Disabled American Veterans

How effective is Disabled American Veterans? It seems to be one of the oldest and largest veterans charities.

Disabled American Veterans (DAV) was created in 1932 by Federal charter, via an Act of Congress.

AIP (the American Institute of Philanthropy) has pointed out that having a Congressional charter does NOT mean that the U.S. government approves the group's activities, nor does it provide oversight. It should also be noted that Congress has never revoked a charter once issued.

The Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance (BBB) reports that other groups affiliated with DAV include the Disabled American Veterans National Service Foundation, the Disabled American Veterans Charitable Service Trust, and 1,780 chapters and departments.

The stated purpose of Disabled American Veterans is "to build better lives for all of our nation's disabled veterans and their families."

With a paid staff of 750, and an estimated 9,000+ volunteers, Disabled American Veterans is surely one of the largest and best known of the veterans charities. In Forbes magazine's list of the top 200 charities in the U.S., only the Marines' Toys for Tots program reported more annual revenue than Disabled American Veterans.

For 2008, DAV reported gross receipts of $480,042,863. Gross receipts represents the total amount received during the year from all sources. It includes membership dues, donations (cash and non-cash), investment income, sales of assets, and all other receipts.

According to its Form 990 (tax return) for 2008 (which is 99 pages long!), DAV generated the following revenue in 2008:

Contributions and grants: $117,514,051
Program service revenue (membership dues): $ 5,841,259
Investment income: -$ 9,086,098
Other revenue: $ 1,057,805
Total revenue: $115,327,017

That amount was down from $149,665,877 the previous year.

The 9-million-dollar loss reported for investment income (or loss) resulted from investment income of $9,797,829, plus royalties of $1,046,860, less a loss of $18,883,927 realized when it sold securities (stocks, etc.). The gross amount of the sale was $345,831,919, but the cost or other basis of those securities, plus the costs of sale totaled $364,715,846, resulting in the net loss. The net loss amount of $18.8 million is the amount shown as "revenue."

DAV also reported the following expenses:

Grants and other assistance: $8,746,009
Salaries and employee benefits: $46,930,385
Legal Fees: $367,279
Accounting Fees: $167,550
Lobbying expenses: $83,877
Investment management fees: $940,773
Other fees for services provided by non-employees: $4,906,510
Professional fundraising fees: $234,488 *
Advertising and promotion: $1,468,547
Office expenses: $51,332,264
Information technology: $122,728
Royalties: $1,758,661
Occupancy: $856,132
Travel: $1,910,262
Conferences, etc: $1,392,602
Depreciation: $2,568,669
Insurance: $353,362
Membership services: $4,000,000
Relocation expenses: $1,616,019
Training: $187,387
Project costs: $73,790
Other expenses: $538,577
Total functional expenses: $130,545,871

For the year, that equals a loss of $15,218,854, as opposed to an excess the previous year of $19,655,462.

* While it reported only $234,488 as "professional fundraising expenses," Disabled American Veterans reported total fundraising expenses of $32,863,062.

Total program service expenses of $90,270,306 broke down this way:

National Service Program: $50,389,570
(including grants of $8,711,009)
Publications and Communications expenses: $4,992,731
Membership program expenses: $9,917,285
(membership program revenues
were $5,841,259)
Other program services: $24,970,720

DAV reported $3,231,239 in gross receipts from fundraising activities conducted by professional fundraising organizations, for which it paid those groups $234,488 (or an average of 7%). One group, Creative Direct Response, which conducted direct mail and electronic fundraising, retained only $60,000 of the $2,182,338 it raised (3%). The other group, however, First Degree, which conducted corporate fundraising, retained $174,488 of the $1,948,901 it raised (17%). These numbers are far more reasonable than those reported by some other veterans charities.

The way these numbers are reported can be very confusing. For example, of the $46,930,385 in salaries and employee benefits, only $3,655,973 was allocated to administrative expenses. There was $3,362,551 allocated to fundraising expenses (which would indicate that there are approximately the same number of employees dedicated to fundraising as to administrative positions to run the organization). But the vast majority of that figure, $39,911,861 (85%) was allocated to program expenses. That should represent the amount of salary and benefits for employees dedicated to providing direct program services to clients. In a service organization such as DAV, one would expect the majority of employees to be providing direct client services, so this seems reasonable.

Some donors, however, consider all amounts spent on salaries and benefits to be administrative or overhead costs of running the organization. If you take that view, then 36% of the $130.5M in expenses went for salaries and benefits. So the numbers you use and the percentages you get depend on your point of view.

What most donors want to know is "how much of my money went directly to supporting your cause?"

After it allocates the expenses among program services, administrative costs, and fundraising costs, DAV breaks it down this way in their Annual Report:

Program services: $127,834,629 (76.5%)
Fundraising costs: $32,863,062 (19.7%)
Administrative expenses: $6,471,730 (3.9%)
Total expenses: $167,169,421

You may notice that this number is some $37M higher than the $130M in "functional expenses" reported on the Form 990, and thus there seems to be some discrepancy. The difference is in the amount reported for program services. Because the components of this are described differently in the two documents, we do not see an explanation for the difference. We will contact DAV to request an explanation of the difference, and will update this page when we receive their response.

The numbers we've given you are from the Form 990 for the tax year ending December 31, 2008. You'll see the percentage numbers are very similar to those reported by the BBB for 2006.

The BBB report for Disabled American Veterans is based on its audited financial statements for the year ended December 31, 2006. The report expires in April 2010 (now), so a new report should be available soon.

For 2006, BBB reports DAV's total income as $169,943,292, with the following expenses:

Program expenses: $119,841,959 (77%)
Fundraising expenses: $30,546,235 (20%)
Administrative expenses: $4,592,505 (3%)

BBB reports that DAV meets all 20 of its Standards for Charity Accountability.

We hope this information will help you decide whether you wish to support Disabled American Veterans.

Comments for Disabled American Veterans

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Oct 21, 2015
American Legion vet and attend mo mtgs
by: Anonymous

I am very taken back with all the negative comments.

I can not believe that your adm. cannot put a stop to this negative publicity It appears the adm officers are loading their pockets.

I'm vet for almost 60 yrs, trying to promote the DAV. I'm embarrassed by all the neg comments.

There is a God; you know you will answer to HIM!

Oct 19, 2015
by: Anonymous

I am not sure why the link you put up is blank in the section of compensation. Scan down to VII COMPENSATION OF OFFICERS you will see the additional payout.

Not everything is covered under just salary you have to look at reimbursements, allowances and other such little spots as well

Anon, thanks for pointing out the discrepancy. My apologies. The reason we're not seeing the same thing is that you're looking at (and linking to) the tax return for Disabled American Veterans from 2011, and I was looking at (and linking to) the Disabled American Veterans National Service Foundation tax return from 2014, which is the top result returned by a Google search for DAV 990. I was in a hurry, and not paying close enough attention. Thank you for keeping me on my toes.

This highlights an important point we all need to keep in mind, and that is the number of veterans charitable organizations with similar sounding names. DAV and the DAV National Service Foundation maintain their independence from each other - they are separate organizations and file separate tax returns, despite having several officers in common.

I'm not convinced the confusion is accidental.

The most recent tax return DAV links to from its website is for 2012. It shows gross receipts of $238,976,337, as opposed to DAVNSF gross receipts for 2014 of $24,687,212, only slightly more than 10% as much.

By paying the common officers via DAV, DAVNSF can then claim its officers serve 3 hours per week with no compensation.

Something is really screwy with DAV's compensation schedule, as shown on its 2012 tax return.

Wallace Tyson, the Chairman from January to August (8 months if he served the entire month of August) was paid $3,740, or $467.50 per month. For 5 hours per week, that would be 160 hours, or $2.92 per hour. Not even minimum wage. I don't think any of us would consider that adequate compensation for the headaches that go with the job.

By contrast, his successor, Donald Samuels, who served from September through December (4 months) x 5 hours per week, or 80 hours, was paid $92,179. That's $23,044.75 per month, or $1,152.24 per hour! That's quite a pay raise! I'd take that. . . . (Wonder how Wallace Tyson feels about that?)

The Vice-Chairman of DAV from January to August, 2012, Larry Polzin, was reported to work 5 hours per week x 8 months (at most), for which he was paid $107,240. That's $13,405 per month, or $670.25 per hour.

His successor, Joseph W. Johnston, who served from August through December, was only paid $15,346 for 5 hours per week. For five months, that works out to $3,069.20 per month, or $153.46 per hour. Still not a bad hourly rate, but what explains the discrepancy?

I'd sure like to see the documentation about how those numbers were determined. How can there be that much discrepancy between what two people are paid for the exact same job?

Schedule J provides detail on Compensation Information for certain Officers, Directors, Trustees, Key Employees, and Highest Compensated Employees. Question 3 indicates that the compensation of the CEO/Executive Director are determined by an independent compensation consultant, a compensation survey or study, and approval by the board or compensation committee.

Schedule J, Part I, 1b indicates that the organization has a written policy regarding payment or reimbursement or provision of the expenses described above, which include first class travel, travel for companions, and discretionary spending accounts.

Interestingly, none of the officers & directors listed in Part VII have the title "National Commander," but Schedule J, Part III, indicates that in 2012, Donald Samuels, National Commander from January to August, received $90,793 (as his discretionary spending account, to cover "lodging, meals, and other expenses incurred to serve in this capacity"), and as Chairman from August through December, he received another $92,179, for a total of $182,972.

The discretionary spending account is reported as taxable income on Form 1099. That means he had to report that amount as income, and then take his deductions for tax-deductible expenses, so without seeing his personal tax return, there's no way to know how much of that was actual expenses and how much was excess, or what most people would consider "income." Reimbursed expenses are not really income, so this seems a strange way to report it if it's really for reimbursable expenses, as is described above. If it was reimbursement for expenses associated with the job that he paid personally, then it's reimbursement, not income.

Schedule J also reports that Larry Polzin, DAV National Commander from September through December, received $84,207 for such discretionary spending payments, in addition to the $107,240 he received for the period January through August, as Vice-Chairman, for a total of $191,447.

So, it doesn't make much sense to me. I'd sure like to hear from someone on the DAV Board to explain this to me.

Now I understand your concern, Anon. Thanks for staying on it!

Oct 19, 2015
DAV National Commander Salary?
by: Anonymous

DAV National Commander Salary is Zero
by: Anonymous

You may be correct about salary. I can't find anything that says he does or does not get a salary.

What you do not mention is that he did receive over $226,000.00 in other fees or payment and that is a pretty decent wage.

Anon, I'm not sure where you got this information, but the IRS Form 990 (Income Tax return) for DAV for 2014 shows that no officers, directors, trustees or key employees received more than $5,000 in reportable compensation from the DAV organization (that would include salary), and the total paid to ALL employees for 2014 totaled $17,787.

You can see it for yourself here.

Would you share with us your source that says the National Commander received $226,000, and what that amount was for?


Oct 14, 2015
DAV National Commander Salary is Zero
by: Anonymous

I Joined the DAV after doing my homework, and while I can see salaries for the organization seem high, I also see that the National Commander's salary is...zero, $0, nada, nothing (just to rebuff the comments in this thread).

I also see that the 990 filings are in line with the other veteran-run organizations (which are not very efficient)

Efficiency from Snopes:

• American Legion: 55%
• Veterans of Foreign Wars: 84%
• Disabled American Veterans: 77%
• Military Order of Purple Heart Service Foundation: 35%
• Vietnam Veterans of America: 25%
• Wounded Warrior Project: 58%

Oct 08, 2015
Are D.A.V. employees used as shills?
by: Anonymous

Is the woman featured in the latest appeal for money (a mother appealing for aid for her son) an employee of D.A.V.? She seems to have an address in their corporate hometown.

I'm sorry, Anon, but there is no way for us to know the answer to your question. It's possible that it's just coincidence, but we don't know.

Oct 08, 2015
Their appeals are craven
by: Anonymous

They are masters at manipulating sentiments and emotions to squeeze money, especially from people who have already paid a "lifetime" fee. Apparently, this fee covers expenses to solicit additional sums for a lifetime.

Sep 05, 2015
There is NO EXCUSE
by: Janie from oklahoma

I also believed in DAV for many years. I've given money to you people thinking it went to help the veterans.

If your salary and time is so very valuable maybe you need another job. Many of us have worked two jobs.

I'd never take money given to help veterans that have fought for my freedom. I don't believe any vet comes back fully whole from a war zone. They need all the help we can muster, you should be ashamed of taking anything from them.

Please get down on your knees and ask for their and God's forgiveness. No more help from me unless you do a better job.

Mar 26, 2015
Leave them to God
by: Anonymous

We can and do hear both good and bad things about the DAV, so as a military brat whose forefathers have fought to keep us free, I am, and will continue, to pray for them, the veterans, their families, and our active service people.

Feb 15, 2015
I am Ashamed
by: Doc

I have been a lifetime member of the DAV for a long time.

Today I asked to have my membership terminated and my money refunded.

The amount of money they spend for non-veteran use is completely out of line.

The salaries that are being paid to the administrators is out of line, as well as the amount used for advertising and fundraising.

I have no problem with a salary being paid, what I do object to is the amount.

If you look at number of employees and divide that by the payroll it comes out to about $78,000.00 a year per person.

I know the janitor or the clerk is not getting that much, so the most is taken at the top.

You add in the percs they get for rooms, transportation, food and other such items, and it's a really big check.

You throw in the SS and the VA check they get and it really adds up.

They still have the gall to ask the Vet to donate money and buy this or that to support other vets and at the same time the ones running the show are living high off the hog.

I have cut my ties with them.

Jul 05, 2014
Transportation Network
by: Anonymous

What portion of the Program costs goes to the DAV Transportation Network?

Why is the DAVTN for the Northport (NY) VA hospital (that serves both Suffolk and Nassau Counties) always short of vehicles? Please respond to dejavu52[at]aol.com.

Anon, I'm afraid you'd have to ask those questions of DAV. I don't have access to that information. Sorry.

Jun 16, 2014
Contacted DAV for the First Time
by: Doris- Disabled Vets MOM

I contacted the DAV for the first time ever today.

My son was wounded in Iraq a total of 3 times. Once in 2004, and twice in 2007. As a combat medic, he loved helping others. But now he needs help and I am trying to get him some.

My son has a heart of Gold and always gave to others. He was exposed to sarin gas in 2004 and also got Hepatitis C type 2, the type they have in the Middle East.

Now he suffers so much and tells me it is the cost of caring. He was exposed many times to blood treating Iraqi civilians.

I cry a lot for him but would never tell him. If you could see him slowly wasting away... His second wife left him and said he was going to need more than she was willing to give.

At night I hear him scream with nightmares and then he will stay up because of the damage to his shoulder and back from an IED hit.

They had to screw his toes back on after he was hit and he refused to come home and stayed to finish his tour.

He never received a purple heart and told me all the paper work had been lost.

All I want is help to show me how to do paperwork for his TSGLI. I just found out he should have gotten it.

If I can get money, I can have stuff put in his small house to help him get in and out of the bath tub, just do some things for him to make him more comfortable.

He has always been there for me; he is such a good son and never asks for anything.

Doris, thank you for sharing your story. Please tell your son how much we appreciate his service.

I hope the local DAV will be able to help you get some results, and get the benefits your son is entitled to.

I assume you've already been to see the VA? If not, please do that, too.

You didn't mention where you live, but I would also contact the military liaison staffer for your local Congressman and Senators (click the link to find their addresses). They may be able to help.

Also, your state should have a state veterans affairs office that may also be able to help.

Our best wishes to you and your son. Please come back and let us know how he is doing. There are millions of Americans who care!

Feb 28, 2014
Stationery Packet
by: Anonymous

I, like another commenter, have received a stationery packet and am confused. I have no idea if some company donates the stationery packet but I think that instead of donating this, they should just donate what the cost of the packet is, and then the DAV would not have the postage costs.

As far as my donations to military causes go I give to Fisher House, USO, and Toys for Tots.
This is all I can do. I live on a limited income because I am retired and can't give to all the organizations I get requests from.

Nov 18, 2013
by: Leen Eng

Today I received a packet from DAV. It contained 3 letters (front and back), two pages of address labels, with stickers, a certificate of appreciation for a donation (which is a ploy to help you to decide to donate), and a large notepad with 9 pages and a heavy cardboard backing.

It was really disgusting to me, knowing the Vets that ask for help only get approximately $1.70 out of all the millions of donations.

Jun 23, 2012
Unsure Now
by: Barry

After years of faithfully donating to the DAV, I am now not certain what percentage of my donation ever gets to help the intended recipient, the disabled veteran. Can anyone give me a straight answer?

May 11, 2012
by: Anonymous


Apr 07, 2012
I Create Gardens for Disabled Vets
by: Anonymous

Aside from being an avid gardener, I'm currently in the Horticulture Therapy Program at NY Botanical Garden.

I would like to donate my time to wounded vet homeowners who need assistance with their garden. I live in southwest CT, and can be reached at (860) 435-8800, or write to me at P.O Box 286, Lakeville, CT 06039. Diane

Wow, Diane, thanks for your generous offer. I hope there are some veterans in your area who can use your assistance. Thank you.

Aug 08, 2011
Fund raising drive
by: Anonymous

I put out 6 heavy boxes in response to the postcard I received in the mail. It was threatening to rain so I covered them with plastic.

I called the number on the card to see about when they would arrive in my town because I was worried about the rain. I was told that only 1 person showed up to drive the trucks and it didn't look like they would make it today.

So, I hauled it all back inside. Never again.

May 02, 2011
DAV is Worthless
by: Anonymous

I called for help with the VA slowness for appointments and other items.

They told me to call my congressperson.

Why do they need anyone ?

Apr 01, 2011
DAV Is a Ripoff
by: Rob

DAV in Denver fired two Americans, one a Navy Vietnam-era veteran, and kept two Mexican illegal aliens to replace them. They also hire dozens of illegal aliens to drive their local donation trucks.

DAV also calls all numbers in the two local area codes every month and will call 5 times a day until they get someone on the line. It is a recorded call. There is no way to stop them or ask them not to call. The DAV is a pest and a public nuisance.

Considering they do not help disabled veterans except enough of them to make public press releases about it, they should never be considered a friend of veterans, and I am one.

Jan 20, 2011
Compensation Aid
by: Ivan Finkle

As a combat veteran of WW2, Purple Heart, Ex-POW I found difficulty obtaining treatment as well as compensation from the Veteran's Administration. It wasn't until I authorized DAV representation that satisfaction was achieved.

Thanks to the efforts of my dedicated DAV Service Representative I was awarded a proper disability rating and compensation, including retroactive payments. That was many years ago. I continue to call on them if problems arise.

DAV is TOP SHELF in my book!

Ivan, thank you for your service, and thank you for taking the time to post your experiences with DAV. I'm glad to know they were able to help you, as they have many others.

Dec 15, 2010
Viiew of Corruption from inside DAV
by: Anonymous

My ex-husband was an officer of the DAV. I would not contribute to the organization as much of the services he rendered to the veterans was salary compensated. He never made $40,000/yr - I got my Social Security benefits based on my own employment as I made more than he did.

He is now a well-to-do owner of a condo and house in the South (not to mention the State). So much corruption in this organization in the 70's - not all were corrupt, but some certainly were.

The veterans paid money to the 'officers' to get their pension benefits. Maybe more than their disability warranted. I don't know.

I never disclosed any of this before as I do not want to be the source of harm to him or anyone else. I leave him and them to God.

Nov 09, 2010
DAV sucks
by: Anonymous

Don't join. They are only worried with making money for themselves.

If you are looking for help with the VA look elsewhere. The DAV is another self-serving legislative organization.

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