Knowledge is power

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Convention seminars packed with valuable information

A member poses a question during the Social Networking Seminar, which is designed to help chapters and departments better engage their audience through social media platforms.

DAV’s national convention seminars offered members the unique ability to meet DAV’s elected officers and staff face-to-face in an educational environment. The seminars delivered a wealth of knowledge, and members eagerly filled the rooms.

The Service and Legislative Seminar featured a discussion between Tim Walz, House Veterans’ Affairs Committee ranking member; Past National Commander and current Deputy Assistant Secretary for Disability Assistance at the Veterans Benefits Administration Rob Reynolds; and Dr. Skye McDougall, director of the South Central VA Health Care Network for the Veterans Health Administration (VHA). The forum was led by National Legislative Director Joy Ilem and National Service Director Jim Marszalek, who moderated the discussion that spanned many of the current issues surrounding veterans. To positive feedback from audience members, Walz announced that the proposal to cut Individual Unemployability benefits for veterans at age 62 would not move forward. Walz, Reynolds and McDougall also touched on the importance of having DAV at the table when discussing the new Choice legislation.

Acting VA Undersecretary for Health Dr. Poonam Alaigh spoke at the VA Health Care Update Seminar about strengthening the VHA and rebuilding the nation’s largest integrated health care system to improve access and quality of care for veterans.

During the Service and Legislative Seminar, members heard firsthand discussion from leaders in Congress and the VA about progress on critical veterans’ issues. (Photo by Emily Kask)

The Benefits Protection Team Leader Seminar, also led by Ilem, focused on the duties and responsibilities of Benefits Protection Team leaders. Included were tips on how to grow a local grassroots network and how to effectively use the Benefits Protection Team toolkit and other online resources.

The Women Veterans Seminar, hosted by Assistant National Legislative Director Shurhonda Love, featured a screening of “Journey to Normal,” a documentary by director JulieHera DeStefano. Through a series of personal accounts, DeStefano explored the transition issues women veterans encounter. The seminar concluded with a moderated discussion about the film with the director.

At the Membership Seminar, National Membership Director Doug Wells and appointed members of the Interim Membership Committee discussed successful recruiting techniques and recruiting incentives, and provided instruction and orientation on both the DAV membership system and membership portals.

As part of the Voluntary Services Seminar, Voluntary Services Director John Kleindienst (left) discussed DAV360—DAV’s new voluntary services network—and finished with a Q&A with those in attendance.

National Voluntary Services Director John Kleindienst provided a basic overview of the new voluntary services system—DAV360—at the Voluntary Services Seminar. Also covered were detailed instructions on how to report VA Voluntary Service Program, Transportation Network, service officer and Local Veterans Assistance Program hours to the Voluntary Service Department. The seminar concluded with a Q&A.

The POW/MIA Seminar, hosted by DAV POW/MIA Committee Chairman Vincent Darcangelo and Fern Sumpter Winbush, acting director of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, reinforced DAV’s promise to never forget those taken prisoner, missing or unaccounted for—the brothers and sisters left behind—and their survivors.

The Communications, Social Networking and Outreach 101 seminars, presented by members of the National Communications Department, discussed DAV’s efforts over the past year and upcoming efforts in communications, magazine contributions, media relations support, toolkits and more to spread the word about DAV in the community. Members learned how chapters and departments can best use social media to most effectively engage existing and potential members, local media, officials and other valuable stakeholders in their communities. Additionally, the seminars illustrated how chapters can expand and further develop their community outreach efforts through a variety of vehicles including public service announcements, electronic newsletters, print, TV, radio and social media. They also covered techniques for writing a press release, media relations skills and community engagement. At the end of these sessions, seminar participants gained skills to effectively communicate DAV’s efforts.

National Employment Director Jeff Hall provided an overview of DAV’s employment program during the Employment Seminar. He was joined by Assistant National Employment Director Rob Lougee in providing up-to-date information, including job fair activities, website tools and the road ahead. Participants gained a greater understanding of the many career paths and developmental programs available through the department’s mission, structure, reach and work.

National Chaplain Michael Dover discussed how to communicate with various generations of veterans and get them involved in local chapters during the Chaplains Seminar. A focal point was that each generation of veterans possesses certain strengths, and understanding them helps chaplains assist commanders in increasing membership and getting each generation actively involved in DAV’s mission.

The Inspector General Seminar provided current and real-world information on matters related to the day-to-day activities and operations of departments and chapters. Also discussed were key DAV fundraising initiatives that benefit departments and local chapters. The seminar was designed to help new leaders learn the basics of the organization’s National Constitution, Bylaws and National Executive Committee regulations from Inspector General Ed Hartman and Chief Development Officer Brian Cowart.

“DAV’s national convention is a unique opportunity for our members to completely immerse themselves in everything DAV has going on,” said National Adjutant Marc Burgess. “It’s an amazing week that is full of chances to learn and show our commitment to providing outstanding services for veterans while continuing our high standards in how we carry out our mission. We are indebted to our members who attended these sessions and provided the feedback we needed to support our leaders in the field.”


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Education and training seminars can be found online at