WHY IS MILITARY CORRUPTION
IMPORTANT TO ME, ESPECIALLY AT A VSO?
Regardless of who you are or where you live, corruption hurts us all. Corruption is costly and tears at the fabric of our society. As a civilian you may feel the corruption that involves military members has absolutely no influence over your life. Other than having to pay more taxes to support corruption, you probably are correct.
As of 2014, the VA estimates there were 22 million military veterans in the U.S. population. If you add their figures on veterans to the active personnel numbers mentioned above, 7.3 percent of all living Americans or nearly 24 million of America’s current population have served in the military at some point in their lives.
These numbers do not count the family members and dependents of those who have served in the American military. When they are included, the number rises exponentially.
The point is, even if you have never served in the military, you probably know someone who did. Consequently, we all should be concerned about military corruption both in the military and in veteran service organizations who receive tax benefits because of their nonprofit status.
(the final segment of a five-part series)
CORRUPTION IN ONE OF AMERICA’S LARGEST
MILITARY SERVICE ORGANIZATIONS
It seems Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA), and its pathetic leadership can’t stay scandal-free for even ten minutes. Over many years, we have all seen national news stories about prominent people in the worlds of news, public officials, and entertainment that have been hit with misconduct from sexual harassment, up to forcible rape.
Sadly, many perpetrators suffer only embarrassment, but a few are forced to address their dubious behavior in a court of law. Unfortunately, sex crimes and fraud in America’s veteran service organization are seldom exposed. When they are caught with their pants down or their hands in the cookie jar, seldom is there any accountability.
This kind of misconduct frequently occurs in one of the most powerful veteran service organizations in America, the Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA). One particular case involves a relationship between a VVA national-level officer and a VVA employee occuring between 2010 and 2012.
The President of the VVA is Mr. John Rowan. Rowan is alleged to have done nothing with regard to the VVA officer involved in the misconduct. Worse, however, Rowan aggressively went after the whistle-blower who reported the sexual harassment by the VVA officer.
Mr. Jim Pace sent an email to the VVA outlining what he discovered about the national-level VVA officer. And what did the VVA do? They forwarded the email to the perpetrator of the sexual misconduct.
President Rowan allegedly hid the misconduct as well as the sexual harassment allegations of the national-level VVA officer from members of the VVA National Board of Directors (BOD). When confronted, President John Rowan pulled out his “plausible deniability card” stating that he had no prior knowledge of the alleged sexual molestation.
One of the former members of the VVA, Mr. Donald McDole canvassed several members who served on the BOD during the time frame when the alleged misconduct took place and every canvassed BOD member claims to have had no knowledge of the improper conduct.
McDole began to conduct his own private investigation and has several emails from a “very trustworthy individual” who was and still is aware of the doings of the named VVA officer. The VVA is reluctant to move forward with sanctions because of the ill effects it could levy on the VVA, and most importantly, on the employee subjected by relentless sexual harassment.
McDole was neither reluctant nor constrained to expose the misconduct, but is fully aware of the names of all parties involved and doesn’t have a problem with disclosing the names of the guilty parties at the proper time.
Even then, out of respect and concern for the VVA employee who was the target of sexual harassment, McDole will not divulge her true identity. Instead, he gave her a fictional name of, “CSM Marjorie Allen,” a retired hard-nosed Army Command Sergeant-Major.
Our sources tell us that shortly after the perpetrator of the unrelenting sexual harassment received the email, he immediately got on the phone and called Allen and jumped down her throat about telling Mr. Pace about what had occurred as well as about their hush agreement. This was reported to Pace by another person who is a friend of CSM Marjorie Allen.
This proves our theory that a VVA national officer is above the National Disciplinary Code, similar to the way admirals and generals on active duty are above the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). Put it another way, the VVA, like the military itself has two disciplinary standards: one for the membership and one for the good-old-boys who hold positions of leadership and authority.
Back in 2005, then VVA At-Large Director Dave McMichael made an important statement to the VVA leadership at the Board of Director (BOD) meeting: “We need to set an example – we (officers and/or board members) are not above the rules and regulations set forth by VVA’s membership”.
We are sorry to say the current VVA leadership were all there when McMichael utter those words to the BOD on April 22, 2005. It seems McMichael’s words went in one ear and out the other. It appears that all national VVA officers are above, indeed, exempted, from VVA codes of conduct.
This is abundantly manifest by their refusal to hold one of their own accountable for blatant acts of sexual harassment. Mr. Pace contacted McDole and provided him with sufficient evidence that something transpired between this unnamed national officer and VVA employee CSM Marjorie Allen.
According to Mr. Pace, it must have been something either hostile or sexually harassing in nature as Marjorie felt compelled to obtain a restraining order against the national VVA officer as related to McDole by Mr. Pace.
Based on the information provided by Pace, McDole conducted his own research and found evidence that would likely constitute probable cause existed to initiate a full-fledged investigation into the matter.
McDole wrote a letter to VVA President John Rowan pointing out facts that would lead one to believe some form of sexual harassment indeed occurred. McDole requested VVA conduct their own investigation to ferret-out the truth. He also recommended that because of the nature of the alleged incident that an outside private investigations firm should be retained to conduct a thorough and fair investigation.
It seems sexual harassment is nothing new at the Vietnam Veterans of America along with discriminatory behavior. Apparently, a civil lawsuit was filed against the VVA and its Ohio State Council chapter years ago regarding another sexual harassment incident.
Even though this did not necessarily involve the VVA at the national level, it would have been a prudent move for the national leaders of the VVA to establish a policy or issued a policy letter regarding a zero-tolerance of sexual harassment in the workplace.
Such policy information should be part of a packet of information given to all elected and appointed officers and members of the Board of Directors every two years. The same holds true for any form of discrimination. The VVA has been sued several times in federal court over discrimination issues.
National-level VVA efforts to address and curtail sexual harassment and discrimination within the massive organization can be summed up in one word: NOTHING.
A REVIEW OF OUR VVA CORRUPTION SEGMENTS
VSO CORRUPTION, Part I…
Stellar reporter/investigator Donald McDole, exposed VVA National President John P. Rowan as a fraud. He persists in wearing a military medal he was not awarded while in the Air Force. This is substantiated in his military records obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.
After this article was published, we received a photo of John Rowan in his Air Force uniform, a photo most likely taken shortly before his discharge. Strangely, interestingly, and revealingly, all awards and decorations are conspicuously absent in that photograph. With the exception of the NDSM and one other organized medal.
In this segment we exposed another fake VVA leader Dr. Wayne Reynolds, who said he was he was a combat medic and a combat veteran of the Vietnam War. The truth was Wayne Reynolds was a Pharmacy Specialist while serving in Vietnam and not a swashbuckling combat medic.
He never tended to the injured on the battlefield as he boasted. It was also discovered he could not have been a Dustoff medic as well.
We recently heard that Wayne Reynolds won a race for public office and is the School Board Member-Elect for District 8. Is it possible Reynolds used his trumped up resume to deceive the voters of Alabama?
VSO CORRUPTION, Part II…
McDole provided evidence the VVA leadership and its Board of Directors retaliated against James D. Pace and accused him of committing a felonious crime. The VVA and its leadership failed to notify the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA), its General Counsel (GC) or its Office of Inspector General (OIG). They wanted to accuse him of a crime, but had no intention of dragging him into court where the whole truth would be put on display.
We showed that McDole provided information to James Pace obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request. At no time was there ever confidential VA claims folder information exchanged between McDole and Pace as the embarrassed VVA organization alleges.
VSO CORRUPTION, Part III…
Donald McDole revealed that although a Mr. Grissom falsified official government records in 2001, the VVA never shared that information with its BOD nor the DVA, GC or the OIG.
Instead, they allowed Grissom to quietly resign his VSO accreditation. Despite his transgressions, however, Grissom was allowed to continue being actively involved in VVA matters. Indeed, his positional stature and leadership influence in VVA grew larger.
Unknown to the VVA, Grissom continued handling VA claims up to the day he passed away. His lack of accreditation with VVA was easily remedied by holding a separate and different accreditation with another accredited veterans service organization.
Grissom, who was rated 100% disabled by the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Social Security Administration, was precluded from drawing a salary without losing his disability status. Instead of drawing a salary, however, the VVA engaged in a creative subterfuge and fraud by allowing Grissom the use of a VVA credit card for his own personal use.
Grissom was a very heavy drinker and during VVA BOD meetings his nightly bar bill was typically $250.00 or more, all paid for with a VVA credit card. He often treated his inner-circle of elite VVA friends like him, to nice meals and drinks in several of the nicer Silver Spring restaurants, again, all paid for with the VVA credit card. Golf junkets with other inner-circle members were also paid for by VVA via the credit card.
Grissom flew approximately 100,000 air miles a year supposedly either on VVA business or that of the legacy VVAF or the Veterans Support Foundation (VSF), the last organization he served on before his death. McDole was once with Grissom and witnessed his using the VVA credit card to purchase a new laptop computer and accessories. Ah, life is good when you have a credit card with apparently few limitations as to what and how much you can purchase.
VSO CORRUPTION, Part IV…
McDole revealed the corruption in VVA Region 8 was widespread at the time he assumed the Region 8 leadership helm. How the corruption manifested itself was limited only by the creativity of its perpetrators. Money laundering, theft, fraud, and misuse of donated vehicles were a common means of corruption.
When McDole began filing charges pursuant to the VVA Disciplinary Code, he was attacked by the VVA leadership and retaliated against by VVA. In this article, sexual harassment within VVA between a national-level VVA officer and a VVA employee was exposed.
McDole sent a letter to President John Rowan requesting that they conduct an investigation into the activities of the national officer as a suspect in various crimes. As always the VVA does not respond. However, our sources tell us that neither Rowan nor the organization gave McDole’s letter any serious consideration. And that’s how they do it, by circling the wagons and ignoring it all until it simmers down.
It seems many older citizens in our country now want to be Vietnam veterans even though they never stepped foot in that country. Some may have in fact actually served in our Armed Forces but never left the comforts of CONUS (Continental United States).
Others may have never served a day in uniform. As in one of our earlier articles, one does not have to be a Vietnam veteran to be a VVA member. The VVA is more that happy to bring in more dues money. One only needs to have served in the Armed Forces during the period of the Vietnam War to qualify for membership. So you could have been stationed in Germany and still become a member of the VVA.
In an effort to provide you, the reader, with the true membership make-up, the VVA National Secretary, William “Bill” Meeks Jr., was contacted and asked to provide a break-down of the number of in-country Vietnam veterans in comparison to VVA members who are simply Vietnam era veterans.
Meeks responded by stating that “VVA has never calculated nor will VVA ever attempt to come up with a percentage of our members who served in Vietnam or at any other duty station location.” Simply stated, VVA has no idea of what its membership composition is comprised of, nor do they care.
They don’t want to know as it may lead to having to change the organization’s name from “Vietnam Veterans of America” to “Vietnam Era Veterans of America.” It is suspected the real number of in-country VVA members is a very low percentage of total VVA membership. This, to some extent, makes the whole organization a fraud.
During McDole’s tenure as a Regional Director and a VVA State Council President, he saw many VVA members claiming to be veterans of the Vietnam War. A great number claimed their in-country service in Vietnam was classified and thus could not reveal specifics regarding their time in Vietnam.
How interesting! Such members could not divulge their unit or its location while in Vietnam because their service and ensuing missions were classified. A nifty number of these wannabes can be found in the VVA membership, all the while talking a great story of their heroic deeds while simultaneously working to avoid discovery of their self-aggrandizing subterfuges.
Then there are those who served in Vietnam in various military occupations – such as Pharmacy Specialist – who embellish their service in the war as something it was not. This is amply demonstrated such an occurrence with respect to the VVA National Treasurer. Dr. Wayne Reynolds.
It is time to clean the swamp in Silver Spring, Maryland and on the Board of Directors and within VVA. Term limits for BOD members, VVA officers, and VVA State Councils functionaries such be instituted. To effectively clean the swamp, however, it is vitally necessary to vote out all incumbents replace them with a clean slate of officers and BOD members at the next National Convention in Spokane, Washington.
Further, a grievance mechanism within VVA as well as procedures for redress of VVA employees and VVA members should be established for formally filing complaints. An Ombudsmen position should be created within the organization for investigating complaints should also be explored.
Revamping the National Disciplinary Code regarding conflicts of interest of VVA members appointed and serving in any official VVA capacity should be vigorously pursued. More than anything else, VVA should organizationally “walk the walk” with respect to treating all members of the organization the same and disavow elite status-based preferential treatment. No one gets a VVA credit card for their personal use, for example.
DR. THOMAS BERGER
As we were preparing to close out this series, we received information from a confidential source that yet another elite VVA member is in fact a fraud. It seems Dr. Thomas Berger, the past VVA Chairman of the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Committee, (hereinafter referred to as PTSD) and the current Executive Director of the VVA’s Health Council is not who he said he is.
Berger claims to have been a Navy Corpsman assigned to the 3rd Marine Division in Vietnam who took care of battlefield wounded. A copy of his military records obtained by a FOIA request to the Department of the Navy revealed another sordid story.
According to his military records Berger was never a Navy Corpsman; he was a Culinary Specialist, meaning a cook, while he served in the Navy. Worse yet, he never served in Vietnam. He served as a cook aboard the USS Stribling, a Gearing-class destroyer, from 16 March 1967 to 01 Oct 1968. His military record reflects he was discharged at Cecil Field Naval Air Station (NAS) on 9 Oct 1968.
His military records also disclosed he entered the Navy on 19 Oct 1965 in Kansas City, Missouri, but did not enter active duty until 4 Oct 1966. He served two years active service until 9 Oct 1968. His active duty time was followed by three years of reserve service from 10 Oct 1968 to 18 Oct 1971.
He received no military medals while in the Navy other than the National Defense Service Medal, commonly referred as the NDSM. If Berger would have served in Vietnam, he would have earned the Vietnam Campaign Medal and the Vietnam Service Medal, additionally as a Navy Corpsman assigned to a Marine Ground Combat Unit he would have earned the Navy Combat Action Ribbon.
Berger fibbed inside and outside of VVA about how he served with the 3rd Marine Division as an in-theater Navy Corpsman in Vietnam. Sadly, that just simply isn’t true. Now let’s focus on his educational background. He claims to hold a Ph.D. degree.
In the opening statements of a speech he gave, Dr. Berger indicated that he had completed post-doctoral studies, but failed to mention at what university.
He further claimed to have held faculty and administrative appointments at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, the State University System of Florida in Tallahassee and the University of Missouri-Columbia, as well as program administrative positions with the Illinois Easter Seal Society and United Cerebral Palsy of Northwest Missouri.
Dr. Berger claims his professional publications include books and research articles in the biological sciences, wildlife regulatory law, adolescent risk behaviors, and post-traumatic stress disorder. We have been unable to find any publications written by Dr. Berger on any of the subjects which he claims to have written about.
We did find numerous publications written by a Thomas Berger, who died in 2014 who had turned 90 one week prior to his death. A check of the ISBN database failed to disclose any record of Thomas J. Berger other than the deceased author with the same name. Could it be a coincidence? We think not.
We think we can perfectly say that Dr. Berger’s educational accomplishments weren’t those of the Thomas J. Berger of USS Stribling fame. As to his claim to have a doctoral degree, we have been unsuccessful in locating any record of his having such a degree.
We contacted Berger both by email and snail mail requesting information from him regarding obtaining the name of the university that granted his doctoral degree and the name of the books and research papers he published. We received no reply from him.
Our informant tells us that VVA’s President John Rowan after being informed of Berger’s false claim of having served in Vietnam and his other falsehoods told Berger to resign or be fired. My understanding is Berger opted to resign all his VVA positions.
In our opinion Berger should have never been hired for the executive position that he held with the VVA without first being properly vetted, a background investigation to include verification of his educational credentials and military service.
America is drowning in one national scandal after another. Scandals of “stolen valor,” those people who wrongfully embellish their military record or those who claim to be in the military that never were, seem to be a commonplace occurrence. Have we all been so jaded by the relentless examples of fraud that we have become numb?
And how about the cost of it all. There are countless thousands claiming to be veterans’ and applying for veterans benefits amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars which is being stolen by these fake warriors.
Military decorations are being falsely claimed, and worn, by men never authorized to receive them. We pointed that out in our first article. VVA, National President John Rowan, is one who falsely wears a military decoration that being the Air Force Crewmember Flight Medal.
We also outed Dr. Wayne Reynolds, VVA National Treasurer as a military impostor we exposed him for what he was a Pill Roller, Pharmacist Specialist and not a Combat Medic and/or Medevac Medic as he has claimed to be for at least 20 years or so.
Unless something is done about these “fake warriors,” their shameless, boastfulness and costly conduct will completely undermine the system. Military decorations that point to someone’s bravery in battle will become nothing but a joke because everyone will be wearing one. Anyone who thinks such conduct is merely offensive and relatively harmless is truly misinformed.
While cases of stolen valor have probably been occurring since George Washington, it seems that after the Vietnam War, the problem of stolen valor and various war-record frauds became rampant. People who never set foot in Vietnam have been either inventing a non-existent military service, or embellishing their own war records to the point of ridiculousness.
Tom Berger, Aka: Dr. Tom Berger is one who escalated his military service, his background and even his training. He was able to wiggle himself into a really important position of Executive Director of Veterans Health Council, which is part of the Vietnam Veterans of America, Inc.
He was able to get hired without a background investigation ever been conducted. He deceived the VVA leadership to wiggle his way onto various committees within the Department of Veterans Affairs and was an adviser to the Department of Defense.
Berger allegedly made misrepresentations of his military service for the purpose of obtaining employment. Can anyone say “Pocahontas?” Berger was in fact a former Navy Junior Enlisted Service Member who never served in combat at all.
When applying for a job and membership with the VVA, Berger was dishonest about his status as a Navy Corpsman, lied about combat service, and misrepresented various awards and decorations including the Silver Star, and two… not one, but two Purple Hearts.
Berger decision to lie about military service and awards for personal gain is disgraceful. His actions not only violate Federal Law, they dishonor the heroic men who have sacrificed to serve our country and who have been awarded one of our military’s highest awards.
Our veterans have sacrificed to serve our country. It’s now on us to stand up for them, make sure they aren’t being scammed, and help keep the money they’ve earned in their pockets.
If you suspect that someone is misrepresenting their status as a service member or a Veteran or the nature of their goods or services, or you are a victim of a veterans’ scam, and would like information on who to report the illegal activity contact this investigative reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If an individual fabricates his or her military service, one wonders what else is he or she misrepresenting? Where there is smoke there is fire as we all have been taught growing up.
The leaders of the VVA have a long track record of hiding and/or not taking the appropriate action against those who violate the VVA Disciplinary Code. The crooks in the VVA stole more than $40,000 from the membership of the Oregon State Council years ago. And, cost VVA National more than $50,000 or more in investigating the issue.
What action did the VVA take against the crooks? You guessed it, absolutely nothing except they went after the two members who had the guts to bring the issue to their attention?
VVA’s goals are to promote and support the broad field of issues important to Vietnam veterans, to create a new identity for this generation of veterans, and to change public perception of Vietnam veterans. They have done a very poor job of achieving this.
Long after the Vietnam War ended, citizens of the post-Vietnam Veterans Era have long supported the idea that Vietnam Veterans were amoral drug addicts, psychopathic baby killers and alcoholics. Quite the contrary, most American soldiers who served in Vietnam never committed atrocities or killed any babies.
VVA holds that, “the first principle the organization is measured by deeds and openness as evidence of the core values of justice, integrity, and meaningful achievement.”
The actions of VVA leadership are totally the opposite of their principles. The VVA leadership has demonstrated through their actions that it holds a two-fold set of measures, one for their elite members and one for all others. Mr. Grissom committed criminal acts; he was never punished. Instead, Grissom was rewarded for his dubious activity.
The VVA claims that the DVA allowed Grissom to resign in lieu of an investigation being carried out. McDole, a retired federal law enforcement officer, has told us that he finds that statement difficult to consider since the duty of the DVA OIG was and still is to investigate all complaints where felony violations have been allegedly committed.
All illegal acts alleged to have been committed by Grissom were felonies in nature. A recent view of the cases that the DVA OIG has prosecuted would lead a reasonable and prudent person(s) to believe that the DVA OIG would have elected to, investigated the GRISSOM ordeal, if it had been reported to them.
The other elite members of the VVA “good old boys/girls” system mostly likely decided themselves to keep it silent and secret. Knowing fully well that if it was reported as required that one of their elite members (good old boy) could lead to him going to federal prison for what he caused. Mr. Grissom was an elite member of the inner-circle of the VVA and was one of the good old boys.
James PACE was not so lucky, he was not a member of the elite group and as such he was punished on trumped up charges that the evidence presented by PACE disproved the allegations. VVA leadership hand-picked hearing panel failed to take that into consideration.
We can rightly label the Vietnam Veterans of America as an absolutely corrupt organization based on evidence presented by McDole who gathered such evidence during the past 20 plus years.
McDole discovered and filed disciplinary charges on one sitting and two former State Council presidents and chaired the Disciplinary Committee relating to one former VVA Regional Director dishonesty and misconduct.
Some of the criminal acts McDole discovered within the VVA included money laundering, embellishment, grand theft, false claim act violations, providing false and misleading statements on benefit applications, and fraud.
Sadly, the VVA is just one organization. We ask ourselves, are other VSO organizations ethically and legally as challenged as the Vietnam Veterans of America. We would be naive to thing otherwise. We caution all Americans interested in joining any organization, but especially a veterans service organization. DO YOUR HOMEWORK, BEFORE SIGNING UP and pray to God that you have at least one man in the organization with abiding integrity and loyalty who believes in the rule-of-law as does Donald R. McDole.