Investigation: Wounded Warrior Project under fire, only spends 60 percent of funds on vets

DC NEWSBy Jonah Bennett

The Wounded Warrior Project, a charity organization dedicated to helping injured former military members, only spends about 60 percent of its donation funds helping veterans.

An investigation by CBS News discovered that the Wounded Warrior Project has a dismal record when compared to other similar charities, though the group managed to pull in $300 million just in 2014. The organization apparently raised more than $1 billion since 2003.

“Their mission is to honor and empower wounded warriors, but what the public doesn’t see is how they spend their money,” Army Staff Sgt. Erick Millette told CBS News. Millette worked with the project for two years before quitting from disillusionment, saying that the charity was little more than a scam to bring in money and spend on extravagant and luxurious parties, as well as other non-vet-related expenses.

The Disabled American Veterans Charitable Service Trust, in contrast, spends 96 percent on veterans and Fisher House spends 91 percent.

“You’re using our injuries, our darkest days, our hardships, to make money. So you can have these big parties,” Millette added.

Millette wasn’t the only employee to speak up regarding problems plaguing the charity. CBS News interviewed over 40 other employees with similar stories. Owing to concern over retaliation, two former employees in particular declined to be interviewed by CBS on camera.

The spiral occurred over just a few years. In 2010, spending on conferences only amounted to $1.7 million. But in 2014, that number surged to an unbelievable $26 million, causing many employees to panic and point to CEO Steven Nardizzi, who came aboard in 2009, as the reason for the decline in the organization’s mission.

“Donors don’t want you to have a $2,500 bar tab. Donors don’t want you to fly every staff member once a year to some five-star resort and whoop it up and call it team building,” said Millette.

Wounded Warrior Project’s Director of Alumni, Army Capt. Ryan Kules (ret.), denied to CBS that there was undue spending on conferences. That conferences were held at five-star locations, Kules said, was to facilitate team alignment.

A follow-up investigation from CBS on Wednesday found that the project has a culture of retaliation.

“If you use your brain and come up with an idea, within a matter of time, you’re ‘off the bus,’” one former employee told CBS.

Outlandish spending isn’t the only controversy the group has courted in the last several years. The group focuses an incredible amount of resources on suing other non-profits who use the phrase “wounded warrior” into oblivion. Instead of helping veterans, these charities on the receiving end of the Wound Warrior Project’s litigious tendencies have had to use funds putting up a legal defense.  One charity in Pennsylvania, called the Keystone Wounded Warriors, has had to spend more than $72,000 defending itself.

Non-Profit Quarterly called the behavior “ugly.”

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20 thoughts on “Investigation: Wounded Warrior Project under fire, only spends 60 percent of funds on vets

  1. RightStuff44 says:

    I’ve stopped donating money to most of these outfits.

    1. budabobnu says:

      I donate to my church, Catholic Charities and The Salvation Army.

      1. RightStuff says:

        Pretty close to what I do.

  2. What_no_change??? says:

    The united way was (probably still is) one of the largest abusers. I refuse to give because I have no idea who’s pocket is getting lined.

    1. Garys_opinion says:

      They were really bad, I can remember a time when corporations would force their employees to donate to them, so that the corporations would look good.
      People use to give, then when the drive was over, cancel.

      1. budabobnu says:

        When really leaned on to donate to United Way, I gave the absolute minimum.

    2. Rose says:

      Planned Parenthood, for one.

  3. gbandy says:

    My son who is a Marine told me not to give to WWP as they are corrupt. I found it hard to believe but now I do. Any organization who spend the millions they do on advertising must be too flush with money and waste and corruption always is not too far away. Just always look and see who percentage a group pays to the purpose. United Way is a good example of waste.

    1. curmudgeon VN Veteran says:

      I heard the same thing. I still give to the DAV however.

      1. budabobnu says:

        The DAV is an honorable organization and does a much better job in spending than WWP.

    2. Rose says:

      My Marine told me the same thing.

  4. antiliberalcryptonite says:

    Not even 60%. That’s why I investigate any “charity” before giving them any money. Most are top-heavy with admin “costs” (e.g. corporate officers getting humongous salaries)

  5. 1qaz says:

    Check out to see what YOUR charity gives. Wounded Warrior give 59.9%. My favorite, Air Warrior Courage Foundation give 98%… No brainer….

  6. coneyro says:

    So, if this is known, why aren’t they formally investigated and brought up on charges of misappropriation of funds?
    Why isn’t there a specific standard that all charities need to be held up to?
    Someone needs to be held accountable.

    1. Julie A says:

      Agree, at what point is it no longer considered a charity? When the majority of the money does not go to the actual cause, but to line the CEO’s pockets, it should be considered corruption. Anybody that profits from the backs of our wounded warriors is disgusting.

    2. Misanthrope says:

      Really? You want the government to get involved and start politicizing charities, too?

      Government in this country can’t perform even its most basic functions. All it can do with the charitable sector is make it more corrupt, not less.

      Better for people to educate themselves before giving.

  7. HongryHawg says:

    A couple of years ago I considered contributing to “Wounded Warriors” and looked them up on 2 charity reporting websites. Their record was dismal then but not as bad as it is now. When that lame CW singer comes begging now, I flip the channel. BTW, I contribute, but to charities whose administration fees don’t go over 5 to 10 %.

  8. DwightMann says:

    The average charity spends 36.9% on overhead, so WW is reasonably close to typical.
    Very few charities are able to abuse their donors as much as the clinton foundation does by taking a whopping 85% for operating expenses. I guess bill spends a lot on hush money and hildebeast spends quite a bit on ensuring her ex business associates either fall victim to airplane accidents or commit suicide.

  9. curmudgeon VN Veteran says:

    They don’t come close to the scam the Clinton Foundation is running.

  10. Tim O says:

    WW also has pissed a lot of people off as they do not accept donations from any company that has anything to do with guns. Some big firearms related companies wanted to donate to them too. I own guns so I guess I can’t donate to them either. glad to find out this now as opposed to after dumping a tone of money on them

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