There Are Good Players Out There -- Don't Give Up on Supporting Veterans

Americans have learned through media outlets, time and again, that some veteran service organizations use only a fraction of their donated dollars to actually help veterans. It's true. I know firsthand that, among the thousands of veteran service organizations in the country, there are some bad players. In fact, several of them are the most well-known and prominent among us.

Fortunately, thanks to good media reporting and impartial watchdogs, like Charity Navigator, the questionable practices of these charities are being exposed to the public. For those of you who have grown skeptical about donating to military causes, I encourage you to reconsider. Thousands of excellent veteran service organizations exist because the needs of veterans are very real. We are experiencing the largest return of combat veterans to society since World War II, combined with tens of thousands of individuals who now unexpectedly find themselves the by-products of military downsizing. Military transition programs are inadequate and the Department of Veteran Affairs is overwhelmed, while charities and volunteers work to help fill the void.

Many of these charities do good work without the benefit of being a household name, for the simple reason that their donor dollars are rarely spent on telemarketing and advertising. For example, there's the Travis Manion Foundation, named after a fallen American hero who was a personal friend of mine. Headquartered out of Doylestown, Pennsylvania, this organization offers unique opportunities to empower veterans to achieve their goals and inspire young adults to live with character and serve their communities.

Some of you may not have heard of Hire Heroes USA, even though it is tied at #6 among Charity Navigator's top-rated veteran service organizations. We are a national nonprofit devoted to filling the very real gap in the effectiveness of standard corporate job fairs and government-provided military transition services. Our laser focus on metric-driven effectiveness, the highest level of transparency and personalized service delivery has made us the premier veteran service organization in the country at empowering current and former military members to find quality careers.

So far this year, our team has completed over 10,000 client assessments, revised more than 9,000 resumes, and more than tripled the number of people who get assistance with federal resumes. By the end of September, we will also have conducted 100,000 individual career counseling sessions. For every dollar donated to Hire Heroes USA, 83 cents is spent on programs that directly benefit transitioning military members, veterans and military spouses. That is well above the 75 percent threshold recommended for well-run nonprofits by Charity Navigator. Moreover, because our services cut in half the average duration of unemployment for our clients, we lessen taxpayer spending on veteran unemployment benefits, which hovers at around $1 billion per year. We've calculated that for every dollar donated to Hire Heroes USA, we return nearly $7 in impact to the veteran space.

It is contemptible to use veterans as pawns to generate donations for personal enrichment. Equally shameful is using charitable dollars carelessly or inefficiently, effectively breaking trust with funders and depriving veterans of needed services. Before making a donation, I highly recommend that those who wish to support our veterans seek information from free services such as Charity Navigator, BBB Wise Giving Alliance and Charity Watch to learn about a charity's functions, finances and management. Informed giving ensures resources go where they are most needed and where they will do the most good. America's veterans deserve no less.