Wounded Warrior Project

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Wounded Warrior Project, CFC #11425
Wounded Warrior Project logo.svg
TypeNonprofit 501(C)(3) Corporation
PurposeVeterans services
HeadquartersJacksonville, Florida
Michael Linnington
Key people
Jonathan Woodson (Board Chair)
Kathleen Widmer (Vice Chair)
WebsiteOfficial website

Wounded Warrior Project (WWP) is a charity and veterans service organization that offers a variety of programs, services and events for wounded veterans of the military actions following September 11, 2001. It operates as a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization.[2]

As of August 22, 2021, WWP served 157,975, registered alumni and 40,520 registered family support members.[3] The organization has partnered with several other charities, including the American Red Cross, Resounding Joy, a music therapy group in California, and Operation Homefront.[4][5] WWP has also provided a year-long Track program, which helps veterans transition to college and the workplace.[5]

According to Charity Navigator, WWP allocates 75.1 percent of its revenue to program expenses and 24.7 percent to fundraising and administrative expenses.[6]


Wounded Warrior Project was founded in 2003[1] in Roanoke, Virginia,[7] by John Melia.[8][9] Melia had been severely wounded in a helicopter crash while serving in Somalia in 1992.[7] Melia assembled backpacks distributed to injured veterans at the former Bethesda Naval Hospital (now the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center) and Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

Wounded Warrior Project initially operated as a division of the United Spinal Association of New York,[8][10] which adopted WWP as a program in November 2003. The WWP continued to support injured service members by providing them with free WWP Backpacks filled with comfort items.

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.[11]

The WWP Backpacks program remains a central activity of WWP, evidenced by the more than 65,000 backpacks the organization had distributed as of early 2018,[12] in support of transitioning U.S. military veterans.

CEO Steven Nardizzi and COO Al Giordano were fired from Wounded Warrior Project after it was revealed in 2016 that they spent massive amounts of the nonprofit's money on lavish company retreats and personal enrichment for themselves.[13][14][15] Several former employees alleged that they were fired because they raised concerns over the mismanagement.[16]


Wounded Warrior Project registered for incorporation on February 23, 2005. WWP was granted accreditation as of September 10, 2008, by the Veterans Affairs Secretary as a 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."[17] The Veterans Administration's online List of Representatives for Accredited Organizations includes contact information for WWP's accredited service officers.[18] as well as a search tool to access information about other VSOs.[19]

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.[20]

Veterans and Military Support Programs[edit]

Family Support Programs[edit]

Wounded Warrior Project helps families of veterans reconnect through events that support family bonding and transitional skills. By providing the space and time for veterans to spend time with their loved ones, the transition from service member to civilian gets that much easier. Through their veteran family support programs, Wounded Warrior Project also helps guide families through the sometimes confusing process of receiving VA benefits.[21]

Warriors To Work[edit]

Warriors to work[22] is a veteran employment program that connects veterans with employers and resources for jobs. Through career counseling, veterans can find work that best fits their skill sets and allows them to smoothly transition into civilian life.[23]

Mental Wellness[edit]

With a rate of 11-20% service members living with PTSD,[24] veteran mental health programs are an important staple in a veterans journey to mental wellness. Wounded Warrior Project provides interactive programs, rehabilitation retreats, and free mental health counseling.[25] Mental health problems such as PTSD and TBI are properly addressed through WWP's outpatient care and therapy sessions.

Government Affairs[edit]

The Government Affairs team advocates for legislation that helps veterans and their supporters. Several bills have passed so far, including the Traumatic Injury Protection Program (TSGLI), the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2010, the Ryan Kules and Paul Benne Specially Adaptive Housing Improvement Act of 2019, and the Veteran Families Financial Support Act (2020). WWP legislative agenda is guided by the information in the annual Warrior Alumni Survey and encompasses issue areas spanning from veteran brain health and toxic exposure to women veteran issues.[26][citation needed] [27][citation needed][28][29]

In 2020, Wounded Warrior Project's Legislative Director, Derek Fronabarger, worked with Jon Stewart from The Daily Show to advocate on Toxic Exposure related issues for service members and veterans.[30]


On May 27, 2014, WWP filed a lawsuit against Dean Graham, a disabled veteran with PTSD, and his Help Indiana Vets, Inc. organization.[31] After a court ruling, Graham retracted the allegations he leveled against Wounded Warrior Project and folded his direct-aid non-profit.[32] In 2016 and 2017, however, subsequent investigations by a Jacksonville, FL television station and the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee found that WWP "'inaccurately' reported the money it spent on veterans’ programs by using 'inflated' numbers and 'misleading' advertisements."[33]

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,[34] and Nonprofit Quarterly covered the story with a title asking, is WWP "a 'Neighborhood Bully' among Veterans Groups?"[34] Tim Mak also covered the suit for the Daily Beast.[35][36]

After a reporter for the Tacoma, Washington News Tribune informed disabled veteran Airman Alex Graham, a blogger at the conspiracy website 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.[37]

Title 38[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.[38] 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.[39]

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."[40] 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."[40]

Donations and spending[edit]

In 2012, WWP spent US$114,817,090 on programs in support of wounded veterans, their families, and caregivers.[41]

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."[42] Shortly after the church received this letter, a WWP spokesperson apologized and said that it was a miscommunication.[43]

In June 2015, The Daily Beast reported that the WWP sells its donor information to third parties. It also alleged that WWP distributed what it deemed an insubstantial percentage of donations to actual wounded warriors, and that it overpaid its executive staff.[44]

In January 2016, The New York Times reported that only 60 percent of the revenue of the Wounded Warrior Project is spent on programs to help veterans; the remaining 40 percent was overhead. It also reported claims of work environment coercion, and multiple terminations.[45] That same month, CBS News disclosed that the WWP had grown to spend millions of dollars annually on team-building events.[46]

In March 2016, Wounded Warrior Project's board of directors dismissed the charity's top two executives, Steven Nardizzi and Al Giordano, after hiring the law firm Simpson Thacher & Bartlett to perform an independent review of spending issues related to the company's funds. Board chairman Anthony Odierno was announced as temporarily taking control of the charity.[47]

In October 2016, Charity Navigator dropped Wounded Warrior Project from its "watch list", and later boosted the nonprofit's score to a four-star rating (out of four stars).[48]

In February 2017, the Better Business Bureau released a report clearing Wounded Warrior Project of the "lavish spending" allegations, and "found the organization’s spending to be consistent with its programs and mission."[49]

Charity ratings[edit]

According to a 2013 article in 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)".[50] However, for the fiscal year ended 30 September 2016, Charity Watch assigned WWP a C+ rating (up from a D originally) and Charity Navigator published its rating for WWP on 1 February 2017 as "four out of four stars" (up from three). As of August 2018, that rating had dropped back down to 3 stars.[51] According to Charity Navigator, WWP allocates 75.1 percent of its revenue to program expenses and 24.7 percent to fundraising and administrative expenses.[6] In January 2017 The Better Business Bureau's Wise Giving Alliance renewed its accreditation of WWP, for the next two years, as meeting the 20 standards for charity accountability.[52]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Wounded Warrior Project General FAQs". Retrieved September 13, 2013.
  2. ^ "Return of Organization Exempt From Income Tax : Wounded Warrior Project" (PDF). Pdfs.citizenaudit.org. Retrieved January 28, 2016.
  3. ^ Who We Serve, Wounded Warrior Project, retrieved May 12, 2015
  4. ^ Expanded Emergency Financial Assistance Now Available For Wounded Warriors, Operation Homefront, retrieved September 19, 2013
  5. ^ a b Wounded Warrior Project spends 58% of donations on veterans programs, Tampa Bay Times, retrieved September 19, 2013
  6. ^ a b "Charity Navigator Rating for Wounded Warrior Project". Charity Navigator. Retrieved July 17, 2017.
  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 from the original on January 16, 2009
  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 from the original on January 16, 2009, retrieved August 21, 2009{{citation}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link), archived by WebCite here
  10. ^ 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
  11. ^ National Veterans Organization Awards $2.7 Million Grant to Aid Wounded Soldiers, United Spinal Association, retrieved September 30, 2013
  12. ^ How A Backpack Changed This Warrior's Life, Wounded Warrior Project, retrieved May 25, 2019
  13. ^ Philipps, Dave (January 27, 2016). "Wounded Warrior Project Spends Lavishly on Itself, Insiders Say". The New York Times. Retrieved February 4, 2019.
  14. ^ "Wounded Warrior Project cleared of 'spending lavishly,' report finds - The Washington Post". The Washington Post.
  15. ^ Reid, Chip; May 25, Jennifer Janisch CBS News; 2017; Pm, 7:34. "Sen. Grassley releases report on Wounded Warrior Project spending". cbsnews.com. Retrieved February 4, 2019.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  16. ^ "Wounded Warrior Project fires top 2 executives after accusations of lavish spending". Dallas News. March 10, 2016. Retrieved February 4, 2019.
  17. ^ "2013/2014 Directory : Veterans and Military Service Organizations" (PDF). Va.gov. Retrieved January 28, 2016.
  18. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on November 18, 2013. Retrieved November 6, 2018.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  19. ^ "Accreditation Search" (PDF). Va.gov. Retrieved January 28, 2016.
  20. ^ "Gilbane doing $1.3 million renovation of Wounded Warrior Project HQ". Bizjournals.com. Retrieved January 28, 2016.
  21. ^ "Veteran Family Support Programs". Wounded Warrior Project. Retrieved August 15, 2020.
  22. ^ "Veteran Employment Programs & Career Counseling". Wounded Warrior Project. Retrieved August 15, 2020.
  23. ^ "Educational and Career Counseling (VA Chapter 36)". U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs. Retrieved August 15, 2020.
  24. ^ "How Common is PTSD in Veterans?". PTSD: National Center for PTSD.
  25. ^ "Mental Health Services for Veterans". Wounded Warrior Project. Retrieved August 15, 2020.
  26. ^ "Government Affairs".
  27. ^ "Government Affairs".
  28. ^ "Bill to improve VA adaptive housing grants passes House".
  29. ^ "Impact of Wounded Warrior Project Advocacy Efforts Crosses $2.5 Billion".
  30. ^ "Veterans: Frontline Concerns - Jon Stewart and Derek Fronabarger". The Washington Post.
  31. ^ Ashton, Adam (February 9, 2015), Wounded Warrior Project sues a veteran critic in Gig Harbor, The News Tribune
  32. ^ "Motion for Entry of Consent Judgment and Permanent Injunction" (PDF). Wounded Warrior Project. Retrieved September 13, 2020.
  33. ^ Gardner, Lynnsey (May 24, 2017). "Senate releases report criticizing Wounded Warrior Project's past spending". Graham Media Group. Retrieved September 13, 2020.
  34. ^ a b Mike Mather (April 29, 2015). "Small veterans' charity sued for "unfair competition" by Wounded Warrior Project". WTKR.com. Retrieved January 28, 2016.
  35. ^ Tim Mak. "'Wounded Warrior' Charity Unleashes Hell—On Other Veteran Groups". The Daily Beast. Retrieved January 28, 2016.
  36. ^ Fitzsimmons, Kevin (October 8, 2014), Lawsuit over logo filed against Keystone Wounded Warriors, WFMZ-TV
  37. ^ Ashton, Adam (February 9, 2015), Wounded Warrior Project sues a veteran critic in Gig Harbor, The News Tribune
  38. ^ "H.R. 2527 - Summary". United States Congress. Retrieved May 27, 2014.
  39. ^ Neiweem, Christopher J. (March 27, 2014). "Submission for the Record of VetsFirst". House Committee on Veterans' Affairs. Archived from the original on May 29, 2014. Retrieved May 27, 2014.
  40. ^ a b "Submission for the Record of Wounded Warrior Project". House Committee on Veterans Affairs. March 27, 2014. Archived from the original on May 29, 2014. Retrieved May 27, 2014.
  41. ^ WWP Financials, Wounded Warrior Project, retrieved September 19, 2013
  42. ^ "Wounded Warrior Project denies money donation from a Fort Pierce Christian School". WPTV-TV. Retrieved February 1, 2013.
  43. ^ Starnes, Todd (February 4, 2013), Wounded Warrior Project Apologizes for Rejecting Church Donation, Fox News
  44. ^ Tim Mak. "'Wounded Warrior' Charity Fights—To Get Rich". The Daily Beast. Retrieved January 28, 2016.
  45. ^ Phillips, Dave (January 27, 2016). "Wounded Warrior Project Spends Lavishly on Itself, Insiders Say". The New York Times. Retrieved January 27, 2016.
  46. ^ Reid, Chip; Janisch, Jennifer (January 26, 2016). "Wounded Warrior Project accused of wasting donation money". cbsnews.com. Retrieved January 27, 2016.
  47. ^ Phillips, Dave (March 10, 2016). "Wounded Warrior Board Ousts Top Two Executives". New York Times. Retrieved March 10, 2016.
  48. ^ "Charity watchdog drops Wounded Warrior Project from watch list". WJXT Channel 4. October 3, 2016.
  49. ^ Wax-Thibodeaux, Emily (February 8, 2017). "Wounded Warrior Project cleared of 'spending lavishly,' report finds". Washington Post.
  50. ^ COHEN, RICK. "One Charity, Many Different Ratings: What's a Donor to Do?". Nonprofit Quarterly. Retrieved January 4, 2015.
  51. ^ "Charity Navigator - Rating for Wounded Warrior Project". Charity Navigator. Retrieved February 4, 2019.
  52. ^ "BBB Wise Giving Alliance". Better Business Bureau. Retrieved July 17, 2017.

External links[edit]