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Can Changes at the Wounded Warrior Projects Save the Non-Profit?

Wounded-Warrior-Project-Building

By Debbie Gregory.

On the heels of a lot of bad press, the Wounded Warrior Project (WWP) is making a number of changes, including firing former executives, closing offices, and redirecting funds to counter the previous spending scandal.

After an internal investigation, the foundation’s board of directors fired CEO Stephen Nardizzi, who often made flamboyant entrances at staff parties, for focusing too much on fundraising rather than veterans’ programs.

Retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Linnington, who took over as CEO earlier this year, said that changes are being made in order to provide the best resources possible to veterans.

The moves come months after the 13-year-old organization came under attack for accusations of reckless spending: exorbitant staff salaries, lavish staff parties and corporate retreats, expensive dinners and alcohol.

Linnington acknowledged that the recent scandals have hurt fundraising totals this year, but change is on the way.
The non-profit is boosting support for programs such as the Long-Term Support Trust initiative, and ending others such as the Transition Training Academy.

“We had to look at the programs that are the most essential to who we serve, and make sure we’re providing the greatest assistance to those in the greatest need,” Linnington said.

While trimming the fat from the payroll, the non-profit is planning to add staff  to mental health programs, long-term home-based support services, and helping veterans engage with each other in community activities.
Linnington said the group is planning to continue its support of veterans’ charities. In fiscal 2015, Wounded Warrior Project handed out about $11 million in grants to outside groups.

Hopefully, the changes made at the WWP will be able to change public perception of the organization.  Linnington is confident they will.

“We are strengthening our programs to better serve our warriors and their families, and will strengthen relationships with community partners in caring for our military community, as well as facilitating partnerships with organizations and businesses doing great work in the civilian sector,” he said in a statement.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Wounded Warrior Project Names Army Vet as New CEO

Michael Linnington

By Debbie Gregory.

Michael Linnington, the former head of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) is leaving that position to take over as CEO of the Wounded Warrior Project (WWP) on July 18th.

Linnington’s decorated 35-year military career included key command positions in three combat tours and senior leadership roles in the Department of Defense

Linnington became the leader of the POW/MIA mission, a military agency that searches for and identifies the remains of missing servicemen, just last year. Prior to Linnington’s involvement, the military’s efforts to find and identify missing remains have suffered from numerous problems. But in the short span of a year, the agency’s laboratories have nearly doubled the identifications of missing servicemen.

The Wounded Warrior Project has been in the news because of the lavish spending of its leadership. For example, in 2014, the non-profit flew some 500 employees to Colorado Springs for an “all hands” meeting at the five-star Broadmoor hotel. Employees bragged about flying in business class and receiving other first class amenities. The spending began to attract attention. Charity Watch, an independent monitoring group, gave Wounded Warrior Project a “D” rating in 2011 and has not given it a grade higher than C since.

Linnington, who wasn’t looking for a new job, recognized the opportunity at the Wounded Warrior Project to do “incredibly noble work.”

“I’m very proud of the things we’ve done at the DPAA over the past year but I was approached by a group that needed some leadership in caring for our wounded warriors. I’m a 35-year soldier. I brought soldiers to combat and welcomed many of them home that were grievously wounded,” Linnington said.

As permanent CEO of WWP, Linnington will oversee the organization’s day-to-day operations and set the strategic vision to guide the organization forward, ensuring that WWP’s programs and services benefit wounded warriors, caretakers and families who rely on the organization’s life-changing services.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Wounded Warrior Project Fires Top Executives

wwp

By Debbie Gregory.

The board of directors of the Wounded Warrior Project has fired two of its top executives.

Former CEO Steven Nardizzi and former COO Al Giordano were relieved of their duties following criticisms from more than 40 employees on how donated funds raised by the organization were spent.

The Board had hired forensic accountants to conduct an independent review of financial and other records. Additionally, they will interview former and existing employees and directors.

The board chairman, Army captain Anthony Odierno (Ret) will act as the Interim Chief Executive.

“It is now time to put the organization’s focus directly back on the men and women who have so bravely fought for our country and who need our support,” Odierno said in a statement.

John Melia, who founded the non-profit and  left following a 2009 dispute with Nardizzi and Giordano, has expressed interest in returning.

The non-profit veteran organization appeals to the American public’s generosity and desire to reward those who have served, and it works. In 2014, the group received more than $300 million in donations.

According to the charity’s tax filings, spending on conferences and meetings went from $1.7 million in 2010, to $26 million in 2014. That’s almost the same amount spent on its top program, combat stress recovery.

The all hands meetings would take place in great vacation locales, with first class accommodations and all expenses paid. And while the meetings were used to promote team building, many were left wondering if such extremes were warranted.

Many smaller non-profits depend on grants given out by the Wounded Warrior Foundation, and so, moving forward, the new leadership will be focusing on restoring the public’s trust in the good works WWF does.

From 2010 to 2015, participation across WWP’s many programs increased from approximately 1,850 wounded warriors to more than 144,000 wounded warriors.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Military Connection: Wounded Warrior Project Survey: By Debbie Gregory

Wounded Warrior SurveyOn September 16, 2014, the Wounded Warrior Project released the results of their 2014 Annual Alumni Survey. The organization surveyed more than 21,000 wounded Veterans in an effort to determine the areas where these Veterans struggle after they separate from the Military. The intention is that the data provided by the survey can be used to improve support and benefits for wounded Veterans.

The survey found that the two most common problems in accessing both physical and mental healthcare were 1. Difficulty in scheduling appointments,  and 2. Inconsistent treatment due to canceled appointments and switches in providers. The survey found that this was not just among VA healthcare patients, but among Veterans seen by private providers as well.

The survey revealed that the primary type of current health insurance or coverage cited included Veterans Affairs at 59.2%. This stat was up from 52.7% in 2013.

The percentage of Veterans receiving VA disability benefits is 72%, which is up from 62.8% in 2013.

The number of Veterans with a VA disability rating of 80% or higher rose to 42.6% in 2014, up from 36.2% in 2013.

The study also found that the top five reported injuries and health problems experienced during post-9/11 service were:

  1. Sleep disorders (75.8%)
  2. Post-traumatic stress disorder (75.2%)
  3. Back, neck, and shoulder problems (72.3%)
  4. Depression (67.1%)
  5. Anxiety (64.2%) or

Other important findings from the survey include:

  • The unemployment rate for respondents in the labor force is 13.9%
  • 82.3% of warriors are overweight or obese
  • 75% of warriors reported the memory of an upsetting military experience has haunted them in the past month.
  • 59.2% of warriors say talking with another veteran is in their top five ways for coping with stress
  • 43.2% of warriors report having a traumatic brain injury (TBI).

This is the fifth consecutive year that the Wounded Warrior Project has conducted this survey. The data will allow the organization to identify trends and compare this data with surveys from other military populations.

Download Survey Here.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, Veterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: Wounded Warrior Project Survey: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: Trust Your Charity? By Debbie Gregory

stewardIn October, 2013, Joseph Earl Steward was arrested in Ohio for illegally soliciting funds for a popular Veterans charity. On August 8, 2014, the 45 year old was sentenced to three years in prison.

Prior to his arrest, Steward went door to door, claiming to work for the Wounded Warrior Project. He solicited several thousands dollars in donations from good people who believed that their money was going to help wounded Veterans. Steward went as far as to offer fake tax receipts to individuals who gave him money. Most of the donations were in increments of $10-$25, but some were as high as $500.

Last year, Steward was formally charged with illegally soliciting for a charity, identity theft, impersonating an officer, theft, and tampering with records.

Steward pleaded guilty to the soliciting, impersonating and tampering charges. The other charges against him were dropped. Along with his sentence, Steward was ordered to pay $1,577 in restitution to the charity.

After his arrest, representatives from the Wounded Warrior Project said they had no record of Steward working for their organization, and that they never received any donations from him. Donors should keep in mind that the charity does not solicit door-to-door

Good people who want to help Veterans– or any charity– should be careful who they give their donations to. In recent years, there have been an increasing number of impostors looking to make a profit on the backs of those who serve, past and present.

Most reputable charities have established websites equipped with a secure donations page.  Even when donating online, you should give your money to non-profits that have a proven track-record. Many of these reputable organizations are on our Charity Connection page.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, Veterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: Trust Your Charity?  By Debbie Gregory