, “When I call the DAV for the status of my claim, and leave messages for my NSO, my calls are never returned” is the number one complaint I hear for every National Service Organization. I hear more about DAV because DAV is the largest of those groups.

I was also sold one of those Life Memberships years ago. It was hinted to me that if I became a life member that my claim would be given more attention. That was the last time I ever heard from that service officer, he stopped returning my phone calls.

You should also be aware that DAV doesn’t have the faintest idea of the status of your claim. Day to day the VA itself doesn’t know where your claim is, how could the DAV? Once a Service Officer assists you with completing any required paperwork and submits such to the VA, they won’t normally see it again until it’s completed.

The reality is that you have two ways to approach the process of gaining your earned disability compensation benefits. First, you may sit down with a Post or Veterans Service Officer, complete the paperwork required and the Service Officer will then have your papers sent to a National Service Officer at the VA Regional Offices.

The NSO will then hand your application paperwork over to the VA and they will put it in the very long line to be adjudicated.

In other words, it sounds like a lot of Vets pay the DAV to get absolutely nothing.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the DAV.

Should Congress pull their charter?  Do they do any good for Veterans?

Share your comments below.

22 Comments

  1. Jerry Johnson

    I’ll probably get some type of blow back for this, but I worked for DAV for 5 years. I helped veterans in the Fort Belvoir area to the best of my ability. I was trained by the American Legion in Indiana. The Guy who trained me (John Hickey) knows the rules and regulations and court decisions by heart. DAV would not let me be a National Service Officer because, Voc Rehab wouldn’t pay for me to go through the same training program twice.
    There are a few good service officers in DAV, but most are like the article says. Once they file your claim they forget about, and once they have your membership they forget about you.
    I believe in helping veterans, DAV seems to care about numbers so they can make themselves relevant to congress, and upping their membership. Top executives get paid upwards of $250,000 yearly plus benefits and expense accounts. When I worked at a regional office I thought nothing of going down the hall and checking on a veteran’s claim and if there was something wrong trying to fix it before the decision was made. DAV doesn’t have that want to anymore.

    Reply
    • Rod B

      I’ve been working with the DAV in Philadelphia and they are terrible. You can’t even contact them; the phone won’t let you leave a message. I did get a hold of them a month ago and they told me they’d have someone call. I ended up getting a call from their Pittsburgh office two weeks later but since it wasn’t a local area code I let it go to message. When I called back they did answer but told me I had to call Philadelphia and they were just helping them out. When I asked to talk to the person that called me I was refused and told to call Phila. What a game! Is there some way to complain?

      Reply
    • Karen Easterling

      I think Congress should pull DAV’s charter. They are unprofessional here in Houston and ordered just a DD-214 for myself, when I told her I needed my entire Navy record! She doesn’t know her job.I was accused of racist slang and cussing which was not true. I wouldn’t want someone doing that to me. I received the run around from Houston, Waco, and DC. They gave me a phony email address. Didn’t help me with my claim at all. Please consider revoking the charter. They maybe working for some veterans. I was told we have more important Veterans to help, than you. When they didn’t help me. Unprofessional SO.

      Reply
  2. Octavio Mendivil

    Hello Chris,
    Yes everything you have said about DAV is absolutely true because it is currently happening to me. My DAV rep. never returns my calls. They have secretaries that screen their calls and make the Veterans work hard to even get an appointment to see the VSO. I’ve met with him about 3 times and it seems that he never knows anything new about my claims. You are right they are more concerned about getting their dues than getting answers from the VA. Congress should pull their charter because I really believe they are doing the Veteran more harm than good.

    Reply
    • Karen Easterling

      I too had the same experience with Houston DAV. Noone communicated with me when my records came in. I was told I would be called when they did. No call ever came. My record, the wrong one said in the office for 3 days and was sent back. They have made me cry with their ugly comments. Dealing with more important Vets.

      Reply
  3. R. Lee Linebarger

    I have used there services since I retired. I have submitted several claims through them and they have been very helpful. But my latest claim, not so much.

    V/r
    R. Lee Linebarger
    SFC (Ret)

    Reply
  4. Roy

    I know both the DVA and the Veteran Service Officers in my area have the same high quality. That quality rates in the same area as used toilet paper after being flushed. I say this because years ago I was asked to join the DVA, two months after joining, they started pushing for me to become a lifetime member. Once my claim got turn down, nothing. No calls, no letters, no meetings, I mean nothing. I hired Kenneth M.Carpenter, and bam, case closed. It only took him a few months to move mountains in the V.A. Now (8-10 years later, and states away) I had a new claim about a year ago. I showed a huge amount of evidence that the medication the doctors have me on for my service connected disability, caused my diabetes. I was denied. The VSO, said you have been rated at 80% for years, deemed unemployable and receiving 100% benefits due that for 13 since 1994. So, just wait a few more years and you’ll get reevaluated and be deemed totally disabled. But that’s where they are wrong. The only 100% rate benefit I receive is the pay. I do not receive the full 100% benefits, Like being able to shop at commissaries and the rest.

    Reply
    • Chris Attig

      Ken Carpenter is a bad ass. There’s just no other way to describe him. The DAV? I’d rather have a Hamster eat my claim.

      Thanks for sharing, Roy!!

      Chris

      Reply
  5. Paul Doss, SR

    I quit using the DAV in 2012 cause they never did a thing for me..I also used the DAV SO inside the VA hospital and got 0 results…I paid my last membership to them in 2012. I had heard back then that the DAV was the best and largest…Well being the largest doesn’t mean your the best! Congress should pull their charter because they do more harm than good especially to us Vietnam Vets…push uas off to the side like the RO does!

    Reply
  6. Ken Godwin

    I am a life member of DAV and they helped me out SOME! When I thought my claim settlement was insufficient and asked for an increase, they refused to help me, stating….”there is no way you’ll ever get 100%”. I figured out how to do things and a year later I was awarded 100%, along with an automobile allowance and a grant for specially adapted housing. When I got my award, the DAV came calling for $$$. You can only imagine what I said to them! The DAV is worthless!!!!!

    Reply
  7. Peter Barclay

    It’s kind of hard to figure you out Chris since you call Jim Strickland a friend but you have people like Mike Eisenberg in your circle. How do you reconcile the misuse of veteran benefits in state family law courts where Mr. Eisenberg will explain they are protected and the courts have no jurisdiction but then you have Mr. Strickland who will tell you veterans should be discriminated against and surrender their public relief funds.

    Reply
    • Chris Attig

      Peter,

      I have no idea what this means. Both men are extremely competent, and highly respected, Veterans Advocates. I’ve known Michael Eisenberg for 7-8 years, and he is a very good veterans benefits attorney. Mr. Strickland has been a VA watchdog for years, and is highly respected in Veterans advocacy circles.

      Could you explain what you mean by “misuse of veteran benefits in state family law courts”? I don’t understand what you mean there.

      Chris

      Reply
  8. Thomas

    When I first looked for help from DAV I was told that they sit with the Board and fight for me, that turned out to be a lie. They push membership pretty hard, then I learned the person who signs me up gets a bonus out of it. The latest VA scandal DAV never said a thing about it. I have since moved on to the American Legion. These VSOs can’t or won’t help a veteran. It appears to me that VSOs are in the same bed with VA when it comes to claims. I keep away from VSOs, I have learned I can file my claims faster by using VBA. If I need to appeal I will find a lawyer.

    Reply
  9. Alan B. Cote

    I was really satisfied with the work the DAV service officer did on my claim for A/O in 1980. He found evidence in my medical records back in the day when the VA was making evidence disappear. He filed a “cue” for my denial appeal. I had worked on C-123 spray planes in 1967 at Udorn RTAFB Thailand. The Ranch Hand Ops. was in the base phone directory! I am 100% T&P today as a result of his help. Today, 35 years later, I would expect the DAV to still be the same.

    Reply
  10. Greg Phillip

    I changed to a DAV NSO a few years back after having discussed my claim with one who was headquartered in Montgomery, Alabama. He sold me on what a great job he would do for me if only I would give him the opportunity. Once I signed up. I never heard from him again. There were numerous calls left unreturned and faxes too. After a year and one half I finally gave up and went back to my previous NSO. This guy is not the best but at least he returns his telephone calls..

    Reply
  11. Raymond Melninkaitis

    the DAV did as little as possible representing my claim. Once I was denied, they dropped me like a hot potato. Never again will I seek the DAV out for claims help.

    Reply
    • Chris Attig

      Raymond,

      If I had a nickel for every time that I heard this from a Veteran, I’d have enough nickels to pay the salary of the head of the DAV (it’s over $350k, I was told).

      IN all seriousness, the VSOs are not set up to handle appeals. The BVA appeal system is governed by laws, and the interpretation of them by courts, so the Vet that goes in with just a VSO or pro-se is at a HUGE disadvantage.

      Find a good accredited VA attorney – I don’t care if its me or not. Read this FREE eBook to learn how to find a good one.

      Chris

      Reply
      • Paul

        When I received my first VA claim denial my VSO looked at me like I was crazy. “You got 30%, you should be happy cause most get nothing.” That was the end of that. It wasn’t until I started law school and actually researched the law that I saw just how inept the VSO was. This combined with their desire to have me “claim” injuries that they “assured” me I had, really soured me to the entire process.

        Reply
        • Chris Attig

          Paul – thanks for sharing…I see far too many claims where a VSO has “encouraged” a Veteran to file a claim for a condition that they didn’t have…this made it harder for the VA to assess the claims that the Veteran DID have.

          Are you in law school now, or have you started practicing. Email me and tell me about yourself – especially if you have an interest in practicing Veterans Benefits law.

          –Chris A.

          Reply
  12. suzette holloway

    I am a widow of a deceased marine vet, who drank the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune between 1984- he has since passe . I have been waioting for a year for my claim. Can someone help me

    Reply
    • Chris Attig

      We don’t give legal advice on the Veterans Law Blog – please use the “Request a Consultation” form on the side of every page on this website to submit your information to us if you’d like us to talk about your VA claim with you.

      CA.

      Reply

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