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August 30, 2020

Executive Compensation at the American Legion

by Anne Paddock

The American Legion is a non-profit, tax-exempt 501 (c) (19) – a veteran’s organization permitted to conduct social and welfare activities for its members.  Established more than 100 years ago, at the end of WWI, the American Legion (Legion) has about 1.8 million members. The organization is headquartered in Indianapolis, Indiana and is organized into 55 departments, one for each of the 50 states along with DC, Puerto Rico, France, Mexico, and the Phillipines.

There are two types of membership:  regular active and paid up for life.  Regular Active membership dues vary (but are about $40 annually) because each post determines their own dues rate. However, if a veteran joins through the Legion headquarters, a special introductory rate is provided and the new member is assigned to the post in which state he/she resides.  Paid up for Life membership is about $1,400.

This post addresses the executive compensation at the headquarters in Indianapolis only (the departments and other related/affiliated organizations are not addressed in this post).  Key financial information (based on the Form 990 submitted to the IRS) to know about the Legion headquarters is summarized as follows:

Total revenue in 2017 was $80 million, most of which came from membership dues ($38 million), contributions, gifts, and grants ($15 million), advertising ($9 million), and inventory sales ($6 million).

Total expenses were $77 million with the largest expense reported to be compensation. $325 employees received $23 million in compensation, which equates to an average compensation of $71,000.  21 employees received more than $100,000 in compensation with the 9 most highly compensated employees listed below:

  • $308,069:  Daniel S Wheeler, National Adjutant
  • $268,924:  R J Stoffer, Director of Media Communications
  • $244,787:  Shawn Long, Director of Finance
  • $211,882:  Verna Lynn Jones, Executive Director
  • $194,996:  Billy Johnson, Director of Membership
  • $191,993:  Joseph C Sharpe, Director of Veterans Employment and Education
  • $190,144:  Jeffrey O Brown, Executive Director (partial year)
  • $187,651:  Philip B Onderdonk, Jr, National Judge Advocate
  • $186,453:  Joseph Gallagher, Deputy Director

8 of the 9 (89%) most highly compensated employees are male while 1 (11%) is a female.  The 9 employees listed above were compensated $2 million.

The organization paid for first class or charter travel. Specifically, the Legion paid for first class travel for national commanders and the national adjutant when flights exceed 2 hours. Yes, as incredible as that sounds, this non-profit paid for first class travel.

The organization paid for companion travel. Specifically, the Legion paid for the spouses of the national commanders to accompany the commanders to six business trips for business purposes.

The organization paid for health or social club dues or initiation fees. Specifically, the Legion paid for club fees for officers “so they have an appropriate place to entertain distinguished guests.” Personal charges at the Columbia Club, Army/Navy Club and National Press Club are paid by the officers.

The following employees received payouts from the supplemental non qualified retirement plan:

  • RJ Stoffer:  $84,585
  • Shawn Long:  $84,579
  • Billy Johnson:  $79,740
  • Joseph C Sharpe:  $52,663
  • Joseph Gallagher:  $74,868

Contributions were made to the plan for the following individuals:

  • Daniel S Wheeler:  $36,023
  • George A Buskirk, Jr:  $12,926
  • RJ Stoffer:  20,740
  • Shawn Long:  $18,842

George A Buskirk, Jr, the National Treasurer (compensation was $140,978) is also a trustee of the Hoosier Trust Company (manages the investments of the organization). The Hoosier Trust Company was compensated $299,939 for this service.

The Legion had $13 million in net fund assets at year-end.

20 independent contractors received more than $100,000 in compensation. The five most highly were:

  • $5.2 million:  Edge Direct of Tulsa, OK for direct mail
  • $1.3 million:  James G Elliott Company of Los Angeles, CA for publishing
  • $0.8 million:  First Degree of Manassas, VA for consulting
  • $0.5 million:  Xerox Corporation of Chicago, IL for printing
  • $0.3 million:  Markey’s Audio Visual, Inc of Indianapolis, IN for audio visual

To read the IRS Form 990 (2017), click here.

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