When the Veterans of Foreign Wars was first organized, it was primarily an association of individual groups all working toward common goals of veterans legislation, veterans benefits, veterans rehabilitation and patriotism. Administration was comparatively simple since the only problems were those of getting information to the members and getting them to agree as to what was to be done.
These still are our major goals but the interests of the Veterans of Foreign Wars have broadened and activities on the local -- Post -- level have grown far beyond the original purpose.
The master set of rules for the guidance of all Post activities is the VFW National By-Laws and Manual of Procedure. The By-Laws are the basic rules -- the Manual of Procedure goes into further detail. These govern all activities of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and are inflexible. They are worded very clearly, and they mean just what they say.
The Post Meeting
The Post meeting is the center of all Post activities. Every member has a right to attend all meetings and has a voice in their proceedings. It is at the Post meeting that the Post adopts its By-Laws, its Club Regulations, decides its policies, and distributes responsibilities. Within practical limitations, the Post meeting is supreme to the Post Officers, committees and employees. The membership present may overrule decisions of the Post Commander or Home Association; they may approve expenditures, set policies, and delegate authority. The Post meeting cannot take any action contrary to the National or Department By-Laws or rules or in conflict with its own By-Laws.
It is important to understand that there are limitations on the authority of the Post. A member has the right to appeal any Post action to the District Commander (Section 109 of the Manual of Procedure), who will determine whether that action was proper. In extreme cases, a member can go to the courts if he/she feels that their rights have been abused by an action of the Post. The Post cannot take unreasonable actions at a meeting. For instance, it could not refuse payment of a legitimate bill for an item authorized for purchase at a previous meeting. It cannot direct an officer or member to do anything contrary to VFW regulations or public law. It cannot take away any of the authority given to individual officers through the National By-Laws.
Ideally, the Post meeting makes the rules and sets the policy for the Post; other levels of authority carry them out.
The Post Commander is the key officer of the Post. They, alone, represent the judicial branch of the organization and also have some of the responsibilities of the executive branch. They preside at all meetings, enforce the rules, appoint committees not otherwise provided for, and make certain that the other officers and committeemen perform their duties.
The Post Commander's authority extends to the Post Home Association to the extent of enforcing the rules of the Post and the National and Department VFW and public laws. They represent the authority of the Post between meetings, and their voice is that of the Post membership. They see that the Post Trustees conduct their audits, that the Post Quartermaster is bonded, and that the Post Home Association Board properly supervises the activities of the Post Home. Their authority also is limited according to the rules of the organization and the bounds of common sense. They are in no sense a dictator. They cannot order nor permit the breaking of laws nor can they supersede the recognized authority of other officers or committees. They cannot, for instance, order the Club Manager to keep the club rooms open after hours, nor can they direct the Post Quartermaster to pay an unauthorized bill.
The Commander should be familiar with all activities of the Post. They should sit in with the Trustees at their audits or, at least, have a sufficient knowledge of their procedure to know whether they are doing their job. They should attend the meetings of the Post Home Association, calling to their attention any discrepancies he/she may have observed or complaints they may have received. They must know that when they sign a check, it is in payment of a legitimate expenditure.
The Commander is the arbitrator of arguments and the judge in disputes. As a general rule, their decisions are considered correct until over-ruled by the Post meeting, the District, Department Commander or Commander-in-Chief.
The Post Quartermaster
The Post Quartermaster has certain definite responsibilities and duties. They are the responsible officer for all Post funds and property and his/her signature validates all checks. They keep the fiscal records for the Post and have the duty of overseeing all financial transactions. They must be bonded to the Post for all funds under their control.
In the case of a large-scale Club operation, it often becomes impractical or impossible for the Post Quartermaster to physically handle all the funds or to personally keep the detailed records of operation. It is not uncommon in these cases to require that the Club Manager or a hired bookkeeper keep a separate set of club books, subject to the control of the Quartermaster and reported to the Quartermaster at regular intervals.
The Quartermaster is the responsible Post Officer in financial matters --not necessarily the Post bookkeeper. In a large corporation the treasurer does not physically handle the bookkeeping obligations but he/she is responsible that they are done properly, efficiently and accurately. This may also be true of the Post Quartermaster, depending upon the Post By-Laws and Club regulations. In any case, they must be familiar with all books of record and are responsible for all required Federal and State reports and payments.
Remember that the Post cannot take away any of the authority of the Post Quartermaster although they may be relieved of some of the work.
The Quartermaster only pays bills which are authorized by Post action or under Post rules. They cannot refuse to pay a legitimate and properly authorized bill except for a lack of funds. Neither can they be forced to pay one which is not properly authorized.
Quite often a controversy arises between the Quartermaster and Club Manager as to responsibility for Club funds. Sometimes a fine point arises which must be arbitrated. As a rule of thumb, the Quartermaster keeps their nose out of the cash register except for checking purposes, and the Manager hides no transactions from the Quartermaster. The Quartermaster does have the right, and the duty, to determine that all reports are correct and that all funds are handled properly. They do not have the right to assume managerial responsibilities.
The Post Trustees
The Post Trustees duties are probably the most misunderstood of any of the Post Officers. They are primarily the watchdogs of the Post funds. They make certain that no one has their fingers in the till. They audit the Post funds regularly -- at least once each quarter.
While the National By-Laws are silent on this point, it would seem logical that the Trustees also have authority and responsibility concerning the proper handling of funds. It is only reasonable that their authority should not be limited to catching a dishonest person. Equally important should be the prevention of dishonesty. Where funds are guarded carelessly or records are kept inefficiently, the Trustees should call attention to this and make every effort to correct it.
The Trustees duties extend to every operation of the Post. Their audits must cover all activities, including the clubrooms, the bar, bingo, or any other source of income or financial transactions.
Again, it is not always entirely necessary that the Trustees do their own investigating and conduct their own audits. In most cases, the Trustees are not qualified accountants, particularly where large amounts of cash are involved and the operations are especially complex. Many Posts employ a private firm of accountants for the purpose of an audit. This is to be encouraged rather than discouraged. In these cases, the auditors report to the Trustees and the Trustees make certain that the audit is conducted correctly.
A quarterly audit of all funds and accounts is an absolute necessity. If the Trustees do not function in a proper manner, the Commander may deem it an emergency situation and appoint an auditing committee on his/her own initiative.
Regardless of the size of the Post, a quarterly audit is mandatory. Failure to conduct one may result in the cancellation of the Post Quartermaster bond and will take away all voting privileges at District and Department Conventions.
The Trustees do not have any authority over the management of the Post Home, nor is property held in their name in an incorporated Post. They cannot serve on any committee having to do with the handling of Post funds, and cannot therefore serve as members of the Post Home Association, Bingo Committee, etc. There is nothing to keep a Trustee from serving as a volunteer worker or in an appointive capacity where Post funds are not handled.
The Post Home Association
The Post Home Association functions only in a Post which operates a Post Home or Club. This committee may be selected in anyway the Post determines but it is generally considered advisable that it be elected by the Post membership, with the members serving staggered terms, on the order of Post Trustees. This lessens the possibility of one certain group gaining and retaining control of the Club.
The duties of the Post Home Association should be laid out in the Post By-Laws and/or Club regulations so there is no misunderstanding of their powers and responsibilities. The purpose of the committee is to act on behalf of the Post in making certain that the club is run in an efficient, reputable and legal manner and that the rules of the Veterans of Foreign Wars are adhered to.
It is the general procedure for the Post Home Association to hire all employees, set their salaries, and issue necessary instructions and orders to the Club Manager. The committee usually meets at least once a month for the purpose of discussing problems, taking inventory, studying financial reports, and in general, acting as an advisory, supervisory and disciplinary board. No member of the Post Home Association should ever be permitted to act as Club Manager or as a paid employee of the Club.
The Post Home Association is generally given authority to suspend the Club privileges of any member and to establish and enforce, through the Club Manager, rules of decorum and behavior. They usually, also, have the authority to suspend or discharge the Club Manager or any employee for good and sufficient cause. In any disciplinary action, discharge or suspension, there should be provision for an appeal to the Post meeting.
The Post Home Association cannot make or enforce any rules contrary to the rules of the Department, public law, or the lawful instructions of the Post. If it is elected from the Post floor, the committee is directly responsible to the Post floor and makes its reports to the Post at meetings. Refusal to comply with the rules and instructions of the Post is grounds for removal of any or all members of the Post Home Association.
The Club Manager
The Club Manager is directly responsible to the Home Association for the management of the Post Club Rooms. They have the direct responsibility for supervising employees, enforcing rules, and accounting for receipts and expenditures. They must have enough authority to permit him/her to do so with a reasonable degree of freedom from interference. They must keep the accounts in such a manner as to justify all expenditures and verify all receipts. The Club Manager must make reports to the Post Quartermaster and to the Home Association. They enforce the rules but they do not make them.
The Club Manager keeps all payroll records, recording amount of pay to each individual and withholding the proper amount of Federal and State Income Taxes and FICA Taxes. Either the Club Manager or the Post Quartermaster must make the necessary Federal and State reports and payments for withholding taxes, Social Security and Unemployment Compensation.
The Club Manager has the right to appeal any decision of the House Committee to the Post floor for arbitration. Post members should, however, be cautious in overruling the actions of its own representatives on the Home Association, particularly in the case of frequent appeals. A dishonest Club Manager generally has no problem in bringing in enough friendly votes at a meeting to uphold his appeal.
The Veterans of Foreign Wars itself is supreme in any dispute. The Department rules and the Post By-Laws and rules outline the way the Post and the Club must be run. The Post, in all cases, is above the Club. The Club is merely an activity of the Post and must be treated as such. In no case is it a separate entity.
When a Post is chartered it is granted a license or franchise for the use of the name of the Veterans of Foreign Wars in the carrying out of programs which are assumed to be of value to the entire organization. At any time that a Club or other activity is managed in such a manner as to harm the good name and reputation of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the right to use the name can be revoked.
As a general rule, the operations of VFW Posts and their Club rooms in the Departments are a credit to the organization and a source of pride to its membership. Through proper adherence to the rules of the VFW and the duties and responsibilities of our officers, we can avoid the many misunderstandings and bitter arguments which can break the finest Post.