Legion Opposes Assembly Bill 96
Proposal to Allow Governor to Appoint
Secretary of Veterans Affairs
PORTAGE (April 27, 2011) – The American Legion, the state’s largest veterans service organization, has polled its’
statewide leadership and is announcing its’ opposition to AB 96 as currently drafted. The Wisconsin American Legion’s
Executive Committee is comprised of 22 members and voted unanimously this week to oppose AB 96 as written.
Current law vests authority over the Wisconsin Secretary of Veterans Affairs in the hands of a seven member Board of
Veterans Affairs, members of which are appointed by the Governor to staggered six year terms.
Assembly Bill (AB) 96 would give full authority for appointing and terminating the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to the
Governor. Legion leadership opposes this and another aspect of the proposed legislation which would reduce board member
terms to three years. The actual motion unanimously adopted by The American Legion leadership reads as follows;
“The American Legion, Department of Wisconsin Executive Committee is opposed to those provisions contained in AB 96
that would reduce the terms of the Wisconsin Board of Veterans Affairs members from six (6) years to three (3) years and
further, The American Legion, Department of Wisconsin Executive Committee opposes the proposal contained in AB 96 that
would allow the Governor to appoint the Secretary and remove the authority of the Board of Veterans Affairs as contained in
Wisconsin Statute 15.49 which places the Wisconsin Department of Veterans affairs and its’ Secretary under their direction
“The American Legion opposes the passage of Assembly Bill 96 as written, specifically the hiring and termination authority
being shifted to the Governor’s office”, said Legion State Commander Robert S. Batty of the Peter Wollner Post No. 288 of
Cedarburg. “Our 12 districts span the entire State of Wisconsin and represent over 65,000 active members. Many of the
Legion’s District Commanders and Past State Commanders were animated in expressing their opposition to shifting this
authority away from the veteran’s community over to a politically elected position.”
6th District Commander Roy Helms of Oshkosh stated; “This measure as written would mean sacrificing something
Wisconsin veterans have fought for in the past. I seriously doubt this will work to the benefit of Wisconsin’s veterans in the
long haul.” The 6th District consists of Calumet, Fond du Lac, Green Lake, Manitowoc, Marquette and Winnebago counties.
The District has a membership of nearly 4,500 wartime veterans.
Teddy Duckworth of New Lisbon, a Marine Corps veteran of the Vietnam conflict, served as Chairman of the Board of
Veterans Affairs and is a past Legion State Commander. Mr. Duckworth echoed the stated concerns of other Legion officers.
“I’m absolutely opposed to making these changes,” said Mr. Duckworth.
“Expanding the Board of Veteran’s Affairs from 7 to 9 members is a positive move which will provide balanced statewide
as a Past State Commander. “Altering the way our WDVA Secretary is appointed as proposed in AB 96 would be a
disservice to the veteran’s community.”, he continued.
Navy veteran and 8th District Commander Jim Grimm of Caroline in rural Shawano County weighed in; “The recent state of
affairs at the WDVA, with the high rate of turnover in the Secretary’s office has left an unfavorable mark. Making this a
political appointment will likely exasperate the situation over time. We can do better without the petty partisan politics and
the bullying that goes with it.” The American Legion 8th District consists of Marathon, Menominee, Portage, Shawano,
Waupaca, Waushara, and Wood counties with nearly 6,000 members.
Roger Mathison of Coon Valley, an Army veteran who was Legion State Commander in 1998 commented; “the Secretary
should not be appointed by the Governor. This could potentially lead to an appointment by political favor. We need to
ensure that a veteran advocate is in the position”
David L. Gough of Darlington, who currently represents the state on the Legion’s National Executive Committee and was
State Commander in 2004 stated; “there are enough politics in the Department of Veterans Affairs now and with the
Governor appointing the Secretary there would sure to be more over time. Expanding the Board of Veterans Affairs and
ensuring equal representation around the State is a good idea but giving the power of appointment to the Governor may not
ultimately serve our best interests.”
“Our entire leadership team is clear and united on this issue,” continued Commander Batty. “We implore the State
Legislature as a body to respect the recommendations of The American Legion and amend AB 96 so authority to hire and
terminate the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs remains with the Board of Veterans Affairs and that Board
member terms remain at 6 years.”
The Wisconsin American Legion is the state’s largest veterans’ service organization with over 65,000 members and 520 posts
in communities across Wisconsin. The American Legion has been serving troops, veterans, and youth since 1919. For more
information on the Legion’s programs and membership, visit www.wilegion.org.