Vietnam Veterans of America
Directors’ Reports, July/August 2020
With the virus still holding everything down, there is not much to report. Nothing from chapters or state councils.
The BOD e-voted to approve the revised FY2021 budget. All travel expenses have been frozen for the foreseeable future as part of an effort to adjust for the lack of income from Household Goods and other programs.
I am making a slow recovery from being rear-ended while stopped on my bike, which resulted in a broken back, among other injuries. One thing is for sure: We don’t heal as fast as we once did.
Till next time, stay safe.
COVID-19 has affected everybody and everything with no exceptions, some more than others and, unfortunately, VVA has been ravaged. On May 28 the BOD voted to approve a revised FY2021 Budget, with the hope this will be enough to keep VVA viable and productive.
Region 2 pandemic statistics are staggering: As of June 5, the four states that make up Region 2 have 621,351 cases, which is 34 percent of all cases in the United States, and 42,306 have died, 39 percent of the U.S. total.
Delaware VVA Chapter 850 hosted a Memorial Day Service. Its virtual presentation can be viewed at www.delawarevva.org The video shows the dedication and talent VVA has to adapt and overcome even a pandemic.
The Brooklyn Memorial Day Parade Committee canceled Brooklyn’s 153rd Memorial Day Parade. VVA Chapter 72’s Board decided to organize a caravan to the Brooklyn VAMC to honor our fallen from wars and COVID-19, and the staff and patients at the VAMC. It grew into a caravan followed by a wreath-laying ceremony at the memorials in front of the VAMC.
By the time we lined up on 86th Street, we had grown to more than 30 vehicles. Although not many people lined the streets, Brooklyn succeeded in its quest for a 153rd consecutive Memorial Day Parade. Our cars were double- and triple-parked in front of the VAMC. Parade Committee Chair Ray Aalbue and I placed a wreath while a bagpiper wailed “Amazing Grace.” Then we presented arms while Barry Berger played “Taps.” The hell with COVID-19, Brooklyn never forgets.
By now you probably have heard—maybe accurately, maybe not—about VVA’s financial difficulties resulting from the loss (we hope temporary) of the Household Goods Distribution Program (HGDP), our major funding source, due to COVID-19 restrictions. This blow came two weeks after the Finance Committee had met to prepare this year’s budget for presentation to the National Board. I’ve frequently said that VVA is not really a last-person organization; rather it is a last-dollar organization. When I read the email saying we would lose a very large portion of our revenue for some unknown period of time, it was a worst nightmare coming true.
Our original budget for this fiscal year was projected to be $11,220,293 in revenue with $1,231,591 coming from prior year excess (the carryover of what we didn’t spend last year), with a deficit of $402,760 to come from the reserve fund. 51.7 percent of the proposed budget was for paying all the folks who work for us (salaries, benefits, consultants, temporary help, professional fees); 9 percent for national office rent, utilities, telephones, and other infrastructure costs; an additional 5.4 percent was for travel—most for BOD meetings. 12.5 percent was to be distributed to the states and chapters lucky enough to be in the HGDP.
All funded departments, committees, directors, and officers were asked to identify reductions. The Finance Committee looked at what we thought we could realistically count on in terms of revenue and at all our operational expenses. Personnel matters are not under our purview, and we left those difficult decisions to the officers. All of our revenue sources are expected to take serious hits and we anticipate at least a 60 percent reduction in revenue for this fiscal year. The amended budget was sent to the BOD, which voted electronically on May 28-29 to approve a bare-bones budget that only funds activities essential to keeping us alive. Of the 23 voting members of the BOD (the President doesn’t vote unless there’s a tie), 18 voted in favor of the amended budget, four abstained, and one did not vote.
The amended budget projects revenue of $5,197,363, including $1,231,591 from prior year excess and $695,482 from the federal Payroll Protection Program. An additional $1,639,159 will come from the reserve fund. While this totals only a 53.7 percent reduction of the revenue projected in the original budget, 13.4 percent of revenue for this fiscal year consists of the one-time payment from the Payroll Protection Program and 31.5 percent is coming from the reserve fund. The new revenue projections anticipate no further revenue from the HGDP program after June and significant reductions from the car donation program and from contributions through the direct mail solicitation and our web-based donation programs.
The BOD-approved reduction in expenditures means a lot of changes in what we are able to do and how we do it. I strongly urge you to read the articles by National Treasurer Jack McManus in the May/June and this issue of The Veteran. He lays out a clear description of our financial situation and the reality of why VVA must change if we want to survive.
The expenses of running an organization like ours are not visible to most of our members. You already know that we have had to cease printing and mailing The VVA Veteran and produce only an online issue. I know many of you are not happy about this. I’m not either. I usually read The Veteran cover to cover almost as soon as I get it. And I don’t like reading stuff online. But I also know that each issue of the printed version costs around $100,000 to produce and mail out (not including staff salaries), with printing and mailing accounting for $69,000 of that. The ads so many have complained about brought in only about $179,000 last fiscal year, with less projected this year. You do the math: The ads don’t even cover production costs and staff salaries. The good news is that we will continue to produce the online magazine every two months.
The cost for a face-to-face National Board meeting with all officers, at-large and regional directors, committee chairs, and all the state council presidents runs over $100,000. No, that’s not a typo; my finger didn’t stutter on the keyboard. So we did not include the October 2020 or January 2021 BOD meetings in the budget that went to the BOD for approval. All travel is cut, except a little bit in case one of the officers has to come into the National Office.
We have unfortunately had to cut staff and others who have worked with us, sometimes for years. The numbers above make it clear why. The Officers evaluated what functions we absolutely had to have and who had the skills to accomplish them. The Officers are looking at additional office expense savings.
If you look at our financial statements, it may seem like we have a lot of money. But a portion of our assets is in the Life Membership Fund, which pays out the membership rebates to chapters and state councils and which, as far as I’m concerned, belongs to them and should not be used for National expenses. Both that fund and our reserve fund are invested and have in many years had very good rates of return. But the reserve fund has only about half of what used to be our annual budget. Unless our revenue rapidly improves, we will have to use part of that to get through this fiscal year. Even with severe reductions in expenditures and staff, we currently estimate having to draw $1.6 million from our reserves to get through this year.
You might wonder why we don’t pull more out for this year. One of my mother’s favorite sayings was, “You can only spend it once.” So whatever we spend this year won’t be there if we need it next year. We don’t know what the future holds.
If we are lucky, we might—and I emphasize, might—see an improvement in our revenue later in the year. But we cannot count on it. And even if things do look better by the end of the year, we probably should not go back to “the way we’ve always done it.” Change is hard and especially when changes are forced on you.
I recently read the following: “Maybe this pandemic—the likes of which we’ve never seen before—will be the panacea to finally get hard things done.” VVA has an opportunity—even if not by choice—to address some changes that we will need to make in order to survive. We’re going to have to learn to do more with less, do more electronically instead of sitting in a room together for several days several times a year or waiting until the next BOD meeting to have committee meetings to address issues. Who knows, maybe we can become more focused and more efficient and find ways to get members more involved.
To use another saying: “Never let a crisis go to waste.”
Ohio Incarcerated chapters 559, 676, and 732 have been in full-scale PPE mask production. Chapter 559 at Grafton C.I. has made masks for the entire facility, inmates, and staff. Chapter 676 has made more than 6,000 masks and sent 500 of them to Ronald McDonald House. Chapter 732 has made more than 39,000 masks as part of Ohio Prison Industries. This has been a trying time for these guys with the fear of how rapidly the virus spread in other facilities. But VVA members stepped up.
Region 5’s quarantines are slowly being lifted so meetings can be held again. Indiana is slated to have its meeting July 20. Ohio on July 18. Michigan is tentatively scheduled for June 28. Illinois has postponed its meeting, probably until September. Each state’s restrictions on meetings vary, but all of them recommend that if you are over 70 years old, do not attend.
I hope to attend those meetings. Stay safe.
I hope all is well with you and your family. Please be safe and take care of yourselves and others. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the many restrictions imposed by the states, very little has changed in the region in the last two months.
All travel and state council meetings in the region have been canceled. All communication comes through emails and telephone. There have been many changes at all levels of VVA during this pandemic. One change is The Veteran, which you can only read online. But we will get through this if we all work together for the benefit of all veterans.
Summer is usually a very busy time with many chapters and state council programs and activities. Please do what you are able to help VVA and all veterans, but while observing the guidelines of your state.
Get your Financial and Election Reports into national ASAP. And remember to contact other veterans organizations about possibly joining our organization. To better understand the ramifications of Resolution GA-21, make sure you read “What It Is” and “What It Isn’t” in the last two issues. Then discuss them with your chapter and state council members to make sure they know how your members want to proceed.
Thanks for all you do for veterans and VVA.
BY FRANCISCO F. IVARRA
This report is brief and limited because of the current circumstances we are all subject to. With the exception of Montana, which already had its state council meeting, and Idaho, which planned its meeting for June 26-27 in Sandpoint, all other state council meetings have been canceled.
Alaska State Council: President Craig Wade’s efforts continue to enhance the VSO program and to increase membership.
Idaho State Council: President Bob Seal has informed us of the official recognition by VVA National of newly established Chapter 1144 in Minidoka and Cassia Counties. Congratulations to Chapter President Chuck Driscoll and his elected officers.
Montana State Council: Congratulations to newly elected State President Chuck Renevier and his elected officers.
Washington State Council: I thank Chris Young from Sno-King Edmonds Chapter 423 for organizing the Memorial Day event at Floral Hills Cemetery. State Council Vice President Andi Mitchell still plans to hold the state’s largest VVA Welcome Home Veterans event in Sedro Woolley the first week of August. This event is special and welcomes all veterans.
Wyoming: Not yet a state council, but many of our Vietnam brothers in Wyoming want to continue as members of VVA. Wyoming is being represented by Charles Snead.
These difficult times will continue to limit our efforts to serve veterans and their families. But as we did in the Nam, we will keep moving forward. Take care, be safe, and stay healthy, my brothers.
Much of Region 9, like the rest of the country, is still under a stay-in-place order because of the pandemic. A few states, such as Utah and Nevada, are starting the later phases of opening. Restaurants are starting to allow dine in as long as social distancing is observed and health department guidelines are followed. It appears that we have a ways to go before we will be able to get past this pandemic. Due to stay-in-place orders, social distancing, and restricted travel, most meetings have been canceled. We find ourselves keeping track of everything by email and telephone.
Chapter elections were supposed to be held in April but that didn’t happen; we need to have a meeting to conduct elections. Chapter elected officers will keep their positions until elections can be held at a meeting. The Election Report should be filled out and sent to VVA and your state council before July 15 with the new or current officers and board members listed. It’s also time for state councils and chapters to complete the annual Financial Report and send it to VVA and your state council well before the July 15 due date. No meeting is needed to have the treasurer complete the Finance Report.
Once the medical emergency is over, I may be able to resume visits to the state councils and chapters of Region 9 to answer questions and give advice on subjects of concern to members. In the meantime, you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or concerns.
We are still mushing through the COVID-19 pandemic. The number of lives lost is staggering, and my heart goes out to bereaved families. I had often assumed that the United States had a plan in place for a pandemic of epic proportions, but learned there wasn’t a plan. One of the largest health care systems in Nebraska (Methodist Health Care system) was unprepared.
The elderly, those with underlying health issues, and—really—everyone is at risk. Stay at home and shelter in place caused fear like I have never seen before; and freedom was controlled as we watched the curve of the virus as the economy collapsed. Family unity was put on hold; remote communication was the only means to connect with family. Air hugs replaced the warmth we once knew. This is not a new normal. We need to dig our heels in and learn from the mistakes; ramp up medical research; ramp up testing for a vaccine or treatments; and return to the thriving land we call “Home of the Free.”
Although the death of anyone for any reason has an impact on many people, it is not human nature to stand on the sideline and record the horrific death of a person (George Floyd) from beginning to end and do nothing more than roll the camera. Poor judgment or plain wrong? You be the judge.
We served in the military and fought for our right for peaceful assembly, not to riot, destroy, steal, and hurt human beings. The First Amendment does not provide the right to conduct an assembly at which there is a clear and present danger of riot, disorder, or other immediate threat to public safety or order.
Peaceful protesters typically apply through their city government for permission to assemble for a specific reason at a specific date, time, and location. In the darkness, during a curfew, not many can read a protest sign or tell if someone is pulling a gun or a stick of gum from his or her pocket. And so the chaos begins. Windows are broken, fires started, and looting begins. The purpose of the peaceful protest is obscured, and death, devastation, and destruction are now in the spotlight.
Fear takes away our freedom. The world is watching us crumble from within.
Contact me at email@example.com or 712-314-1808. Thanks to those who have reached out to me with questions. It takes a collective effort to service veterans.
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