Veterans charity donations – One of America’s greatest scams
… by Alex Graham
Remember how we lifted the carpet and found all the dirt under it regarding the Big Six and their exorbitant wages? See “How Low is Low?”
I stand corrected by Tom Wahl, an American Legion District Commander in Northern Virginia. I hereby apologize as I promised him I would. Whether I was misled or just was too lazy to research it properly.
I failed to point out that the dues-paying members of the Big Six VSOs pay the exorbitant salaries of their CEOs and all their indispensable Klingons.
The error is immaterial. Correcting the misconception is paramount. The truth is that donations to the American Legion fund their outreach to Vets, and I wish to set that record straight.
[ Editor's Note: That these service organizations cannot find successful talented business executives who would perform these top functions at a much lower cost, and shift the money saved into more direct services is a given.
That they have chosen to have their dues money absorbed by high salary creates a brass ring competition for those salaries that are not always in the best interests of their organizations.
That this continues to happen is evidence that anyone rocking the boat climbing up the ladder to these positions will find themselves no longer desired.
What you end up with is back-scratching political type operators who know how to climb to the top with their team, because that is how the game is played. 'If I get in, then you can serve at the top and share in the goodies,' a reward for former unpaid work.
You find this in many of the service and some civic orgs. And then you find others, like the Sons of Confederate Veterans, where the commanders have always served with no pay at all, just for expenses. And there are many more like them.
My Military Order of World Wars top command all work for no pay, as do many other veterans' leadership. I can say the same for the Association for Intelligence Officers.
Sure, they are smaller, but when you add them all together, they put out a much bigger bang for the buck than the high paid org honchos. But because they don't spend a fortune in expenses, this is not widely known. Welcome to that world... Jim W. Dean ]
Tom’s Wahl’s American Legion outfit uses their donations to better the plight of Veterans. Here’s his take on it:
I’ve just read your recent articles regarding VSO salaries after one of my veteran friends posted a link on Facebook. I plan to follow your blog, I like seeing things brought out. I believe that sunlight is the most effective disinfectant.
I am also an Air Force veteran, I worked as an “Aircraft Armament Systems Specialist” on F-15s from 1987 – 1993, and was deployed with the First Fighter Wing during Operation Desert Shield/Storm. My dad was a heli mechanic with the Army and served a tour in Vietnam.
I am currently a “District Commander” in the American Legion, with my district consisting of 6 counties in Northern Virginia. I served as a post vice commander for 2 years, post commander for 2 years, and district vice commander for 3 years.
I’ve done a lot of research, and while I do find faults in my organization, I do feel a need to point out a significant fact regarding the salaries of high ranking officials in the organization. They are paid by the dues of members. I believe the same is true of the VFW and DAV.
Donations made to The American Legion do go directly to the programs the Legion provides, not to the salaries of employees. 100%, with the administrative work being done by employees…whose salaries come from dues, not from the donations. WWP can’t claim the same, and I quit supporting them years ago due to their business practices.
To be fair, what the Legion does requires a large staff of full time employees, and they have to make a living. You simply can’t devote that amount of time as a volunteer. The officers that serve at the post and district levels don’t receive any compensation for their time although they may be reimbursed for travel expenses. I have never asked for nor received anything else. Key state officers may receive other compensation depending on the state.
I’m not defending the level of the salaries, I just wanted to clarify where they come from – the dues of the members who are the volunteers who do the work in the community and with veterans.
I commend Mr. Wahl for speaking up. I also commend him for his service to America and see he served wisely in the Air Force. Why walk or paddle when you can fly? Since I would never desire to have my site associated with misinformation, I sent queries to the other five major VSOs and have heard nothing in response.
In the same vein, I was contacted by Dave at DAVreform.org. He sent me to an interesting site that evokes what we have been pointing out for years. It’s good to be vindicated inasmuch as we have been harping about the woefully inept legal help we get from all these VSO chowderheads.
That they soak the dues-paying membership for Dom Perignon and Morel mushrooms on six-grain toastpoints at our legal expense is undebatable at this point. Or, in the alternative, if I am mistaken and they are soaking the donations bandwagon for the legal funds, then their actions are all the more egregious and unconscionable.
John Crudele’s one quote in the New York Post article stands out and exemplifies what too many “Vets charities” seem to provide:
Daniel Borochoff, president of Charity Watch (formerly the American Institute of Philanthropy) has testified before Congress and written extensively about abusive veterans’ charities.
“They get away with it because it’s a hero charity. It’s an emotional give,” Borochoff told me by phone the other day. “People make snap decisions. They don’t do their homework.”
Borochoff said that many veterans charities don’t spend their funds directly on vets. “If you follow the money, most of it is going to make us aware that vets have needs,” he added.
It’s also spent on stuff like telling us how to treat vets, how to fly the flag and other tangential matters that, if you asked, probably wouldn’t be high on a veteran’s list of needs. Food and stopping foreclosure, I’d suspect, would top that list.
Sound familiar? How about a Vet charity that plagiarizes the very same programs that VA itself supports (and incidentally provides) such as job fairs, PTSD group therapy and stand downs? Look no further than the much-vaunted Wounded Warriors game of “divest and divert”.
I call it that because they divest you of your monthly donation of $19.95 and divert needy Veterans’ requests for help to other Veterans charities or outreach programs.
Taking donated services such as free gas and phone cards, free airline tickets and the occasional public relations ploy of paying off a $57.00 electric bill to stave shutting off the power is part and parcel of this age-old dog and pony show.
The wounded warrior krewe actually provides little of consequence out of it’s own pockets. The secret is in “rebranding” it like a cattle rustler. To all outward appearances, the product they call their own is often donated or given with no strings attached.
Be it a donated building rental for a gathering, free tickets to an NFL game or something as complex to put together as a Tuff Mudder competition, the Wounded Krewe will be there with their banners and a pocket to put the proceeds into. (Hint: Look down in the bottom left.)
On the other hand, if you were only to measure their worth to include backpacks, t-shirts and water bottles, they unquestionably hit the ball out of the stadium. This paradigm is being closely emulated by other scammers as they learn the legal intricacies of intercepting funds for Vets and you- the one donating to them. Think fuzzy 3’X3′ “blankets with a DAV logo and Made in China on them or the former forest of trees that is now address labels.
Setting yourself up as an intermediary to subtract a “handling fee” for donated funds is becoming all the rage. Simply put, it works like this. I give $100 to the “charity”. They, in turn, deduct $67.00 for whatever they deem to be “appropriate” administrative and fundraising costs and box up packages of funding for other “real” charities like Fisher House.
Fisher House now receives a truncated amount ($33.00) and has to further deduct some administrative costs in order to supervise construction of the houses. In the end, this results in $30.00 or less matriculating down to the needs of the Vet.
On the other hand, sending it directly to Fisher house nets $88.00 of that $100 directly for housing for those staying near a VAMC to be with their injured wounded warrior. In the alternative, we are seeing “prepackaged” funding to other Vet Charities that have equally questionable funding practices such as $300,000 dollar parades in one-horse towns.
Unfortunately, if you need assistance with monetary difficulties, many outfits are going to come up short. The list of those able to do that is much more finite. Semper Fi Fund and Navy Marine Corps Relief are far more likely to be able to lend a helping hand.
Look also to local churches who are tapped into Veterans causes in your own community. Project Sanctuary in Colorado is an excellent example. There is no dearth of reputable charities just as there is no dearth of disreputable ones. We report. You donate.
Some outfits the wounded warrior krewe donates to observe their same principle of lather, rinse and repeat. After several of these baths, there is no baby to throw out with the bathwater as there is virtually no bathwater left to dispose of.
I have been ostracized for stealing food from Veterans’ mouths because I advocate putting the money where it is needed in the first instance. Some say that by denigrating Wounded Warriors, I harm all Veterans charities by giving them a bad name.
To all of you I say this. If you found out your father-in-law was a pedophile, would you remain silent for fear of alienating the whole family and the neighborhood against him? Would you risk opprobrium for being the one spilling the beans? I refuse to remain silent when I see a gross injustice being perpetrated by the likes of people who profess to have my fellow Veterans’ best interests at heart.
Some artfully change the subject and say that the principles (CEO etc.) involved in the Fisher House take more in salary that do the WWP. In this they are entirely correct. Visit the 65 Fisher Houses in the continental United States and Landstuhl, Germany where many of our most severely injured are air-evac’d from Afstan.
Most are unaware that Fisher House often transports the families of these wounded warriors to Landstuhl if they are the first to be contacted. No t-shirts. No backpacks. No water bottles. No “Gosh. Have you tried the Space A desk at American Airlines? I hear they are very helpful sometimes.”
I guess I don’t need to point out that a pair of Sub Zero refrigerators full of food at a Fisher House beats a full house of t-shirts over backpacks hands down yet proponents of the WW philosophy insist otherwise. These gurus of giving subscribe to the “First, speak no evil of your fellow Vets charities. Period.”
Do not get me wrong. Charities are munificent if run correctly. They are instrumental in helping Vets reenter society after a horrendous life experience. Some can help monetarily. Some are transparent and put 100% on target for their Vets. Some offer counseling and retreats.
The commonality of the good charities is that the amounts expended on the Vet far and away exceed their administrative costs. Somehow, that conversation will inevitably segue sideways into the need to expend unholy amounts to attract “The Sherpa” or the “Big Donations Kahuna” as if altruism has to take a back seat to common sense and market exigencies.
Where in the hell did that come from? Who is in charge of setting what most consider criminal recompense for officiating over the dispensation of the Milk of Human Kindness? Can it be that someone has cornered the market on the intelligence needed to accomplish this feat? Some have been so bold as to imply that we are damn lucky, indeed privileged, to have the Steve Nardizzis and Arthur Wilsons of the world to lead us up the donation mountain.
The best insult I save for last. I received an email saying I’m probably inured to the plight of my fellow Vets because I wrote a book that soaks them for the knowledge of how to win their VA claims rather than dispense the advice for free.
What a hoot. I’ve made almost $650.00 back on my $6,800.00 + investment in the year since it’s been published. I believe I’ve given away about 50 downloads for Kindle and handed innumerable paperback copies out at the VAMC waiting rooms at American Lake. Apparently what I provide on my website (asknod.org) is not deemed useful.
Sometimes it just doesn’t pay to make the effort. But that, Ladies and Gentlemen Vets, is what separates the ribbon clerks from the poker players. It doesn’t always have to pay, does it?
Pay in the form of recompense is an intrinsic concept that cannot be measured in the coin of the realm. That is, and has always been, the crux of the discussion. Every Veteran I help get service-connected rewards me more than any amount of money. Paying it forward is not a worthless concept.
Editing: Jim W. Dean
Short URL: http://www.veteranstoday.com/?p=289477