Veterans 'disgusted' by Wounded Warrior report revelations

Wounded Warrior Project under fire

Tampa, FL -- A CBS News investigation has raised questions about spending at the popular Florida-based Wounded Warrior Project.

In 2014, the Jacksonville charity raised nearly $300 million. Public records cited by CBS show that more than $26 million of that went to lavish conventions and meetings.

That's a huge increase since 2010, one just over $1 million was spent on the same type of conferences, referred to by the company as "all hands" conventions. 

Critics say that money should have been spent on veterans.

At the charity's office in East Tampa, workers didn't have much to say.

The office's Health and Wellness coordinator, Bill Hannigan, referred us to the organization's Jacksonville headquarters, but of the report Hannigan said, "It's been slanted a little bit, that's all I can say."

 

He added, "I think you'll be surprised when we have a chance to get everything together."

Veterans we spoke with in Tampa say they are sickened by allegations that the charity spent $26 million in 2014 on expensive parties and conferences. It's nearly the same amount the Wounded Warrior Project spent on combat stress recovery, which is its top program.

"It disgusts me really, because it should be used for the wounded warriors," said Pat Patterson an Air Force veteran. 

James Harlow, a Vietnam veteran agreed, "Because we've got too many wounded warriors out there not receiving help."

A spokesman for the wounded warriors project told CBS News that the five-star resort outings called "all hands" conferences, are the best use of donor dollars. That the money, is used for team building.

Click here to read more of the CBS News report

At the time, the organization provided no specific answer regarding why they had chosen such expensive locations.

On Wednesday, the organization released this statement:

"The CBS News piece had numerous factual errors and misrepresented the good work Wounded Warrior Project does on behalf of this nation's injured veterans.

"Wounded Warrior Project leads the industry in transparency and reporting publicly our independently audited financial documents. Separate from our financials, we also make public all of our program information and impact metrics. These are readily available on our website for anyone to view. 

"Based on our most recently independently audited financial statements, 80.6 percent of total expenditures went to provide 20 services and programs for Wounded Warriors and their families.

"Wounded Warrior Project is a Gold Standard Better Business Bureau accredited charity.

"We provide programs and services to more than 83,000 wounded veterans. Wounded Warrior Project works every day to ensure our programs meet the needs of our wounded veterans. We just launched our Warrior Care Network to help provide world-class mental health care for wounded veterans. Warrior Care Network represents a $100 million investment to ensure warriors struggling with the hidden wounds of war get the help they need. We will commit $500 million to our Independence Program and Long-Term Support Trust – two programs that directly help the most severely injured veterans."


One of the whistleblowers in all of this, Army Staff Sgt. Erick Millett, is an Iraq War veteran, who came home with a Bronze Star and a traumatic brain injury.

Millett once participated in Wounded Warrior programs, and even became a public speaker for it in 2013. He quit the following year, however, blasting Wounded Warrior for what he called wasteful spending, "Using our injuries, our darkest days, our hardships, to make money so that you can have these big parties."

Millett says he fully expects retaliation from the organization, but added,  "I'll be damned if you're going to take hard-working Americans money and drink it and waste it."

The CBS investigation cited public records compiled Charity Navigator, a website that reports such data.

Charity Navigator reported that the Wounded Warrior Project spent around 60% on veterans, while similar charitable organizations, like American Veterans Charitable Service Trust spent about 96% of its budget on veterans, and Fisher House devoted close to 91%.

Before you start donating your hard earned dollars, find out how much of that money is going to your chosen charity by checking out the Charity Navigator website for yourself by clicking here.

 


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