Veteran’s Charities, or Scams?
By Thom Stoddert
You see them in front of stores or they call you during dinner. How do you deal with a very smooth, rehearsed request from someone asking for money with a long story of how they have supported disabled veterans? They tell you how they have helped vets with no arms or legs, they tell you about all of the veteran’s children they have sent to fishing camps, and all the widows they have provided with groceries and Christmas gifts.
Nobody is so heartless that they ignore these pleading requests for fellow veterans; except me, because I always ask them to send me literature first and then I check them out.
After researching so-called veteran charities and advocacy groups, since last spring, I am left very wary of what is out there. They are all over the place, particularly during Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day; They even advertise on TV. The following explains my stance and anger. I also hope it helps and informs you.
I received a phone call from some very patriotic sounding veteran advocacy group that I had never heard of. When I started asking for details, the caller finally admits he was never in the service, he just works for a call center. This is interesting because the caller during his opening pitch asked, “Don’t you want to help us, your fellow veterans?”
Red flags go up. I ask him, “Out of every dollar I donate, how much of it will go to the costs of running the charity?” He can’t answer that because he is paid by a company contracted to raise money for the charity. The call center will take a certain percentage of whatever they can collect and the charity gets what is left over. Then the veteran’s charity has their own legitimate costs to function. In the end, the veteran may only get pennies of your dollar. So always ask about the overhead costs. Some veteran’s charities pay their organizers very, very lucrative salaries and the veteran gets only one half of one cent per dollar donated. I will include some web sites to visit at the end. Keep in mind, the higher the operating costs, the less the veteran gets.
Recommendations: ask for their literature telling about themselves. Check them out on line; Wikipedia is an excellent source for information on many of the biggest scams. Finally, just skip the middle man and send a check directly to a charity you can trust. You can also bypass the guilty feelings you may get when you walk past the homeless and hairless veteran advocates in front of Wal-Mart, because you have already given.
How about this very special quote from The Stamford Advocate, by Doug Dalena, January 29, 2006? It concerns an organization in Darien, CT, the National Veterans Service Fund, that raised millions for veteran’s issues, but only gave out 3% of what it collected. “”….Certainly this organization and its filings attest powerfully to the importance of consumer awareness and information when people contribute," state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said”….. Oh! Did I tell you Mr. Blumenthal, the state’s AG, himself, got caught lying about his supposed military history in Viet Nam. He is now a senator from Connecticut
I often drive up north along Interstate-5. I almost always see someone holding a sign saying “Any thing
helps – homeless disabled vet.” This is a rather ironic situation. This homeless vet is standing just outside Fort Lewis and four miles from the VA homeless shelter. So, I stop and offer to bring him to that VA hospital’s shelter. But, I find out he has been kicked out of that shelter by those “M- - F heartless B*#*” because he could not live with their rules. Further, I find out his disabilities are not the result of military service. Sorry, dude, I’m putting my money to better use. Better yet, I am going to volunteer someplace and give my time.
ABC news discussed a so-called veteran charity called “Help Hospitalized Veterans.” These folks were first discussed with me by a very well respected Viet Nam vet in Washington State. He had investigated them in a previous life, before his hard working wife became the governor. This so-called charity makes its founder and wife very wealthy, while they send silly little kits to hospitalized veterans and soldiers. However, ABC news also slammed several well known service organizations that I believe is undeserved. I worked with them and know the good and the costs that are rendered to provide free services to veterans with claims to the VA.
Recommendation: Think about the USO. We have all seen those lounges in the airport staffed by volunteers, 24/7. They provide food and sometimes a clean bed to families traveling, for free. They are a safe, free , manned by someone who really puts their money where their mouth is. Those volunteers are unsung heroes for the commitment they give for a very needed and appreciated service.
This past fall I met a retired Army vet, who has set up a business staffed by veterans or their spouses to care for elderly veterans at home. I checked him out carefully and was left excited by his desire to help disabled veterans. He has named the business after his son, who needed hours of home care, while Terry Zocolla was on active duty. Thus he continued the concept when he could have just as easily went to work for someone else and not have to worry night and day about a business.
“Anthony Care” is a for profit business, obviously the Zocollas must eat. However, their business is focused on disabled veterans, by providing care in their homes, keeping them out of more expensive facilities. The problems lies with the fact that when the veteran begins to need the care to the time the VA is able to help with benefits, it is almost nine months in many cases. The money and care are provided at cost by Terry Zocolla in hopes that the veteran’s benefits will be paid back to him for the work that Anthony-Care has already provided. This is what I call a genuine sincere commitment. Just google Anthony Care and see what they do.
Another such organization is “Our Forgotten Warriors,” headed by Carol Blake who works at Fort Lewis in the day. In her spare time (Yeah, right! What time?) she is building a facility, off post, to provide long term care for soldiers/veterans with head injuries. Carol has traveled back and forth across the U.S. getting support for her project. Why is she so committed? She is the wife of an active duty and her own son has a head injury.
So how do you end an article like this? How about the story of the guy dressed in a uniform of sorts, assisted by three buxom blonds, telling very elderly veterans in a nursing home how he can reposition their financial worth, sell them financial products and make them eligible for VA benefits? Even better, just go to Charity Navigator’s website and do your own research. Like me, I don’t’ think you are interested in making others rich off the back of veterans.