“I pride myself on my integrity,” says Bert Wendell. “I did 33 years of honorable service in the Navy.”
But this American Legion Post 110 commander says his integrity is now being questioned, by none other than the IRS.
Auditors with the agency are starting to fine American Legion posts around the country for not keeping records of veterans’ DD-214, the separation document given by the military to prove honorable service.
“It’s very impractical. You show us a DD-214 at first, but once a veteran, always a veteran,” says Doug Uhlmann, the adjutant for Post 110 in Virginia Beach.
As adjutant, Uhlmann checks out every veteran's service history before admitting them as a member.
“I’m not going to let anyone come into the American Legion that shouldn’t be here,” said Uhlmann.
But under rules that the IRS is now beginning to enforce, he would have to keep files on the more than 350 members that belong to this small post, which brings some privacy concerns.
“They don’t want us to have it because it does contain personal information,” said Uhlmann.
The IRS is now coming under fire from big names in Congress including Senator Jerry Moran in Kansas and Congressman Jeff Miller from Florida. Both sent letters to the agency this week demanding an explanation.
Senator Ted Cruz from Texas even got on stage at the American Legion conference in Houston on Thursday, talking about the effects on posts in his home state after going through surprise audits.
One post in Round Rock, Texas was just fined $12,000 by the IRS, according to Cruz.
“If we ever got hit with this type of fine, it would probably put us into such a position that we may have to turn our charter in and go home,” said Wendell.
National leaders of the American Legion plan on passing a resolution this week, asking for a formal congressional review of the IRS rules they feel are purposely targeting veterans groups.
“If it goes through, it’s going to be a nightmare,” said Uhlmann.