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December 17, 2012

Veterans Charity's Ex-Workers Claim Fundraising Came First

Former workers with a veterans charity that has come under scrutiny in multiple states over its solicitations and spending have told the Associated Press that the organization's Tennessee chapter provided few benefits for vets and threatened to fire staffers who fell short of fundraising quotas.

The Veterans Support Organization, based in Stuart, Fla., raised $8.5-million last year and disbursed about $300,000 in grants and contributions, according to federal tax filings. The former manager of the Tennessee chapter, which laid off 20 people last month, said the office raised hundreds of thousands of dollars but its only donations were $400 a month in Wal-Mart gift cards to veterans.

Tennessee has fined the Veterans Support Organization for making false claims about the benefits it offered veterans. Lawmakers in Connecticut have called for a federal probe of the charity, and in August Wal-Mart banned the group from soliciting outside its Florida stores.

In a statement, the charity declined to comment on the Tennessee employees' claims but said that nationally it "invests 70 percent of donations into a work and housing program that helps veterans get off the street and into the workforce."