Management Firings at Wounded Warrior Project

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In a not too surprising announcement, Wounded Warrior Project’s (“WWP“) Chief Executive Officer, Steven Nardizzi, and Chief Operating Officer, Al Giordano, were fired after a meeting Thursday afternoon in New York.

Steven Nardizzi, former WWP CEO

Steven Nardizzi, former WWP CEO

The firing stems from investigations into this charitable organization that led investigators and the Board to conclude that WWP’s administrators appeared to benefit more financially than the “wounded warriors” the organization was designed to support.

The New York Times reported yesterday that:

In reports by CBS News and The New York Times in January, current and former employees described the organization’s spending millions on employee retreats and first-class airfare while building programs for veterans that were useful for marketing but did little to serve veterans’ needs. The group spent 40 percent of donations on overhead, according to charity watchdog groups.

As scrutiny of the group’s spending grew in recent years, the Wounded Warrior Project spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on public relations and lobbying campaigns to deflect criticism of its spending and to fight legislative efforts to restrict how much nonprofits spend on overhead.

Quoting from a press release issued by WWP,  the New York Times reports that Board Chairman, Anthony Odierno, will temporarily take control of the charity. according to the release. “Mr. Odierno, a retired Army captain who was wounded in Iraq, is the son of Gen. Raymond Odierno, a former chief of staff of the Army.”

The crucial issue is this:  Can the culture at WWP be changed from that of focus on PR-driven, feel-good events to one of support for live-changing therapies – expensive, long-term and with probable less-than-desired successes?

Based on the previous dismal record of WWP, and the reality that outside pressure was required to force firing the executive duo, what is the likelihood that truly meaningful change will happen? Can the same Board that finally did the right thing (and only after a huge spotlight forced their hand), be counted on to transform the organization?

We wish them every success, but history tells us that the odds are not good for such cultural change when the same Board was complicit for years of ongoing corporate misfeasance yet continues to control the organization.

Hopefully, new administrators will right the ship, but many other charitable organizations that genuinely want to help Veterans have greatly suffered over these years by the dreadful improprieties of WWP.  Such a shame.

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News Highlights – Week of March 6, 2016

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Found below are few military news items that surfaced during the last week that caught my attention. I am hopeful that the titles and short commentary will encourage our readers to click on the embedded links to read more on subjects that interest them.

Drop me an email at info@sftt.org if you believe that there are other subjects that are newsworthy.

Wounded Warrior Project (“WWP”) attracts attention of Doonesbury
It was only a matter of time before the scathing humor of Gary Trudeau captured the tragedy unfolding with Wounded Warrior Project which appears to place the financial interests of its administrators in front of the needs of Veterans.  Such a shame!   Read more . . .

Veterans with PTSD

Legislation would halt bad military discharges due to PTSD, TBI
Last week, a coalition of Republican and Democratic lawmakers who served in Iraq and Afghanistan introduced legislation to ensure that military discharge review boards must consider troops’ mental health issues, and must accept a PTSD or TBI diagnosis from a professional as an acceptable rebuttal to a dismissal.   Read more . . .

House approves bill to consider PTSD as circumstance when sentencing veterans
The Oklahoma House of Representatives has passed a bill that will “expand current law to enable judges to consider a diagnosis of PTSD as a mitigating circumstance when sentencing veterans who have been diagnosed with PTSD, prior to being charged with a crime”.  Would be nice to see this type of legislation in all states.  Read more . . .

Veterans with PTSD

Service dogs aid veterans with PTSD
The service dog is trained to wake Sergeant Petz from his nightmares. Bosko is the first service dog provided by the Paws Forces, a new program of the Maumee-based the Arms Forces that helps veterans with PTSD and traumatic brain injuries get services.  Read more . . .

Veterans Aware: PTSD primer
I work for the Department of Veteran Affairs, Readjustment Counseling Service at the St. George Vet Center. I work with veterans who have been deployed in areas of active American combat operations, veterans who have traumatic brain injuries, or TBI, people diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and folks who have experienced any variety of service-connected traumatic experience that has left them disabled emotionally or physically.  Read more  . . .

Buprenorphine May Beat Opioids for Triad of Pain, PTSD, SUDs
In a retrospective cohort study, investigators found that twice as many veterans treated with the partial nociceptin opioid receptor agonist experienced improvement in PTSD symptoms, beginning at 8 months and increasing over time. In contrast, those treated with opioids experienced a worsening of symptoms.   SFTT is not a big fan of prescription drugs – be careful!  Read more . . .

Join SFTT in helping get our Veterans the support they deserve.

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Wounded Warrior Project Has Feet of Clay

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What quite a few of us have known for some time – and many more have suspected -The Wounded Warrior Project (“WWP”) appears to place the financial interests of its administrators over the needs of wounded Veterans. In a damning article recently published by The New York Times, The Wounded Warriors Project comes across as an organization built on the hypocrisy and greed of its administrators rather than truly helping wounded Veterans.

Others in the media like CBS (see video above and read the CBS news coverage) continue to follow this story and it seems likely that changes will occur within WWP to redress the balance of contributions that actually go to Veterans rather than its organizers.  I certainly hope so.

I take no great pleasure in continuing to flog WPP in the media, but I was upset by a comment I read in The New York Times suggesting that the WWP organizers should be properly compensating for raising this much money for Veterans and that it is “better than nothing.” In fact, I was more than upset, I was pissed off by this silly rationalization. Let me explain why?

– Most of the contributions raised by WWP came from people over 65 (Viet Nam Vets?).  If a contributor to a “good cause” feels that they have been betrayed by its fundraisers, won’t they be less inclined to support other Veteran programs with integrity?
– The Wounded Warrior Project sucked all of the air out of the room for other organizations that had a similar mission to help Veterans.  In other words, many Veterans were deprived of much needed support since a large percentage of the money went to WWP administrators rather than Vets.
– Many small and worthwhile organizations are financially struggling to support our Veterans and disclosures like the greediness within WWP will only make if more difficult for these organizations to raise funds.
– While I am delighted that some Veterans received support from WWP, I shed a tear for the many Veterans that were not served because of the greed and self-interest of its administrators.

Which brings us to the news that several Veteran groups accused Donald Trump of using Veterans like political pawns in his dispute with Fox News over the moderators of the last debate.    In many respects, I agree with Veterans that don’t want to be used as pawns in contentious posturing by politicians.  Sadly, every four years or so, most politicians tend to embrace Veteran causes as they might disingenuously cuddle a puppy dog to encourage voters to look favorably on them.

My question is quite simple:  What have these “touch-feely” politicians done to overhaul the Veterans Administration with its $170 billion annual budget during the time they spend in office?   Far too little in my estimation.  Over its brief history, WWP has raised under $1 billion ($750 million, but my estimate) – THIS IS LESS THAT 0.6% OF THE ANNUAL BUDGET OF THE VA.

Talk about “too big to fail,”  the VA is simply “too big” and “too bureaucratic” to provide the services our brave Veterans require.  Personally, I would like to see Veteran organizations take on the “big elephant” in the room – the VA – rather than quibble about how they feel “used” by political candidates.  This is the “fight” that our elected leaders need to embrace if they want to truly help our Veterans.

In my opinion, the VA needs to be radically repurposed and decentralized to provide meaningful support to our Veterans.  Big Pharma and politicians who feed at the trough of lobbyists will probably be opposed, but if you want to solve the problem, you need to deal with the corruption and self-interest groups within the VA first!

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