DVNF CEO Issues New Report on Progress Made Since His Arrival

Before joining DVNF, I saw an organization with loads of potential, but a need for more structure, more transparency, and more efficiency.

DVNF had several items that needed to be addressed, and I believe that in the first six months of my tenure as CEO, we have made significant strides in improving the entire organization.

Some issues remain works in progress, but after 6 months since I took the reins of DVNF, I am pleased to report substantial progress has been made in every facet of the organization!

1. Wrote a business plan for DVNF

I really wanted to get the organization’s ducks in a row, so to speak. In addition to the many important changes we needed it make, it was crucial to have a well-developed business plan for the organization.

This business plan contains our vision for where we hope to be in the coming years, both programmatically and financially. One of the major determining factors of the organization’s growth is the success of our Benefits and Resources Navigation program. If it becomes as successful as I believe, DVNF will indeed have a bright future.

2. Created a new organizational chart to reflect the growing needs of DVNF

When I began my initial evaluation of the organization’s many parts, it became clear that there was a need for greater coordination and clearer lines of authority and accountability. The organizational structure was simply not keeping up with our increasing activity.

Now, we have an organizational chart that creates greater role clarity and management accountability, which will be particularly important as we continue building out our program activities and growing the staff.

3. Created & implemented a new core of operations known as Benefits & Resources Navigation (BaRN)

During my time as the Wounded Warrior Regiment Sergeant Major in the Marines, I became well-versed in the benefits that service members are eligible for, as well as the many resources outside the VA that seek to help active duty military and veterans.

Fortunately and unfortunately, there are so many resources available to men and women who have served that they often don’t know where to look if they have a pressing need. There were other times that I noticed these individuals weren’t always clear on how to ask for help.

That’s why I created BaRN. I wanted to have “Navigators” in the office who could evaluate the circumstances of a veteran and work with some of the veteran’s local resources who are equipped to address many needs they frequently have.

As part of this, I also:

  • Evaluated all programs and policies
  • Wrote desktop procedures for all programs
  • Hired a new Office Manager, who has:

-Developed a new filing system

-Developed new office management procedures

-Evaluated & created new QuickBooks procedures

4. Hired many new staff members. All staff members are trained to be HIPAA compliant due to the delicate nature of the needs of the veterans we serve.

Everyone on our staff is trained in HIPAA rules and procedures, not only as a legal safeguard, but also as a measure of good faith. We want the veterans who approach DVNF to put their trust in our staff, and know that we won’t be careless with their personal information.

5. Hired two Navigators in the last six months. Both Navigators are trained in:

Non-Medical Case Management
PTSD recognition
TBI recognition
Tri-Care medical organization
Marriage & Family
Recovery Care Coordinators (RCC)

Not only are our Navigators well trained, they are also extremely patient and caring individuals. I am so pleased at how their hard work is making a real difference in the lives of veterans, and I know that these veterans are very appreciative as well.

6. Hired DVNF’s first Development Director

As mentioned previously, the main priority was to make our fundraising strategy more efficient and more transparent. That’s why I hired Barfonce Baldwin.

She is an established professional with over 10 years of experience in nonprofit fundraising and development. Her mandate is to sustain a strong and viable donor cultivation program and to develop new sources of revenue, including major donors, foundation grants and corporate gifts. She hit the ground running and has already proved to be an indispensible asset to DVNF’s present and future of helping veterans in need.

7. Increased DVNF’s program giving:

Grants to Provide Stability: Our GPS program provides funding to qualified veterans when they are in a temporary financial setback. This year, we have already helped close to 50 veterans in dire need. Many of which have been able to escape the risk of becoming homeless.
Wellness & Morale Program: This program send basic items such as clothing, food, water, and health and hygiene supplies to Stand Down Events and homeless shelters around the country. The program is currently up more than 35% from last year.
BaRN: Since the program launched in October 2013, DVNF has helped more than 86 veterans. To see the impact this program has had on the lives of veterans, take a look at http://www.dvnf.org/have-you-been-helped-by-dvnf/.

8. Redesigned DVNF’s Website:

The face of an organization is its website, and DVNF needed a big time facelift! We have now launched a new website to make it more manageable, more aesthetic, and just better overall.

We also added new services on the website to help people use our website as their own personal resource for what they are looking for. Veterans can now find some basic benefits and resources information they may find useful.

9. Developed New Relationships:

We are collaborating with a new retail startup company, G.I. Joe Coffee. They are a veteran-owned, veteran-operated company that wants their business to be of benefit to veterans.

G.I. Joe is donating money to DVNF from select bags of their coffee, which will go to programs that benefit veterans. We are proud to call them a friend and corporate sponsor and are excited about the possibilities of this relationship.

We have also embarked on an important project with the Human Engineering Research Laboratories (HERL) at the University of Pittsburgh. Under the leadership of Dr. Rory Cooper, HERL has done work and research that has directly impacted countless numbers of disabled veterans. When I heard that HERL needed a new piece of manufacturing equipment to further their development of state of the art wheelchairs and other adaptive devices, I told Dr. Cooper that he could count on DVNF.

Our goal is to raise $50,000 for HERL so they can continue improving the quality of life for so many people.

10. Gold Sponsor for the Marine Corps Trials, DVNF provided:

300 Hygiene Kits
300 Sheets & Pillow Cases (Bedding)
300 Athletic Towels
Gift Cards totaling $10,000
Final total: More than $30,000

It has been a fast-paced and lively 6 months at DVNF. I feel that we are now on track to becoming one of the most trusted names in helping the men and women who have served in our armed forces.

I am committed to making DVNF accountable in every aspect of its business. I truly look forward to the next 6 months, and beyond!

Thank you,

Joseph VanFonda (SgtMaj Ret.)


DVNF Offers Comments, Condolences on Fort Hood Tragedy

WASHINGTON, DC – April 3, 2014 – The Disabled Veterans National Foundation (www.dvnf.org), a nonprofit veterans service organization that focuses on helping men and women who serve and return home wounded or sick after defending our safety and our freedom, is offering its condolences to the victims of the Fort Hood tragedy, which occurred late Wednesday evening.

Joseph VanFonda (SgtMaj Ret.), CEO of DVNF, offered his statements on the tragic circumstances:

What happened Wednesday night at Fort Hood was upsetting, unsettling, and disheartening. Many reports have identified the gunman as a service member seeking mental health treatment at Fort Hood.

This tragedy is a sad reminder that our service members have been through a great deal, and many happen to struggle to mentally cope with the circumstances they experienced in combat. However, I think it is extremely important to emphasize that situations like this are the exception, and not the norm.

All of us at DVNF send our deepest sympathies to the families and friends of the victims. We as a nation should feel a heavy sadness fall on our hearts at this moment, and we hope that we can take collective steps to address the needs of service members properly to prevent situations like Wednesday night’s tragedy.

DVNF has recently underlined the importance for all veterans undergoing crisis to reach out for help. The organization urges any veteran with thoughts of suicide or any mental distress to immediately seek treatment from the Department of Veterans Affairs, or to call the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255.

For more, go to www.dvnf.org.

Thank You Message from Albany

DVNF recently received a heart-warming message of thanks from Jezreel International, the Albany, NY organization we recently sent a shipment of clothing to for their Veterans Appreciation Day event.

Now, they are going to continue their work for veterans!

DVNF CEO, Joe VanFonda (left) with Jezreel International Warehouse Manager and Army Veteran, Lorenzo Hodges.

DVNF CEO, Joe VanFonda (left) with Jezreel International Warehouse Manager and Army Veteran, Lorenzo Hodges.

January 15, 2014

Dear Sergeant Major Joe,

Jezreel International is a 501© 3 not for profit humanitarian aid relief organization.

The work began in 1996 in Albany, NY with a purpose to help those in need, both here in America and around the world.

This past December 11th a deep desire of my heart was fulfilled when we hosted our first annual VETERAN’S APPRECIATION DAY event. We opened our warehouse to over 100 Veteran’s who were in need.

The day was filled with love, honor and appreciation for each and every Vet who attended. We had the LaSalle School Color Guard accompanied by a bagpipe player, several speakers and a free raffle of some very awesome gifts. The men and women were fed a wonderful lunch and then were able to Christmas ‘shop’ for their needs in our warehouse.

Many of the Vets were visibly moved by the love and appreciation they felt.

The big question in my heart was “why can’t this be available all the time?” So, with God’s help, we will open the VETERANS’ MIRACLE CENTER for our courageous men & women who have so faithfully served this country.

The purpose of the center is to help provide the basic necessities of life for our veterans and their families. Our goal is to alleviate the stresses and concerns on our men and women to provide for themselves, their wives & children. The center will be designed to provide personal care and hygiene products, clothing, house wares, tools, ambulatory equipment for those with specials needs and much more. All of these supplies will be freely given.

We look forward with great expectation to honor those to whom honor is due. We are truly grateful for the opportunity to help in whichever capacity we can to bless those who have so freely given to protect all of us.

On behalf of the entire staff at Jezreel International, we all say THANK YOU!! THANK YOU! We are looking forward to a deep and long lasting relationship with you and DVNF.

Sincerely Yours,

Barry Feinman
Executive Director, Jezreel Int’l

DVNF CEO Joseph VanFonda Voices Concern Over Military Retirement Cuts

The recent budget agreement which passed a Senate cloture vote on Tuesday, is understandably troublesome to many veterans. While spending cuts may help to ensure a more sustainable future, it can come at a grave cost to some of the most devoted Americans you could ever find.

A Washington Post article explains that this budget proposal is going to be a tough sell, and rightfully so. The budget agreement calls for a 1 percent cut in cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) in retiree pay. However, this would only apply to those who retire after 20 years of military service, and are not disabled (and are typically in their 40s).

The reasoning? Because it will save $6.2 billion over the next 10 years.

You might think it seems petty to complain about this, especially since this deal would avoid another government shutdown for at least 2 years.

Unfortunately, when this deal was proposed, it was stated that it would only affect non-disabled, working-age military retirees who had served 20-plus years in the military. We now know that this is not the case.

It was discovered that this budget deal, in fact, does not offer an exemption for disabled veteran retirees. This deal is going to hurt many veterans that have truly earned every cent of their retirement pay. And for the ones who cannot physically work, despite being “working age,” this is really going to hurt.

Our service members who have served more than 20 years have made many unimaginable sacrifices. These sacrifices not only impacted their lives, but also the lives of all their loved ones around them.

Now, I recognize the need for cuts, and realize that a government shutdown is just as harmful to veterans as anything. And it is far from my place to say where those cuts should be made. One thing I do know, however, is that when lawmakers pull out the fiscal knife, veterans–especially those who are disabled–have earned the right to never be placed on the cutting board.

Joseph VanFonda (SgtMaj Ret.)

DVNF Welcomes GySgt Guillermo Tejada to Board of Directors

Please join me in welcoming Gunnery Sergeant Guillermo “TJ” Tejada to the DVNF Board of Directors!

GySgt Tejada has been a Marine since 1998. He served a tour in Iraq in 2003, and was later deployed to Afghanistan in 2010. On Veterans Day, 2010, TJ lost both of his legs in an IED explosion. Today, he continues his treatment in the Wounded Warrior Detachment in San Antonio, TX.

He will bring a fresh perspective to the direction of DVNF, and will help us better address the needs of veterans we help. We are thrilled to have him aboard and are grateful for his tremendous sacrifices for our country!

Welcome, Gunny!

Joseph VanFonda (SgtMaj Ret)

Biography, GySgt Guillermo Tejada

GySgt Tejada (left) with SgtMaj VanFonda

GySgt Tejada (left) with SgtMaj VanFonda

GySgt Tejada is currently assigned to the United States Marine Corps Wounded Warrior Regiment Detachment at Ft. Sam Houston, Texas.

GySgt Tejada was born in El Salvador on 20 April 1980.   At age four he came to the United States and completed grade school in Los Angeles, CA.  At fifteen years of age his family moved to North Hollywood, California were he graduated from Jack London High School in June of 1998.  After graduation GySgt Tejada enlisted in the United States Marine Corps.   He attended MCRD training in March of 1999.  After graduation he reported to the School of Infantry where he began his MOS (Military Occupation Specialty) training as a Basic Rifleman.

Following Basic School and the Infantry Course, he was assigned to 3rd Battalion 5th Marines. In August of 2000 his unit was deployed to the state of Idaho to assist in Operation Wildfire.  The Marines of 3/5 assisted in fighting the wildfires that were burning out of control near the city of Salmon Challis. In January of 2002 his unit once again deployed to Okinawa, Japan on the 31st MEU (Marine Expeditionary Unit). In January of 2003 he deployed to Kuwait to await orders in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF). On March 19th his unit crossed the Iraqi border where they engaged in combat operations. He returned from Iraq on 22 July 2003.  In March of 2004 he successfully completed Sergeants Course at the Marine Corps University in Camp Pendleton, California.

In February 2005 GySgt Tejada was selected for recruiting school.  He attended Recruiting School West in April of 2005.  Upon graduation he reported to Recruiting Station Phoenix where he served a successful 3 year tour as canvassing recruiter in West Phoenix.

In April of 2008 GySgt Tejada was reassigned to 3/5 where he served as Platoon Sergeant for 1st platoon of India Company. In August 2008 he attended Infantry Unit Leaders Course formerly known as Platoon Sergeants Course.  In January of 2009 GySgt Tejada deployed with 3/5 to Okinawa Japan to again be part of the 31st MEU. He returned from Japan in August of 2009. Once back 3/5 began training for a deployment to Afghanistan.

In September of 2010 GySgt Tejada deployed to Afghanistan in Support of Operation Enduring Freedom. His unit’s area of operation was the city of Sangin Valley in the Helmand Province where Taliban fighters and sympathizers were rampant. GySgt Tejada’s platoon was assigned to work both southern and northern green zones; the southern area was known to have a large amount of IEDs and heavily populated with Taliban fighters.

On 11 November 2010 GySgt Tejada was on a recon patrol in the southern green zone in order to find possible landing zones to extract any casualties sustained in that area. Once GySgt Tejada had identified the possible landing zone the patrol began to head back to the Forward Operating Base. While returning back to base GySgt Tejada was seriously injured by an Improvised Explosive Device.

He sustained very serious injuries to include loss of both legs, grade 3 concussion, ruptured eardrum, major trauma below the waist area, and injuries to his left arm and hand. The Corpsman on sight applied tourniquets to both legs, and the Marines immediately began evacuating him to the possible Landing Zone.  GySgt Tejada’s patrol came under heavy enemy fire preventing an Air extract. The Marines returned fire and began calling for fire and air support. After a brief moment the patrol was then reinforced by the reactionary force that quickly made its way to Marines under fire. The tenacity of the Marines of 1st platoon eventually destroyed and repelled the enemy allowing the Marines to conduct a foot evacuation back to the Forward Operating Base 1 kilometer away. Even though the evacuation took more than an hour, GySgt Tejada critically wounded stayed conscious and kept fighting for his life. He finally lost consciousness as he was being flown to the surgical unit in Afghanistan.

GySgt Tejada was stabilized at the surgical unit in Afghanistan and then flown to Landstuhl, Germany where he received critical care. On 16 November 2010 he was transferred to Bethesda Medical Center where he underwent multiple surgeries. After recovering from his surgeries, GySgt Tejada was transferred to Naval Medical Center San Diego California where he continued rehabilitation. GySgt Tejada is currently part of the San Antonio Marine Corps Wounded Warrior Detachment and continues to get his care at the San Antonio Military Medical Center.

GySgt Tejada Decorations and Awards include:

Combat Action Ribbon (2)
Afghanistan Campaign Medal
Humanitarian Service Medal
Meritorious Mast
Navy Unit Commendation (3)
Bronze Star Medal
Global War on Terrorism Service Medal
Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal (4)
Presidential Unit Citation-Navy
Certificate of Commendation (2)
Philippine Presidential Unit Citation
Sea Service Deployment Ribbon (3)
National Defense Service MedalNavy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal
Purple Heart
Marine Corps Recruiting Ribbon

GySgt Tejeda is married to Veronica; they have 4 children. Desiree the oldest is16 years old; Guillermo Jr. is 10 years old; Aracely is 6 years old; and their niece Marisol is 16 years old.

Disabled Veterans National Foundation Introduces New Executive Director


The Disabled Veterans National Foundation is pleased to announce its new Executive Director, Sergeant Major (Ret.) Joseph VanFonda.

Sgt. Maj. VanFonda, a 27-year veteran of the United States Marine Corps, was recently tapped by the DVNF Board of Directors to carry the young organization into the future, and prepare for new generations of veterans returning home.

DVNF President, Precilla Wilkewitz, offered a statement on the hiring of VanFonda:

“Sgt. Maj. VanFonda is not only a decorated, combat veteran, but he has also been an active force in the care and advocacy of wounded and injured troops during his time as the Wounded Warrior Regimental Sergeant Major of the Marines.

“The DVNF Board chose VanFonda to lead DVNF because he is a knowledgeable, well-respected leader in the veterans community. His strong management skills and experience working with nonprofit organizations in the past makes him an ideal individual to carry DVNF to the forefront of assisting veterans. Despite the growing pains DVNF has experienced, VanFonda has already shown that he is serious about a civilian career devoted to the needs of fellow veterans.”

VanFonda has already expressed his vision for DVNF. He plans to announce a new core concept of operation for the organization. The upcoming initiative will aim to be a complete resource for disabled veterans in need of assistance. He is preparing the organization for big changes that will make it more effective in its service to veterans, streamlining operations, and expanding reach.

“I am honored to be a part of this growing organization,” said VanFonda. “We have a small, but dedicated staff that works extremely hard, a supportive base of donors, and an overall structure primed for success in becoming a one-stop resource for veterans; I am here to shore up that structure, and build up the foundation. These men and women who have fought for us are in need, and I have every intention of helping them in every way possible.”

Sgt. Maj. VanFonda expects a busy fall for DVNF, and hopes to make strides in the services DVNF offers veterans. He also expressed his desire to establish more accountable practices and procedures with the organization, and vows that transparency is crucial to the success of DVNF.

Upon hearing of VanFonda’s new civilian role, a former colleague commented, “I had the privilege of working with SGTMAJ [VanFonda] several years ago.  I know SGTMAJ to be genuinely focused on taking care of military members from all branches and their families.  He is definitely the right man for the job!”

Veteran Unemployment Numbers Improving!

Reasons to Hire a Vet

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) recently released its June unemployment numbers. As you may be aware, jobless numbers have been slowly, but steadily, decreasing over the last couple of years. What you may not know is that the unemployment rate for veterans has been much higher than the national average.

Not anymore. It is very encouraging to see the continued progress that has been made on the veteran job front. The overall unemployment rate for veterans currently hovers around 6.3 percent, which is down from 6.6 percent in May!

This number is down over a whole point from June of 2012, which is very good news. Gulf War Era-II veterans, a demographic that has been hit the hardest by the recession, has a current unemployment rate of 7.2 percent—lower than the national average, and an astonishing 2.3 percentage points below June of 2012!

Why is the veteran unemployment trend improving so much? The VA believes much of it has to do with their programs such as Veteran Retraining and Assistance program (VRAP), and initiatives such as Hiring Our Heroes.

DVNF agrees.

Another big part of it is likely the collective agreement of the general public that no matter the issues that we as civilians might be facing, those who have served our country are anything but “average.” Veteran unemployment should never exceed the national average, because veterans—simply put—are exceptional.

There has been a national effort to dispel the erroneous assumptions of veterans returning from combat. Many employers (or at least the smart ones) see the value of hiring veterans. They are incredibly disciplined and hard working. In addition, many nonprofit groups and large corporations have created targeted programs and hiring initiatives.

Though there is much work still to be done, we are uplifted by the improvement. Thousands more veterans have been discovered as the outstanding employees they are. It can’t stay a secret much longer!