Unfortunately, another byproduct of a poor economy is scams. Often groups use a reputable name like Veterans to raise funds for their own profit. This becomes more prevalent as we draw closer to Veteran’s Day. Recently, the California Attorney General filed a lawsuit in the amount of 4.3 million dollars against a group called Help Hospitalized Veterans. You may have heard or even contributed to this group. Of course, I would encourage you to support our veterans but don’t be fooled. Keep your donations local with groups you know are based in the County.
Don’t donate to groups that contact you by phone or by mail. Reason being, these groups usually involve professional fundraisers who take a large percentage off the top. Another clue to perk your skepticism is if the plea for dollars sounds a bit too heart-wrenching, as if they’re trying to guilt you into thinking that if you don’t give, you don’t care – as if you’re not a good American. That’s nonsense. The ones I love are those that send you these tchotchkes that you don’t want or need – such as return address labels with your name spelled wrong. That’s just more guilt. And who pays for it? You do, of course. And do the veterans get anything?
This doesn’t mean that these groups are not legal. For instance, there is a group working in Rockland and Westchester Counties based in Mount Vernon locally and Rhode Island nationally. They call themselves the, “Veterans Support Organization.” You may have seen them outside of supermarkets around the County. They dress in semi-military clothing – camouflage pants, old style combat boots, etc. Further, they can be a bit aggressive in their techniques. They have nicely printed literature and hand-outs. Are they working inside the law? I can’t say they’re not.
However, their “current year tax filing” that they have posted on their website, shows less than 7% of revenue goes to veterans’ organizations and are simply re-donated. An online service, www.charitynavigator.org that tracks charities, has an advisory on “Veterans Support Organization.” The Secretary of State in Tennessee is leveling $50,000 in fines to the organization. On a federal level, Senator Patty Murray of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee is looking into “VSO” and has contacted Attorney General Eric Holder.
You don’t have to take my word for it. You can simply Google “Veterans Support Organization” and discover how many media outlets across the country have done less-than-favorable stories on them. In addition, many government agencies, including ours, are looking into their activities. Our county veterans’ organizations are hard-working volunteers. So if you give them a dollar, a dollar goes to the cause and not 7 cents.
Please don’t waste your hard-earned dollars!
Jerry Donnellan, Director
Veterans Service Agency of Rockland County
20 Squadron Boulevard, Suite 480
New City, NY 10956