Wounded Warrior Project

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Wounded Warrior Project, CFC #11425
Wounded Warrior Project logo.svg
Motto The greatest casualty is being forgotten.
Formation 2003[1]
Type 501(C)(3) Corporation #20-2370934
Purpose Veterans services
Headquarters Jacksonville, Florida
Executive Director
Steven Nardizzi
Staff
147 (2011)
Volunteers
1600 (2011)
Website http://www.woundedwarriorproject.org/

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.[2]

As of June 1, 2015, WWP serves 71,866 registered Alumni and 11,494 registered members, defined as family or caregivers of a registered Alumnus.[3] In 2012, WWP spent $114,817,090 on programs in support of wounded veterans, their families and their caregivers,[4] 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."[5] 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."[6]

Recently, the charity has come under fire as various reports have exposed the small amount of funding that reaches veterans, when compared to the percentages of other charities.

History[edit]

Creation[edit]

Wounded Warrior Project was founded in 2003[1] in Roanoke, Virginia[7] by John Melia[8][9] with the assistance of family and friends. Melia had been severely wounded in a helicopter crash while serving in Somalia in 1992.[7]

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.[10] 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.[11]

United Spinal Association[edit]

Wounded Warrior Project initially operated as a subsidiary of the United Spinal Association of New York,[8][12] 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.[13]

Incorporation as an independent organization[edit]

Wounded Warrior Project registered for incorporation on February 23, 2005.[14]

WWP is a Congressionally chartered Veterans Service Organization (VSO) "recognized by the Secretary for the purpose of preparation, presentation, and prosecution of claims under laws administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs." [15] The Veterans Administration's online List of Representative for Accredited Organization includes contact information for WWP's accredited service officers.[16] as well as a search tool to access information about other VSOs.[17]

Headquarter relocation[edit]

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. The WWP headquarters will be undergoing a major $1.3 million renovation according to the Jacksonville Business Journal. Its Print Editor reports in an April 14, 2015 notice that the project "...involves 80,000 square feet, with full renovation of the first and second floors and minor renovation of the third and fourth floors."[18]

Legislation[edit]

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.[19] 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.[20] 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.[21] 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."[21] 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."[21]

Charity ratings[edit]

The Better Business Bureau's Wise Giving Alliance has accredited WWP as meeting the 20 standards for charity accountability.[22] According to Charity Navigator, WWP allocates 55 percent of its revenue to program expenses and 44.8 percent to fundraising and administrative expenses.[23] WWP received a “C” rating from the American Institute of Philanthropy - Jan 2016, C+ by Charity Watch, and "three out of four stars" from Charity Navigator.[24] According to Nonprofit Quarterly, "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)."[24]

Controversies[edit]

The Wounded Warrior Project has received attention both for its style of fundraising and general and financial management, and for the number of lawsuits it has filed against small veteran organizations and individual disabled veterans critical of their charity.

Lawsuits[edit]

On May 27, 2014, WWP filed a lawsuit against Dean Graham, a disabled veteran with PTSD, and his Help Indiana Vets, Inc. organization.[25] After a court ruling, Graham retracted the allegations he leveled against Wounded Warrior Project and folded his direct-aid non-profit.[25][verification needed]

WWP filed a lawsuit in October 2014 seeking damages and court costs against a Blandon, Pennsylvania non-profit Keystone Wounded Warriors claiming confusing similarities between Keystone's and WWP's logos; Hampton Roads, VA Channel 3 TV covered the Keystone story on April 30, 2015,[26] and Nonprofit Quarterly covered the story with a title asking, is WWP "a 'Neighborhood Bully' among Veterans Groups?".[26] Tim Mak also covered the suit for the Daily Beast.[27][28]

An author for Veterans Today, a site designed for relatively free posting of broad writer viewpoints,[29] was subjected to a lawsuit for articles critical of WWP's policies. After a reporter for the Tacoma, Washington News Tribune informed disabled veteran Airman Alex Graham, a blogger at Veterans Today, of a pending lawsuit against him by the WWP, he removed his articles critical of their policies, later retracting his criticisms and issuing a public apology.[30]

Management concerns[edit]

On June 8, 2015, the Daily Beast reported that the WWP sells its donor information to third parties, that it distributed what it deemed an insubstantial percentage of donations to actual wounded warriors, and that it overpaid its executive staff. For instance, it reported that the group’s 10 most highly compensated employees made approximately $2.6 million in 2014, and that CEO Steven Nardizzi’s salary had risen by nearly $100,000 in the course of one year, to $473,015 in 2014 (acknowledging that in that year, US$342 million (M) had been raised, up from US$155 M in 2012, and US$235 M in 2013).[31] As of January 2016, the percentage of funds raised not spent on overhead (i.e. the amount used for wounded warrior programs) was pegged at 60% by The New York Times.[32]

In January 2016, CBS News investigated and disclosed that the WWP had grown to spend millions of dollars annually on team-building events (conferences, conventions, and meetings)—US$26 M in 2014—including ~US$2 M on a conference in Colorado Springs, Colorado attended by 500 staff; this amount was up from US$1.7 M spent on the same in 2010.[33] The three-day Colorado Springs event is reported to have taken place at the 5-star historic Broadmoor, and to have included the spotlit rappel of CEO Nardizzi from a 10-story bell tower into the hotel courtyard.[32]

On January 27, 2016, The New York Times ran a story reporting that the ~40% of WWP revenues that were spent on overhead in 2014 included expensive hotel stays and questionable travel (including business-class flights). The story went on to report former employee claims of a work environment of coercion, where terminations occurred without warning; in once case, a supervisor was reportedly fired when he balked at recommending the termination of a subordinate.[32]

Other controversies[edit]

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 in an email: "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." [34] Shortly after the church received this letter, a WWP spokesperson apologized and said that it was a miscommunication. [35]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Wounded Warrior Project General FAQs". Retrieved 13 September 2013. 
  2. ^ "Return of Organization Exempt From Income Tax : Wounded Warrior Project" (PDF). Pdfs.citizenaudit.org. Retrieved 2016-01-28. 
  3. ^ Who We Serve, Wounded Warrior Project, retrieved 2015-05-12 
  4. ^ WWP Financials, Wounded Warrior Project, retrieved 2013-09-19 
  5. ^ Wounded Warrior Project spends 58% of donations on veterans programs, Tampa Bay Times, retrieved 2013-09-19 
  6. ^ Expanded Emergency Financial Assistance Now Available For Wounded Warriors, Operation Homefront, retrieved 2013-09-19 
  7. ^ a b Strupp, Dave (July 6, 2007), "Fast-growing group helps warriors", Jacksonville Business Journal (Jacksonville, Florida: American City Business Journals, Inc.), OCLC 44317335 , archived by WebCite here [1]
  8. ^ a b Herbert, Robert (March 12, 2004), "Our Wounded Warriors", The New York Times 
  9. ^ CNN Fredricka Whitfield interview with John Melia, CNN, March 20, 2004 , archived by WebCite here [2]
  10. ^ "Wounded Warrior Project History". Fundraisingsuccessmag.com. 2008-06-01. Retrieved 2016-01-28. 
  11. ^ Who We Serve, Wounded Warrior Project, retrieved 2013-10-14 
  12. ^ United States Congress. Senate. Committee on Veterans' Affairs (2005), Back from the Battlefield, Part II: Seamless Transition to Civilian Life : Hearing Before the Committee on Veterans' Affairs, United States Senate, One Hundred Ninth Congress, First Session, April 19, 2005, Washington, D. C.: Government Printing Office, pp. 7–8, ISBN 978-0-16-075462-3, LCCN 2006415120, OCLC 63270891 
  13. ^ National Veterans Organization Awards $2.7 Million Grant to Aid Wounded Soldiers, United Spinal Association, retrieved 2013-09-30 
  14. ^ Unified Registration Statement for Charitable Organizations, State of West Virginia, June 18, 2008 
  15. ^ "2013/2014 Directory : Veterans and Military Service Organizations" (PDF). Va.gov. Retrieved 2016-01-28. 
  16. ^ [3][dead link]
  17. ^ "Accrediation Search" (PDF). Va.gov. Retrieved 2016-01-28. 
  18. ^ "Gilbane doing $1.3 million renovation of Wounded Warrior Project HQ". Bizjournals.com. Retrieved 2016-01-28. 
  19. ^ "H.R. 2527 - Summary". United States Congress. Retrieved 27 May 2014. 
  20. ^ Neiweem, Christopher J. (27 March 2014). "Submission for the Record of VetsFirst". House Committee on Veterans' Affairs. Retrieved 27 May 2014. 
  21. ^ a b c "Submission for the Record of Wounded Warrior Project". House Committee on Veterans Affairs. 27 March 2014. Retrieved 27 May 2014. 
  22. ^ "BBB Wise Giving Alliance". Better Business Bureau. Retrieved 20 September 2013. 
  23. ^ "Charity Navigator Rating for Wounded Warrior Project". Charity Navigator. Retrieved 16 September 2013. 
  24. ^ a b COHEN, RICK. "One Charity, Many Different Ratings: What’s a Donor to Do?". Nonprofit Quarterly. Retrieved 4 January 2015. 
  25. ^ a b Wounded Warrior Group suing Indiana veteran it says defamed it, UPI, Nov 27, 2013 
  26. ^ a b Mike Mather (2015-04-29). "Small veterans’ charity sued for “unfair competition” by Wounded Warrior Project". WTKR.com. Retrieved 2016-01-28. 
  27. ^ Tim Mak. "‘Wounded Warrior’ Charity Unleashes Hell—On Other Veteran Groups". The Daily Beast. Retrieved 2016-01-28. 
  28. ^ Fitzsimmons, Kevin (Oct 8, 2014), Lawsuit over logo filed against Keystone Wounded Warriors, WFMZ-TV 
  29. ^ Veterans Today states the following policy: "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."[citation needed]
  30. ^ Ashton, Adam (Feb 9, 2015), Wounded Warrior Project sues a veteran critic in Gig Harbor, The News Tribune 
  31. ^ Tim Mak. "‘Wounded Warrior’ Charity Fights—To Get Rich". The Daily Beast. Retrieved 2016-01-28. 
  32. ^ a b c Phillips, Dave (27 January 2016). "Wounded Warrior Project Spends Lavishly on Itself, Insiders Say". www.nytimes.com. Retrieved 27 January 2016. 
  33. ^ Reid, Chip; Janisch, Jennifer (26 January 2016). "Wounded Warrior Project accused of wasting donation money". www.cbsnews.com. Retrieved 27 January 2016. 
  34. ^ "Wounded Warrior Project denies money donation from a Fort Pierce Christian School". WPTV-TV. Retrieved 2013-02-01. 
  35. ^ Starnes, Todd (Feb 4, 2013), Wounded Warrior Project Apologizes for Rejecting Church Donation, Fox News 

External links[edit]