If you believe the TV commercials and the plethora of solicitation letters from the charities who want to help our physically- and mentally-wounded veterans, the government is not doing very much to provide assistance.
The Federal Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has a budget of $163.9 billion for fiscal year 2015. Granted, the VA scandal demonstrated the inefficiency and ineptitude of the VA hospitals, but almost $164 billion must be doing some good. It’s just awfully hard to assess how much.
According to the American Institute of Philanthropy (AIP), in 2013 they rated some 46 charities proclaiming to serve the needs of veterans. Of this number only nine were rated an A while 24 earned an F; that’s 60%. An F, in general, meant less than 40% of the revenue they generated was devoted to beneficial programs.
The largest veterans’ charity is the Wounded Warriors Project, who does a lot of TV advertising. They earned a C from AIP based on using only 58% of the $150 million they raised in 2013 going to the benefit of veterans.
Back in 2007, David Borochoff, then head of AIP and an ABC new consultant, said, “Veterans deserve better from America’s charities.” It has meant six-figure salaries and prosperous lifestyles for some of the people running the F-rated charities.
As the founder of a charity called Help Hospitalized Veterans, which distributes craft kits to veterans’ hospitals, Roger Chapin of San Diego pays himself and his wife more than half a million dollars a year in salary. Charity is his business.
Over the last three decades, Chapin has created more than a dozen different charities for cancer, kids and veterans. “He’s a charity entrepreneur,” Borochoff says. “He’s very good at setting up charities that don’t do so much charity but bring in lots of money.” Chapin’s veterans’ charity has produced slick promotional videos about the good they do, with a number of celebrity endorsements, including one from actor Dennis Franz, who starred in the ABC primetime drama “NYPD Blue.” But according to their analysis, the AIP says of the $70 million Help Hospitalized Veterans took in last year, only 31% went to the actual charitable cause. The rest was mainly overhead and fundraising costs, earning a grade of F. A spokesman for Dennis Franz said he had no idea the charity gave so little to actual veterans.
Part of the answer may lie in the experience of Elisa Alcabes (my niece), a lawyer with Simpson Thatcher in NYC. As a pro-bono project, she has represented a Vietnam veteran suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and several other disabilities arising from his active combat service, who has tried to get his discharge status upgraded so he can get VA benefits.
After four years, Elisa’s team has finally got Smith’s application changed to “general discharge.” Here is Elisa’s recap:
“Discharge upgrades are difficult to obtain, particularly for Vietnam veterans suffering from PTSD, a diagnosis that did not exist during the Vietnam era. Starting in 2011, our team filed several submissions to the BCNR, which were repeatedly rejected with cursory responses. Unable to obtain a clear ruling, we filed suit in the U.S. District Court to compel the BCNR to follow its own regulations. We obtained a remand order directing the BCNR to reconsider Mr. Smith’s application. In September 2014, while our application was under reconsideration, then Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel issued a memorandum instructing military boards for correction, including the BCNR, to pay closer attention to requests for discharge upgrades by Vietnam veterans with PTSD. This was a favorable development, but even with the Hagel Memorandum in place, the BCNR again rejected Mr. Smith’s application. Our team responded with a strong submission, arguing that our clients fell squarely within the parameters of the Hagel Memorandum, and that the client’s case was virtually the first to be addressed after the Memorandum was issued, and that the BCNR summarily ignored it. In response to that submission, the BCNR agreed to further review the application and then grant it.”
Finally, bureaucracy was overcome. Does every veteran need a lawyer?
It’s upsetting to read statistics stating there are roughly 131,000 homeless veterans in America. Why are there homeless veterans? If the motto “leave no man behind” holds true, why has the US government abandoned the very people who served their country the most?
There’s no mandatory draft now, so it’s important to realize every single military participant is voluntary. Who is braver than those who enlist to serve in Afghanistan and Iraq? Nobody! We are reminded of their bravery today, but we should be aware every single day of their service to our country.
The US government spent roughly $45 billion bailing out Citibank in 2009. Citibank then turned around and raised salaries for all their senior executives by 50% the same year. Come on now! If the government just spent $13.1 billion, they could allocate $100,000 to each homeless veteran for housing, food, medical attention, and education and get them back on their feet. Someone please tell me why the government is unwilling to do this? I really need to understand.
There is obviously a need. Veterans of our recent wars need more help; and the government, as well as the charities, are not as effective as they need to be.
P.S. The following charities for veterans have an “A” rating from AIP:
- Armed Services YMCA
- Fisher House Foundation
- Homes For Our Troops
- Intrepid Fallen Heroes
- Iraq & Afghanistan Veterans
- National Military Family Assoc.
- Operation Homefront
- Semper Fi Fund
- TAPS (Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors)