On Christmas Day, the New York Times wrote an opinion called "Giving Until it Hurts"
The public has rightly shown its empathy with wounded and troubled war veterans, contributing hundreds of millions of dollars to private charities that claim to have the veterans’ best interests at heart. A new study details rampant abuses of the money flow.
The 12 veterans’ charities rated as the worst failures collected more than $260 million last year while keeping at least double the recommended 35 percent for overhead — that as the flood of needy veterans continues to grow. This is a disgrace that threatens to make the notion of charity a casualty of war.
Of 29 military charities vetted by the American Institute of Philanthropy, a nonprofit watchdog group, only nine received passing grades in managing resources.
On December 13, The Oversight and Government Reform Committee held a hearing to examine whether all the charitable groups raising money for the purpose of helping our nation’s veterans are genuinely serving that need. According to an ABC television report by Brian Ross, of the 27 organizations reviewed by the American Institute of Philanthropy, 13 were rated F. Among those shameless F-rated organizations-AMVETS Service Organization, Military Order of the Purple Heart Service Foundation, Paralyzed Veterans of America, Freedom Alliance, American Ex-Prisoners of War Service Foundation, American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial Fund, Help Hospitalized Veterans /Coalition to Salute America’s Heroes, NCOA National Defense Foundation, Vietnow National Headquarters. One of the more egregious organizations is the National Veteran's Services Fund, who gave 2% of the funds to veterans, the rest went to administration & overhead. In all, $475 million dollars have been donated to these F rated organizations in the last 2 years.
Two organizations, Army Emergency Relief Fund & Air Force Aid Society earned an A+ rating on all other factors, but were downgraded to F due to large asset reserves. The Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society initially received an A+ but was downgraded to a C due to large asset reserves. According to the AIP December 2007 report explains:
AIP strongly believes that your dollars are most urgently needed by charities that do not have large reserves of available assets. AIP therefore reduces the grade of any group that has available assets equal to three to five years of operating expenses, and assigns an F to groups with over five years of reserves. In AIP’s view, a reserve of less than three years is reasonable and does not affect a group’s grade.
These reductions in grades are based solely on the charities’ asset reserves as compared to budget. If you agree with these charities that reserves greater than three years budget are necessary to enhance their long-term stability, you may wish to disregard the lower grades that AIP assigns on the basis of high assets. AIP’s definition of "years of available assets" includes funds currently available for the charity’s use, including investments that the charity has set aside as a reserve but could choose to spend if it wanted to do so.
3 military/veterans organizations received high ratings from AIP. I know from personal experience that the Fisher House Foundation and the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund are amazing organizations; so it is no surprise to me that both receive an A+. National Military Family Association received an A.
Your charitable donations intended to support veteran's issues are such a precious gift. Please do some research (AIP, The Better Business Bureau's Wise Giving Alliance, and Charity Navigator) to make sure that your hard earned dollars go to the veterans as you intend them to and not to costly direct-mail appeals, patriotism-tinged trinkets and bloated salaries. These so called veteran's organizations should be ashamed of themselves, but if their policies allow abuse of charitable donations as described, they do not know the meaning of shame.
Our government has never done enough for returning vets and they are not doing so now. Your private donations are critical to the survival of our returning vets and their families. With this information, we can do better by them, and with this information, we know who supports the troops and who supports themselves.