For as long as veterans have existed, veteran groups have existed as well, to fill in the gaps where government fails and to support the advancement of their communities. Comprised in large part by veterans themselves, the majority of these organizations work diligently to fulfill their intended purpose… While some unfortunately use their status and position to take advantage of those they were meant to help. There is of course a special place in hell for people who abuse vulnerable groups, but why wait for them to die?
78% of veterans surveyed by Disabled American Veterans “report scams explicitly designed to exploit their military service.” How can we prevent getting scammed? Most of the ways that we avoid other methods of being taken advantage of are effective:
- Phishing – The Department of Veterans Affairs, DAV, and individual VA clinics will always confirm the veracity of their communications and will not ask you for money or restricted information over the phone.
- Suspicious Email Addresses – Yes, the government often does a lousy job of cyber security, but what they don’t do is email you from a gmail.com account. Pay attention to the actual addresses of communications you receive.
- Claims or Offers of Miraculous Benefits from Random “Veteran Assistance '' Organizations – There are more benefits today to the American Veteran than there was even 10 years ago, but no one is giving away free Cameros. Make sure you research any wazoo claims made by organizations you are unfamiliar with.
Much like the firearm safety rules, if you follow these simple steps, you can protect yourself from dirtbag scammers. Thankfully there are other groups standing in the watchtower, shutting down or identifying the problems as they appear.
Many watch dog organizations have highlighted some non-profits to do your research on before donating to. Use your best judgment and look and the numbers, and decide for yourself. Some of those
Wounded Warrior Project
While the course has been adjusted after the firing of the CEO and COO, Wounded Warrior Project was caught spending millions on lavish parties, private jets, hotels, and C-Suite employee perks. At one point, over 80% of funds from the WWP were being mishandled to benefit the people in the scam. Thanks to a reorganization meant to regain the public trust, the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance currently gives the organization an 89% approval rating.
National Veteran Service Fund
On the list of the top 50 scam organizations, this veteran based nonprofit was accused of 65,000 instances of fraud, over 50,000 of which involved identity theft. Representatives of NVSF claim that this is an unfounded accusation but have opted for an as yet unfinished settlement. Any nonprofit group with a vague name should immediately garner suspicion, so always research before sending your money or data.
VietNow National Headquarters
A national veteran’s organization that claimed to help veterans, the organization's mission was to help veterans support other veterans, increase community awareness of the difficulties faced by veterans and their families, and increase national awareness of the POW/MIA status.
VNNH is currently being dissolved on a national level, to settle a lawsuit brought by several states against them for abusing their nonprofit status, spending the majority of funds meant for veterans on paid professional fundraisers and ‘administrative’ costs.
Always remember that no matter how clever they try to be, a healthy dose of skepticism and research will go a long way towards outing bad actors. When found, report them to the community as soon as possible. The old saying says there’s no disinfectant like sunlight, and scum cannot last long once we know where it lies.