Wounded Warrior Project
||This article contains content that is written like an advertisement. (October 2014)|
|Motto||The greatest casualty is being forgotten.|
|Type||501(C)(3) Corporation #20-2370934|
|Purpose||To raise awareness and enlist the public's aid for the needs of severely injured service members; to help severely injured service members aid and assist each other; to provide unique, direct programs and services to meet the needs of any service member, who incurred a physical or mental injury, illness, or wound, co-incident to their military service on or after September 11, 2001 and their families.|
Wounded Warrior Project (WWP) is a charity and veterans service organization that offers a variety of programs, service and events for wounded veterans of the military actions following the events of September 11, 2001. It operates as a nonprofit 501(C)(3) organization.
WWP's vision is to "foster the most successful, well-adjusted generation of wounded service members in our nation's history" as it works to raise awareness and enlist the public's aid for the needs of severely injured servicemembers, help severely injured service members aid and assist each other and provide unique, direct programs and services to meet their needs.
As of August 1, 2013, WWP serves 35,648 registered alumni and 4,181 registered members, defined as family or caregivers of a registered alumni. In 2012, WWP spent $114,817,090 on programs in support of wounded veterans, their families and their caregivers, while contributing "nearly $5 million in grants to other charities, including the American Red Cross and Resounding Joy, a music therapy group in California, and also provided about $880,000 to nearly 100 veterans in the form of college scholarships and stipends for its year-long TRACK Program, which helps veterans transition to college and the workplace." WWP has also provided funding to, and partnered with, Operation Homefront to "extend emergency financial assistance to military servicemembers and veterans who incurred a physical or mental injury, illness or wound, which was not due to their own misconduct, coincident to their military service on or after September 11, 2001 and their families."
Wounded Warrior Project was founded in 2003 in Roanoke, Virginia by John Melia with the assistance of family and friends. Melia had been severely wounded in a helicopter crash while serving in Somalia in 1992.
With the help of family and friends, Melia decided to assemble backpacks containing simple comfort items such as shorts, T-shirts, socks, underwear, toiletries and hygiene items, CD players, CDs and playing cards. The backpacks were distributed to injured veterans at the former Bethesda Naval Hospital (Walter Reed National Military Medical Center) and Walter Reed Army Medical Center. The WWP Backpacks program continues to remain a central activity of WWP, evidenced by the 16,992 backpacks they had distributed as of August 1, 2013.
United Spinal Association
Wounded Warrior Project initially operated as a subsidiary of the United Spinal Association of New York, which adopted WWP as a program in November 2003. With the financial and staff support of United Spinal Association, the WWP continued to support injured servicemembers by providing them with free WWP Backpacks filled with comfort items. Servicemembers at Bethesda Naval Hospital and the Walter Reed Army Medical Center were among the distribution sites.
In September 2005, The United Spinal Association granted $2.7 million to WWP to "develop into a stand-alone charity with its own identity and programs," with the intent to expand its services from providing immediate comfort items to providing longer-term support for returning wounded veterans via compensation, education, health care, insurance, housing, employment, etc.
Incorporation as an independent organization
Wounded Warrior Project registered for incorporation on February 23, 2005.
In July 2006, WWP's headquarters were moved to Jacksonville, Florida. WWP Founder John Melia cited a strong local veteran community, access to Jacksonville International Airport, and support from the local business community, specifically the PGA Tour, as the reason for the move.
In the 2009 and 2010 seasons, the Maryland Terrapins, South Carolina Gamecocks, Texas Tech Red Raiders and Utah Utes wore WWPbranded uniforms by Under Armour. NIG In the 2011 season, the South Carolina Gamecocks, South Florida Bulls and Texas Tech Red Raiders wore WWP-branded uniforms by Under Armour.
WWP currently offers 20 different programs and services to wounded veterans and their families. The programs and services are separated into four separate categories: "Body," "Mind," "Economic Empowerment" and "Engagement."
The Physical Health and Wellness program "provides recreation, adaptive sports programs and overall strategies to help (alumni) remain physically engaged while adjusting to life after injury. Warriors' physical and psychological well-being are optimized through comprehensive recreation and sports programs, physical health promotion strategies, legislative policy change and physical rehabilitation designed to help maximize independence."
Soldier Ride is "a unique four-day cycling opportunity for Wounded Warriors to use cycling and the bonds of service to overcome physical, mental or emotional wounds." As of 2012, the program held events in Miami & Key West, Tampa, Jacksonville, Washington, DC, Chicago, New York, Seattle, North Fork, Phoenix, Nashville, San Antonio, and Landstuhl, Germany. Alumni attending the event are provided proper cycling and protective equipment. Participants are provided adaptive cycling equipment that allows wounded or injured veterans to participate in the riding activities through the use of recumbent or hand-operated bicycles.
The WWP Backpack program provides backpacks "filled with essential care and comfort items such as clothing, toiletries, playing cards and more - designed to make a hospital stay more comfortable. Wounded service members receive backpacks as they arrive at military trauma units across the United States." As of August 1, 2013, WWP had distributed 16,992 of the backpacks to injured service members. WWP entered into a partnership with Under Armour, and the public was able to purchase a pre-made WWP pack directly from Under Armour,for WWP to distribute. Other WWP-branded items are available for sale.
The smaller Transitional Care Packs(TCPs) were designed to give "immediate comfort" to "injured warriors overseas who are evacuated from field hospitals to larger military treatment facilities stateside or abroad." As of August 1, 2013, WWP had distributed 41,693 TCPs to injured service members. The Family Support Tote(FST) was designed to meet the needs of service member's families who often face long stays in hospitals alongside their injured family member.
The Combat Stress Recovery Program (CSRP) "addresses the mental health and cognitive needs of warriors returning from war. CSRP provides services at key stages during a warrior's readjustment process."  The CSRP is itself made up of multiple programs designed to help WWP alumni cope with Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and psychological stress from operations in a combat environment, often during repeated deployments.
Project Odyssey is a program designed exclusively for combat veterans that uses outdoor, rehabilitative retreats to encourage veterans to nurture a connection with nature, their fellow combat veterans, Project Odyssey staff and trained counselors. Participants can try activities such as horseback riding, canoeing, whitewater rafting, kayaking, rock climbing, a high ropes course, fishing, skeet shooting, sled hockey and skiing at retreats held in various locations. There are three separate Project Odyssey opportunities that are available to combat veterans.
Regional Project Odysseys are five-day retreats for wounded veterans from each of WWP's regions to group together alongside fellow veterans from their areas and begin healing. Couple's Project Odysseys are five-day couple's retreats help couples to rebuild trust in relationships affected by combat experiences. International Project Odysseys are intended for wounded veterans still on active-duty status while recovering at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center (LRMC) in Germany.
Project Odyssey staff continue to follow up and support alumni who have participated in the program, and veterans are also supported by WWP and other local combat stress resources.
Restore Warriors is a website "with resources and self-help strategies for warriors living with the invisible wounds of war, such as PTSD, combat and operational stress or depression." "The website offers tools and self-help strategies, including videos of other warriors sharing their personal experiences with combat and operational stress-related problems, along with the useful coping strategies they used to overcome these issues."
The TRACK program facilities are located in Jacksonville, Florida and San Antonio, Texas. The 12-month program helps members meet their educational goals and aim to support their personal health and wellness, mental health and career development. The Transition Training Academy (TTA) helps wounded veterans explore the information-technology (IT) field. TA instruction is a high-touch blended learning model where instructors engage personally with each student with “learn-by-doing” teaching techniques. All TTA courses and class materials are free. TTA programs are available at the following locations: Baumholder, Germany; Camp Lejeune, Jacksonville, North Carolina; Camp Pendleton, MCS, California; Fort Belvoir, Fairfax, Virginia; Fort Bragg, Fayetteville, North Carolina; Fort Carson, Colorado Springs, Colorado; Fort Lewis, Tacoma, Washington; Fort Sam Houston, San Antonio, Texas; Naval Medical Center (Balboa), San Diego, California (NMCSD); and Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Bethesda, MD.
The Warriors to Work (W2W) program facilitate job placement by providing career guidance and support services for those transitioning to the civilian workforce. Veterans' skills and experience are matched to job opportunities. The program also provides information and education about combat-related injuries (such as post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury), and reasonable accommodations.
The Alumni program provides long-term support and camaraderie for wounded veterans through events, discounted services and an online community. WWP alumni have access to Alumni Events & Activities throughout the year. These events may include sporting events, educational sessions, personal and professional development summits and recreational activities. Alumni can also volunteer to help newly injured service members.
The Family Support program supports full-time caregivers of injured service members. These individuals are an integral part of a wounded veteran's recovery process.
WWP offers Benefits Assistance by providing alumni with information about government benefits, programs and community resources necessary. We work with the Department of Defense (DOD) and Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), so these agencies can walk alumni through every step of the claims process.
WWP's International Support program is located at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center (LRMC) and Ramstein Air Base in Germany. LRMC is one of the first locations wounded veterans are transported to once injured. Comfort items such as jackets, sweatpants, T-shirts and blankets are provided and counseling at Warrior Transition Units (WTUs) in Europe. Two yearly appreciation luncheons are held for health staff.
The Peer Support program helps alumni develop one-to-one friendships with fellow veterans (Peer Mentors) who are further along in the recovery process.
The Policy and Government Affairs team provides wounded veterans and their families a voice by working with Congress and the Federal government to promote forward-looking policy such as the landmark Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2010 which was signed into law by President Obama.
The WWP Resource Center serves as a multichannel contact center, available via phone or email.
In March 2014, WWP testified before Congress that they strongly supported the bill "To amend title 38, United States Code, to provide veterans with counseling and treatment for sexual trauma that occurred during inactive duty training (H.R. 2527; 113th Congress)". The bill would extend a VA program of counseling and care and services for veterans for military sexual trauma that occurred during active duty or active duty for training to veterans who experienced such trauma during inactive duty training. The bill would alter current law, which allows access to such counseling only to active duty members of the military, so that members of the Reserves and National Guard would be eligible. Although they were in favor of the bill, WWP pointed out a number of additional related challenges and problems that needed to be solved to improve the treatment of MST-related conditions in veterans. The WWP did a study of its alumni and found that "almost half of the respondents indicated accessing care through VA for MST-related conditions was 'very difficult'. And of those who did not seek VA care, 41% did not know they were eligible for such care." The WWP also testified that in addition to expanding access to MST care, the VA needed to improve care itself, because veterans report "inadequate screening, providers who were either insensitive or lacked needed expertise and facilities ill-equipped to appropriately care for MST survivors."
The Better Business Bureau's Wise Giving Alliance has accredited WWP as meeting the 20 standards for charity accountability. According to Charity Navigator, WWP allocates 55 percent of its revenue to program expenses and 44.8 percent to fundraising and administrative expenses. WWP received a “D” rating from the American Institute of Philanthropy, C+ by Charity Watch, and "three out of four stars" from Charity Navigator. Although WWP received a “D” rating from the American Institute of Philanthropy, partly due to the small amount of donations that go to wounded veterans, and the fact that the majority of money donated goes to fundraising, salaries, consulting and outside services, meetings and events, and travel. "Depending on the rater, the Wounded Warriors Project seems to have scored low (Charity Watch), high (BBB Wise Giving Alliance) or somewhere in the middle (Charity Navigator)."
In 2013, a new employee mistakenly declined to accept a donation from Liberty Baptist Church in Fort Pierce, Florida, and issued this inadvertent statement to the church leaders: "We must decline the opportunity to be the beneficiary of your event due to our fundraising event criteria, which doesn't allow community events to be religious in nature," read an email from the WWP community events team. "Please note your registration fee will be refunded within the next 7-10 business days." WWP said as a nonpartisan organization they cannot accept event fundraising from companies "in which the product or message is religious in nature."  Shortly after the church received this letter, a WWP spokesperson apologized and said that it was a miscommunication. 
The Wounded Warrior Project has recently filed a number of lawsuits against some smaller veteran organizations and several individual disabled veterans critical of their charitable operations:
- On 5/27/14, WWP filed a lawsuit against Dean Graham, a disabled veteran with PTSD, and his Help Indiana Vets, Inc. organization.  After a court ruling, Graham retracted the allegations he leveled against Wounded Warrior Project and folded his direct-aid non-profit.
- WWP filed a lawsuit in October 2014 seeking damages and court costs against a Blandon, Pennsylvania non-profit Keystone Wounded Warriors claiming there are confusing similarities between its logos and those of WWP. 
- After a reporter from The News Tribune informed disabled veteran Airman blogger Alex Graham (no relation to Dean) of a pending lawsuit against him, filed on behalf of the Wounded Warrior Project, he removed his articles critical of WWP's policies from the website Veterans Today.  Veterans Today posts articles from numerous writers representing many points of view and topics. They write, "All writers are fully independent and represent their own point of view and not necessarily the point of view of any other writer, administrator or entity." The Southern Poverty Law Center has characterized the Veterans Today site as "a website that purports to be a 'military veterans and foreign affairs journal' but is really a locus of the far right, is now squarely in neo-Nazi territory".  However, the American Civil Liberties Union Project on Speech, Privacy and Technology "...is currently working on a variety of issues, including political protest, freedom of expression online, privacy of electronic information, journalists’ rights, scientific freedom, and openness in the courts." to protect the rights of bloggers and other online speech.
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- "Submission for the Record of Wounded Warrior Project". House Committee on Veterans Affairs. 27 March 2014. Retrieved 27 May 2014.
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- "Wounded Warrior Project denies money donation from a Fort Pierce Christian School". WPTV-TV. Retrieved 2013-02-01.
- Starnes, Todd (Feb 4, 2013), Wounded Warrior Project Apologizes for Rejecting Church Donation, Fox News
- Wounded Warrior Group suing Indiana veteran it says defamed it, UPI, Nov 27, 2013
- Fitzsimmons, Kevin (Oct 8, 2014), Lawsuit over logo filed against Keystone Wounded Warriors, WFMZ-TV
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- Schlatter, Evelyn (Jan 10, 2013), Veterans Today Editor Blames Newtown Tragedy on Israel, Southern Poverty Law Center