Wounded Warrior Project
|Motto||The greatest casualty is being forgotten.|
|Type||Nonprofit 501(C)(3) Corporation|
|Michael S. Linnington|
|Charlie Fletcher (Interim COO)|
Anthony Odierno (Board Chair)
Anthony Principi (Advisory Council Chair)
Wounded Warrior Project (WWP) is a charity and veterans service organization that offers a variety of programs, services and events for wounded veterans of the military actions following September 11, 2001. It operates as a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization.
As of June 1, 2015, WWP served 71,866 registered alumni and 11,494 registered members. The organization has partnered with several other charities, including the American Red Cross, Resounding Joy, a music therapy group in California, and Operation Homefront. WWP has also provided a year-long Track program, which helps veterans transition to college and the workplace.
Wounded Warrior Project was founded in 2003 in Roanoke, Virginia, by John Melia. Melia had been severely wounded in a helicopter crash while serving in Somalia in 1992. Melia assembled backpacks distributed to injured veterans at the former Bethesda Naval Hospital (Walter Reed National Military Medical Center) and Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
Wounded Warrior Project initially operated as a division of the United Spinal Association of New York, which adopted WWP as a program in November 2003. The WWP continued to support injured service members by providing them with free WWP Backpacks filled with comfort items
In September 2005, The United Spinal Association granted $2.7 million to WWP to "develop into a stand-alone charity with its own identity and programs," with the intent to expand its services from providing immediate comfort items to providing longer-term support for returning wounded veterans via compensation, education, health care, insurance, housing, employment, etc.
The WWP Backpacks program remains a central activity of WWP, evidenced by the more than 65,000 backpacks the organization had distributed as of early 2018, in support of transitioning U.S. military veterans.
CEO Steven Nardizzi and COO Al Giordano were fired from Wounded Warrior Project after it was revealed in 2016 that they spent massive amounts of the nonprofit's money on lavish company retreats and personal enrichment for themselves. Several former employees alleged that they were fired because they raised concerns over the mismanagement.
An independent report, completed in September 2016, provided evidence that the allegations were not true. After several accusations of inappropriate spending, Wounded Warrior Project undertook a forensic accounting of six years of expenses totaling almost $1.245 billion and found that no money was misappropriated or misspent. During the following three years (through September 30, 2018) the ensuing loss of donations cost hundreds of millions of dollars.
Wounded Warrior Project registered for incorporation on February 23, 2005. WWP was granted accreditation as of September 10, 2008, by the Veterans Affairs Secretary as a Veterans Service Organization (VSO) "recognized by the Secretary for the purpose of preparation, presentation, and prosecution of claims under laws administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs."  The Veterans Administration's online List of Representatives for Accredited Organizations includes contact information for WWP's accredited service officers. as well as a search tool to access information about other VSOs.
In July 2006, WWP's headquarters were moved to Jacksonville, Florida. WWP Founder John Melia cited a strong local veteran community, access to Jacksonville International Airport, and support from the local business community, specifically the PGA Tour, as the reason for the move. The WWP headquarters will be undergoing a major $1.3 million renovation according to the Jacksonville Business Journal.
On May 27, 2014, WWP filed a lawsuit against Dean Graham, a disabled veteran with PTSD, and his Help Indiana Vets, Inc. organization. After a court ruling, Graham retracted the allegations he leveled against Wounded Warrior Project and folded his direct-aid non-profit.[verification needed]
WWP filed a lawsuit in October 2014 seeking damages and court costs against a Blandon, Pennsylvania, non-profit, Keystone Wounded Warriors, claiming confusing similarities between Keystone's and WWP's logos; Hampton Roads, VA Channel 3 TV covered the Keystone story on April 30, 2015, and Nonprofit Quarterly covered the story with a title asking, is WWP "a 'Neighborhood Bully' among Veterans Groups?". Tim Mak also covered the suit for the Daily Beast.
After a reporter for the Tacoma, Washington News Tribune informed disabled veteran Airman Alex Graham, a blogger at the conspiracy website Veterans Today, of a pending lawsuit against him by the WWP, he removed his articles critical of their policies, later retracting his criticisms and issuing a public apology.
In March 2014, WWP testified before Congress that they strongly supported the bill "To amend title 38, United States Code, to provide veterans with counseling and treatment for sexual trauma that occurred during inactive duty training (H.R. 2527; 113th Congress)". The bill would extend a VA program of counseling and care and services for veterans for military sexual trauma that occurred during active duty or active duty for training to veterans who experienced such trauma during inactive duty training. The bill would alter current law, which allows access to such counseling only to active duty members of the military, so that members of the Reserves and National Guard would be eligible.
The WWP did a study of its alumni and found that, "almost half of the respondents indicated accessing care through VA for MST-related conditions was 'very difficult'. And of those who did not seek VA care, 41% did not know they were eligible for such care." The WWP also testified that in addition to expanding access to MST care, the VA needed to improve care itself, because veterans report "inadequate screening, providers who were either insensitive or lacked needed expertise and facilities ill-equipped to appropriately care for MST survivors."
Donations and spending
In 2012, WWP spent US $114,817,090 on programs in support of wounded veterans, their families, and caregivers.
In 2013, a new employee mistakenly declined to accept a donation from Liberty Baptist Church in Fort Pierce, Florida, and issued this inadvertent statement to the church leaders in an email, "We must decline the opportunity to be the beneficiary of your event due to our fundraising event criteria, which doesn't allow community events to be religious in nature."  Shortly after the church received this letter, a WWP spokesperson apologized and said that it was a miscommunication.
In June 2015, the Daily Beast reported that the WWP sells its donor information to third parties. It also alleged that WWP distributed what it deemed an insubstantial percentage of donations to actual wounded warriors, and that it overpaid its executive staff.
In January 2016, The New York Times reported that only 60 percent of the revenue of the Wounded Warrior Project is spent on programs to help veterans; the remaining 40 percent was overhead. It also reported claims of work environment of coercion, and multiple terminations. That same month, CBS News disclosed that the WWP had grown to spend millions of dollars annually on team-building events.
In March 2016, Wounded Warrior Project's board of directors dismissed the charity's top two executives, Steven Nardizzi and Al Giordano, after hiring the law firm Simpson Thacher & Bartlett to perform an independent review of spending issues related to the company's funds. Board chairman Anthony Odierno was announced as temporarily taking control of the charity.
In October 2016, Charity Navigator dropped Wounded Warrior Project from its "watch list", and later boosted the nonprofit's score to a four-star rating (out of four stars).
In February 2017, the Better Business Bureau released a report clearing Wounded Warrior Project of the "lavish spending" allegations, and "found the organization’s spending to be consistent with its programs and mission."
According to a 2013 article in Nonprofit Quarterly, "Depending on the rater, the Wounded Warriors Project seems to have scored low (Charity Watch), high (BBB Wise Giving Alliance) or somewhere in the middle (Charity Navigator)". However, for the fiscal year ended 30 September 2016, Charity Watch assigned WWP a C+ rating (up from a D originally) and Charity Navigator published its rating for WWP on 1 February 2017 as "four out of four stars" (up from three). As of August 2018, that rating had dropped back down to 3 stars. According to Charity Navigator, WWP allocates 75.1 percent of its revenue to program expenses and 24.7 percent to fundraising and administrative expenses. In January 2017 The Better Business Bureau's Wise Giving Alliance renewed its accreditation of WWP, for the next two years, as meeting the 20 standards for charity accountability.
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