Defrauding America's Veterans

Veteran’s Day is this weekend and you might be wondering what veterans want for Christmas this year. Hundreds of veteran’s charities will tell you, but the claims of fraud and fundraising overspending against some military charities has risen in the last few years. Before you donate to any, read this blog.

You can and should check out charities that ask for your money. Charity Navigator and Charity Watch are watchdog organizations that rate charities on their transparency and spending habits. Charity Navigator is free while Charity Watch gives access to all its files for a yearly fee.
Currently, Charity Navigator (CN) has a donor advisory on the Disabled Veterans National Foundation (DVNF). According to CN, “On May 23, 2012, CNN reported that Senator Max Baucus, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, and Senator Richard Burr, the senior Republican on the Veterans’ Affairs Committee are investigating charges that the Disabled Veterans National Foundation has spent little of the tens of millions of dollars it has raised since 2007 on programs to help veterans.” Charity Navigator also has a donor advisory on Help Hospitalized Veterans because it has had a civil suit filed against it by the California Attorney General’s office.

CharityWatch (formerly American Institute of Philanthropy) reports that in April of this year ”a fugitive using the alias "Bobby Thompson" was arrested in Oregon and is now jailed in Ohio facing charges of corruption, theft, and money laundering related to a sham charity he set up—the US Navy Veterans Association—to steal millions of dollars in donations intended to help veterans.”
Both Charity Navigator and Charity Watch also have found military charities that are spending too much money on fundraising. Some of the veteran’s organizations that are rated two or less stars by Charity Navigator are Shiloh International Ministries, United Spinal Association and National Veterans Services Fund. These organizations give up to 75 percent of their money to fundraising, rather than to charity recipients.

Don’t despair too much because there are some great military and veteran charities out there. Some of the military or veteran charities that received three or more stars from Charity Navigator are Fisher House Foundation, Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society, Special Operations Warrior Foundation, United Service Organization (USO), National Military Family Association, and Disabled American Veterans Charitable Service Trust.

Some of the Veterans and Military Charitable Organizations that received top rating by CharityWatch are Armed Services YMCA of the USA, Fisher House Foundation, Homes for Our Troops, Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, National Military Family Association, Operation Homefront and Semper Fi Fund.

You may notice Fisher House Foundation is on both lists. We have a Fisher House near where I live and I have heard nothing but good about it. Fisher Houses are houses set up for the family of military personnel to stay in while their loved ones are undergoing surgery or other treatment. It’s kind of like a Ronald McDonald house for the military. Charity Navigator reports that the Fisher House program serves more than 10,000 families annually.
The National Military Family Association is also on both lists. It provides a military spouse scholarship program as well as camps and family retreats “geared to address the needs of children and families of our nations wounded service members.”

Thanks to all our veterans and their families for what you do. Always be smart about giving to charity but don’t let the bad taint you against all those charities that are doing good.

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