SALEM, VA – Frustrations are continuing to grow more than a month after the Salem chapter of the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) was suspended - closing its doors to more than 1,500 members and even more patrons.
“Somewhere in there, someone dropped the ball. I’m not gonna point a finger, but this is ridiculous,” Former Salem Commander Ace Taylor said.
Taylor is fed up.
“They should be answering questions. Why did they not know? And if they did know, shame on them,” Taylor said.
Last week we spoke with the Virginia DAV and were told Salem Chapter Three had not submitted their annual finance report in three years before being suspended.
We found the finance report form chapters are supposed to submit, and it outlines expenses and profits for the year from the lounge they operate, along with a thrift store run solely on donations.
Taylor said he doesn’t understand how the lack of reports was allowed to be swept under the rug for so long.
“I don’t understand why the state didn’t say something to the chapter in three years because if it was me, they’d threaten to shut me down in 30 days,” he said.
The Virginia DAV also told us Salem is under a formal investigation by the national chapter - so we reached out to spokesman Dan Claire.
He said the suspension was a last resort.
“Virginia has been going back and forth with the chapter trying to get financial information for a long, long time,” Claire said.
Local chapters receive funds from the national level to help run the lounge and thrift stores but with the expectation to make a profit to help veterans.
“They’re actually taking funds that are intended for veterans and being used to supplement a kind of bad fundraiser,” Claire said.
Claire said the Virginia Chapter continuously reached out to Salem but got no response.
Eventually, the national was contacted and they discovered the Salem chapter was in debt.
“What resulted in the suspension was that they were completely non-communicative with the department. It was the sense that we weren’t going to get information, and they weren’t helping,” Claire said.
We’ve reached out to current Salem commander Shawn O’Neill multiple times, but we’ve gotten no response.
“There has been a shortcoming in leadership there, but that’s also an opportunity for other veterans in the community to come together and resurrect chapter three,” Claire said.
We were told the only way to get off of suspension is for the chapter to come up with the financial documents - something only leadership can do.
Taylor just wants someone to take responsibility so they can move forward with helping veterans, no matter what chapter level that comes from.
“We’re all military and veterans, right? Where I come from, there’s an honor code. Man up. Admit you made a mistake and move forward. Put a statement out. Tell the truth. Let people know,” Taylor said.