Associates of Vietnam Veterans of America (AVVA) is a national, nonprofit membership and Veteran Service Organization dedicated to advancing the awareness of issues affecting Vietnam Veterans, their families, and their communities. (Excerpted from AVVA's website.  For additional information click here.)

Wisconsin AVVA has one Wisconsin State Representative, Pat Furno, and one At-Large Representative in Wisconsin, Joy Foye.

What is AVVA?

When founding VVA in the early 1980’s and at the time of the Congressional Charter, non-veterans who wanted to work on veterans’ issues and with veterans were allowed to join Vietnam Veterans of America, Inc. (VVA) as “Associate” members.  The only delineation between these non-veterans and the “regular” members of VVA was that the Associates were not allowed to vote.  The Associates could do everything else in the VVA organization but vote.  In fact, in the mid-1990’s many VVA state councils and VVA chapters elected those Associate members to their Nominating Committees because they were not allowed to be candidates and therefore, would be impartial in the election process. 

Over the first ten or so years of the life of VVA, Associates served VVA in many different capacities – committee chairs, newsletter editors, color guard members, and fundraisers.  Associates truly tried to do whatever they could to help the VVA state councils and chapters they belonged to.  The only requisite for being an Associate member was to care about and want to work on and for veterans’ issues.  Many family members and friends of Vietnam veterans joined as Associates in order to show support for their VVA chapter or state council.

Associate Liaisons were appointed at the VVA Chapter(s), VVA State Council(s), VVA Region(s), and National to represent the concerns of the developing Associate membership.

Then, in 1999, the VVA and its Associate members were faced with a dilemma when the IRS ruled that, in order to satisfy veteran and non-veteran membership percentages that could cancel VVA’s Veterans Service Organization Non-profit status, the Associates would have to leave organization i.e., VVA.  With much grumbling and legal searching, the Associates’ leadership chose to start another organization.

As a consequence, Associate members from across the country met in Orlando, Florida in January 1999, and formed a new organization.  Currently serving Liaisons at the Regional level were chosen as officers: National Liaison, Nancy Switzer, as President of the organization; Mary Miller as Vice-President; Fran Davis as Secretary, and Bill Williams as Treasurer.  The remaining Regional Liaisons were the founding Board of Directors.

The Associates spent two day discussing and writing the Articles of Incorporation and laying down basic rules to guide the founding organization.  As a compromise option, VVA members were going to be allowed to join the new organization but would not be allowed to vote.  There was much discussion about whether or not the organization would be an “auxiliary” to VVA.  Those at the founding meeting did not want that because that would mean that membership would be limited to those who were/are related to Vietnam veterans, a condition that would limit who could join the new organization.

The group determined that they would be a C-4 non-profit organization in IRS parlance, an entity that would help educate and donate monies to causes the organization believed in.  The final decision after that long weekend was to name the new organization, Associates of Vietnam Veterans of America (AVVA).

While the VVA has a banner tenant, “In Service to America,” AVVA chose “Together Always” since AVVA wanted to continue to work with and for our Vietnam veterans and the issues that mattered to them.  AVVA determined that we wanted to continue to march side by side our VVA chapters and be “affiliated” with them as our identity on an individual basis.

Thus, AVVA was born and in 2019, we will be celebrating our 20th year.

Through growing pains and wrinkles in plans of action, AVVA has continued to stand with and four our Vietnam Veterans and continues to grow in credibility and membership throughout the country.  AVVA has worked to conform to rules and regulations in order to be named by the US Department of Veteran Affairs as a Veteran Service Organization (VSO).  With the title as a VSO, AVVA was able to train and continue to fund training for individual members to be Veteran Service Officers and help veterans gain the benefits and medical care they are entitled.

In Wisconsin, Associates have worked with our VVA chapters since the beginning, and continues to serve them in various and unique ways.  We are newsletter editors, fundraisers, special advisors, and workers who do what is necessary to the survival and value of our affiliated VVA Chapters.  Associates are doctors, lawyers, accountants, newspersons, CEO’s, and legislators, as well as every-day Americans who want to help veterans and stand with them “In Service to America.”

Pat Furno, Wisconsin State Representative (2018)

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