There are many charities that accept money to help wounded vets, but one of the biggest is now under fire for wasting donor dollars.
The Wounded Warrior Project, according to former employee Army Staff Sergeant Erick Millette, has engaged in wasteful spending of donated money.
“Their mission is to honor and empower wounded warriors, but what the public doesn’t see is how they spend their money,” he told CBS News.
Millette said he witnessed lavish spending on staff, with big “catered” parties.
“Going to a nice fancy restaurant is not team building. Staying at a lavish hotel at the beach here in Jacksonville, and requiring staff that lives in the area to stay at the hotel is not team building,” he explained.
Millette came home from Iraq in 2006 with a bronze star and a purple heart — along with a traumatic brain injury and PTSD.
Initially, he admired the charity’s work, and participated in its programs. He took a job as a public speaker with Wounded Warrior Project in 2013. But after two years, he quit.
“You’re using our injuries, our darkest days, our hardships, to make money. So you can have these big parties,” he told CBS News.
In 2014 alone, the group received more than $300 million in donations.
CBS News further looked into the charity find out how the it spends its donation money in comparison to other long-respected charities.
For example, Disabled American Veterans Charitable Service Trust spends 96% of its budget on vets and Fisher House devotes 91%. But according to public records reported by “Charity Navigator,” the Wounded Warrior Project spends 60% on vets.
CBS obtained the charity’s tax forms, which uncovered that the organization spent $1.7 million on meetings in 2010, but that jumped to $26 million in 2014 — which is the same amount the group spent on combat stress recovery.
A statement from two former who refused to show their faces on camera claimed that spending exploded after Steven Nardizzi took over.
While Nardizzi refused an interview with CBS News, Director of Alumni Capt. Ryan Kules denied the allegations of excessive spending. “It’s the best use of donor dollars to ensure we are providing programs and services to our warriors and families at the highest quality,” he said.