Chicago, Illinois (PressExposure) December 01, 2008 -- During my 20+ years with the U. S. Marines, I had the opportunity to see the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society in action on numerous occasions. I was always impressed with the variety of valuable services that they provided to the younger Marines and sailors. These services included loans, grants, education programs, financial counseling, layettes, food lockers and visiting nurse programs. Thus I was not surprised when this organization received an A+ rating from the American Institute of Philanthropy (AIP), a leading charity watchdog group.
Other military-oriented charitable organizations that received A or A+ ratings included the National Military Family Association, the Air Force Aid Society, Army Emergency Relief, Homes for Our Troops, the Fisher House Foundation and the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund.
Some charitable organizations, however, received grades of F, principally because their overhead expenses were too high in relation to the services they provided to current or former members of the armed forces. One of the worst was an organization called Help Hospitalized Veterans, founded in 1971 by Roger Chapin, a San Diego real estate developer. The charity raised $71 million in tax-deductible donations in 2006, but less than one-third of this amount was spent on hospitalized veterans, principally in the form of useless "craft kits". The rest went to television advertising and to salaries for the 75-year-old Chapin and his 73-year old wife. Together they collected $540,057.
Mr. Chapin has been described as a "charitable causes entrepreneur" by AIP because he has set up more than a dozen charities over the years and collected remuneration from each. Chapin's Help Hospitalized Veterans organization was the object of an investigative report by ABC News on November 9, 2007.
Another organization that received a grade of F is the Annandale-based Military Order of the Purple Heart, which advertises for car donations on radio in the Washington, D. C. area. Despite the impressive name associated with this organization, AIP says it provides little to veterans. Col. Richard H. Esau Jr., USMC (ret.), executive director of the organization, told the Washington Post that the cost of fundraising limits how much the group can spend on charitable causes. As a result of the AIP report, Col. Esau was ultimately fired.
Some charitable organizations make blatantly false statements in their efforts to raise funds from an unsuspecting public. An organization called Soldiers Angels (SA), based in Pasadena, California, runs an online store where donors can shop for goods and have them shipped directly to troops. The organization sells combat boots for $46.00 and states that the government-issued boots wear out too quickly in Iraq and Afghanistan and that soldiers and Marines must buy replacements at post exchanges. The fact is that enlisted men and women can turn in worn-out boots and receive reissues from the government at no charge.
Other organizations that received F grades include American Ex-Prisoners of War Service Foundation, Adopt-A-Platoon, American Veterans Coalition, American Veterans Relief Foundation, AMVETS National Service Foundation, Disabled Veterans Association, National Veterans Services Fund, NCOA National Defense Foundation, Paralyzed Veterans of America and VietNow National Headquarters.
It is laudable that many citizens make tax-deductible contributions to charities that benefit our young men and women in uniform. But they should ensure that your donations go to the troops, and not to "charitable causes entrepreneurs" who simply want to line their own pockets.