How Disabled American Veterans got its start


The Disabled American Veterans (DAV) is an organization chartered by the United States Congress for disabled military veterans of the United States Armed Forces that helps them and their families through various means. It currently has over 1 million members.

In the aftermath of World War I, disabled veterans in the U.S. found themselves seriously disadvantaged, with little governmental support. Many of these veterans were blind, deaf, or mentally ill when they returned from the frontlines. An astonishing 204,000 Americans in uniform were wounded during the war.

The idea to form the Disabled American Veterans arose at a Christmas party in 1919 hosted by Cincinnati Superior Court Judge Robert Marx, a U.S. Army captain and War World I veteran who had been injured in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive in November 1918.

Although it had been functional for some months by that time, the Disabled American Veterans of the World War (DAVWW) was officially created on Sept. 25, 1920, at its first national caucus held at Hamilton County Memorial Hall in Cincinnati. While touring across the U.S. as part of the election campaign of James M. Cox, Judge Marx publicized the new organization, which quickly expanded. It held its first national convention in Detroit, Michigan, on June 27, 1921, at which time Marx was appointed the first national commander. In 1922, a women’s auxiliary organization was founded.

The DAVWW continued working through the Great Depression to secure the welfare of disabled veterans, although their efforts were troubled by fundraising challenges and the desire of the public to put World War I behind them. In the midst of these troubled years, DAVWW was issued a federal charter by Congress on June 17, 1932.

The demands of World War II required the urgent expansion of the organization, which officially changed its name to Disabled American Veterans to recognize the impact of the new war.

In 1941, DAV launched a direct mail campaign, distributing “IdentoTags,” miniature license plates which could be attached to a keyring with instructions that lost keys should be mailed to the DAVWW, who would return them to the owners.

In 1944, the DAV began offering a National Service Officer Training Program at American University in Washington, the first step of education that completed with a two-year mentorship program.

In 1945, the DAV expanded the IdentoTag program and brought the manufacturing in-house, eventually purchasing complete ownership of the program in 1950. The program proved long-lasting and highly successful, both in bringing in donations and employing veterans in manufacture. By 1952, 350 people were employed in the endeavor, which brought in over $2 million a year in donations. Meanwhile, the number of disabled veterans had been increased by the still ongoing Korean War.

The DAV suffered a decline in the later 1950s and into the 1960s, with diminishing leadership and funds, but it rallied around the veterans of the Vietnam War and also focused heavily on working for Prisoners Of War (POWs) and Missing In Action (MIAs). Vietnam veterans soon filled the diminished ranks of the National Service Officers.

On Veterans Day in 1966, the DAV moved its headquarters to Cold Spring, Kentucky. The following year, the IdentoTag program was discontinued in favor of providing address labels, with a request for donation, when changes in license plate practices made continuing the IdentoTag program impracticable.

The DAV underwent substantial changes in 1993, when internal arguments concerning the governance of the organization led to a watershed election that turned over the administration to new hands and the National Service Program was overhauled.

In 1998, DAV National Adjutant Arthur Wilson joined with philanthropist Lois Pope and Secretary for Veterans Affairs Jesse Brown to push for congressional authorization of the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial. By the time fundraising was complete in 2010, the DAV and its affiliates had raised more than $10 million for the memorial. Dedication of the memorial took place on Oct. 5, 2014.

Benefits assistance

The Disabled American Veterans Organization provides service free of charge through a nationwide network of 88 DAV National Service Offices, 38 Transition Service Offices, 198 DAV Hospital Service Coordinator Offices, 52 state-level DAV Departments, 249 DAV VA Voluntary Service Representatives, and more than 1,900 local DAV chapters.

• The Disability Transition Assistance Program (DTAP) service provides free assistance to service members at Intake Site (Pre-Discharge Claims Assistance) locations at military installations by Disabled American Veterans Transition Service Officers (TSOs) with treatment records, filing initial claims for VA benefits and confer with the U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. Departments of Veterans Affairs and U.S. Department of Labor facilitators and other participants in the transition process from military life to civilian life.

• Assistance completion and mailing of United States Department of Veterans Affairs VA forms on behalf of the veteran, service member or survivor.

• Response guidance for research and questions to veterans involving any type of disability compensation and medical services from the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) for service-connected disabilities claims.

• Response guidance to veterans, their families and survivors about the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA), Disability Compensation, VA Pension programs, Veterans’ Group Life Insurance (VGLI), Burial and Interment Allowances, Education Programs such as the Montgomery G.I. Bill and the Post-Vietnam Era Veterans Educational Assistance Program (VEAP), VA Home Loans, The Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) Program or other miscellaneous benefits at the VA Regional Office (VARO).

• Assistance to veterans in reopening and filing completed claims for service-connected or non-service-connected disabilities.

• Assistance for completion the VA Form for veterans that are eligible Individual Unemployability (IU) benefits.

• Assistance to veterans/survivors who are filing any type of claim (original or otherwise) for benefits, compensation and/or pension with the VA.

• Filing of Notice of Disagreement forms with the VA Regional Office for veterans.

• Assistance to veterans and/or surviving spouses to prepare and file appeals for claim denial with the VA Regional Office and the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims board in Washington, D.C.

• Assistance in follow-up on status of claims filed by veterans with the VA Regional Office.

• Free review of VA denials of claim and filing of appropriate responses.

• Transportation free of charge for veterans provided by the DAV Transportation Network to ensure that wounded or ill veterans attend their medical appointments at Veterans Administration Medical Centers. The DAV Transportation Network is administered by DAV Hospital Service Coordinators (HSCs).

• Assistance during major disasters; i.e., tornadoes, floods, etc.

DAV Auxiliary

The DAV Auxiliary (DAVA) is the sister organization of the DAV. Its mission statement is as follows: “Making a difference in the lives of disabled veterans and their families.” Members of the DAVA include family and extended family members of any military veteran who was not dishonorably discharged; family and extended family members of any person injured and still in active service in America’s armed forces; and family and extended family members of DAVA members.

Members of the DAVA actively participate in programs such as Americanism, The DAV Transportation Network, Veterans Information Seminars and Community Service. The DAV Auxiliary also provides volunteer assistance at Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Centers (VAMC), Outpatient Clinics (OPC), Community Based Outpatient Clinics (CBOC) and VA Community Living Centers (CLC).

The Delaware County Disabled American Veterans Chapter No. 79 meets at 7 p.m. on the first Tuesday of each month at 1675 Lawrence Road in Delaware. For more information, call 614-619-6214 or visit

By Harold B. Wolford

Veterans Corner

Harold B. Wolford is president of the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 1095. He served in the United States Army from 1970 to 1973. Wolford can be reached via email at [email protected].

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