Much like the Energizer Bunny, the good ol’ boys down in Jacksonville, Florida just keep on cranking out commercials and new funding drives to insure their paychecks keep coming. It must be absolute hell to try to get by on $333,000.00 a year. I guess it’s a good thing they throw in that $100,000.00 bonus to keep the incentive high. Think of all the prioritizing and unhealthy life choices that must occur. Where to vacation? Maui and run the risk of skin melanoma? Colorado in ski season and run the risk of an avalanche? The Bahamas and run the risk of a hurricane in the fall? Having money comes with a whole new set of problems most homeless Veterans will never appreciate or understand. Food poisoning at some out of the way four-star Michelin-rated restaurant in Fiji always looms as a potential catastrophe. Fortunately, most of us disabled Veterans will never be subject to these life-threatening events.
My good friends Dean and Patricia Graham of Help Indiana Vets are a classic example. While I attributed my original asknod.org article to my esteemed east coast co-conspirator in Independent Living Program matters (Bruce McCartney), Dean was the actual author. As a brief aside, Dean and I are not related nor is Bruce to Paul. Just thought I’d get that out there in case Kutak Rock LLP and Mr. Nardizzi were thinking of coming after us. Oops. Too late. Their WWP site has given me my much-sought Andy Warhol fifteen minutes of fame. I can now die with a smile on my face.
There are several defamatory blogs on the internet and an email circulating that appear to be derived in part from a post by an individual named Alex Graham who maintains a blog on the website “Veterans Today.”
Actually, perhaps I could sue them. They failed to mention this (asknod.org) website which is where it all began. My articles in Veterans Today (VT) are merely cut and pasted from here. I feel umbrage. I have been maligned and compared to the kooks who inhabit VT. You have to admit they manage to find some pretty far-fetched authors with fanciful ideas about how the world turns. Considering the on-line magazine purports to be for/all about Veterans, I came away with a different take after a few months which is why I no longer post there. Veterans Affairs seem a distant second to the Bilderbergs and the latest info on the Illuminati. It’s difficult under the best of circumstances to maintain your credibility and be taken seriously without having your articles cheek and jowl with “The top ten reasons Sandy Hook was an elaborate Hoax.” On this point, Mr. Nardizzi and I agree.
Yesterday, I received from Dean his filed response to the WWP’s ongoing lawsuit against him. As you may recall, Dean and his merry band had the audacity to point out the WWP Emperor was nakedly raking in vast quantities of money in the form of donations and repurposing them for a redistribution of wealth to his cronies and himself. Here is his rebuttal to the trumped up charges by Nardizzi’s henchmen at Kutak Rock:
ANSWER TO PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION FINAL
I have repeatedly offered WWP a forum here to rebuke me and my licentious tongue. I have made it clear that I welcome something-hell, anything- from them to make me out a liar. I fervently wish to be wrong just as I expect Dean and Co. wish they, too, were misinformed. Nevertheless, the WWP krewe stoically remain silent and use intermediaries to hurl deprecations from afar. This strongly implies guilt when no one in authority steps forth to right the record.
When you are innocent of that which you are accused of, it is customary to stand on the highest hill and vociferously proclaim your innocence. Some even go so far as to take legal action to regain their rightful legitimacy. Few sue to muzzle the truth except perhaps GM. In actual fact, these days most large corporations indulge in a bit of both. A sharp threat of a lawsuit combined with an artful public relations campaign usually works wonders to keep the rank and file in check. I appear to be an anomaly. I suspect I’m judgement-proof. I suppose all that might change if I got into competition with WWP and started up a 501(c)(3) of my own. Sorry but that’s not in the cards, Al and Steve. I enjoy my precarious position of being close to Bingo.
The bummer about all these articles and the exposé in the social media news is that bigwigs at the WWP cannot be seen in public in Teslas and Lexus rigs now. They can’t just pop up in Colorado Springs for the annual meet and greet in high season without bad press. Face it. It’s anathema for these guys to arrive as they did at the Broadmoor on horseback. Grand entries are so yesterday. Here’s one former employee’s take on it:
WWP is totally a scam and what a gross misuse of money. It’s awful when you have an CFO getting $8,000 custom bookcases or the Chief Development Officer getting a $5,000+ custom desk for your offices. Or what about the company wide yearly meeting that is held in some swanky resort – Phoenix, AZ in Feb or Colorado Springs (both during high season) for 300+ employees. Hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on hotels, airfares, swag, CEO big entrances on horses, zip lines, etc. Money that could be going to our injured servicemen and women and their families. But you just let your executives fly 1st class and now have a program where you are sending staffers (IT, Giving Outreach, etc) for a 2 week trip to Germany to see what goes on there. How does that help? Really it’s a two week vacation to Europe. Through the Believe in Heroes campaign – raised another $6 million dollars. Isn’t is a shame to put our wounded vets on the side of Brawny paper towels just to raise some money. I don’t see Susan G. Koman putting breast cancer survivors on the sides of Campbell’s soup or Yoplait yogurt. Same message can be done with a logo but you just “pimp” out the veterans to the American public to get just a little bit more money.
I have received numerous emails excoriating me for my nasty treatment of WWP. Some insist that most of the money gets to Vets and they’re okay with that but they base it on a narrow interpretation fostered by a visit to Charity Navigator. To date, not one soul who has written to complain has delved any deeper than the IRS 990. How many of you have taken the time to contact or investigate anyone who was actually “helped” by WWP? How many of you bothered to perform due diligence as Dean Graham did before blindly handing over tens of thousands of dollars to an outfit that simply ratholes it away in an interest-bearing account- one hundred million dollars of your donations to date? Not a dime of that percolates down to needy Veterans missing large pieces of their original birthday suits. I and some of my friends have done so. We encounter former employees who willingly write of WWP’s excesses for their own needs at the expense of the very ones they purport to help. Add to that the cadre of volunteers who selflessly contribute their time and energy for free to help these wounded warriors and you see the hubris of a $333,000 annual paycheck with a $100,000.00 “incentive bonus”.
Helping Veterans should be a labor of love devoid of any expectations of a better seat in Heaven. We, as Veterans, opted to serve America and I count among those very same Veterans the ones who drove the British from our soil in the War of Independence.
Statistically, Veterans inhabit a lower financial niche that their civilian counterparts. That isn’t hard to reconcile when you consider they relinquish their formative years of education to defend our country. Some never finish that quest for a college degree. Nevertheless, their contribution to America’s preeminence in the world is indisputable and invaluable. When some of us are compromised physically with injuries and debilitating diseases incurred in that endeavor, we are ostensibly remunerated for our service. VA compensation is not, however, a complete panacea for our efforts. I compare it to a canary living in a cage rather than having its freedom. This is why we have so many Veterans Charities and other legitimate, altruistic outfits whose sole purpose is to backfill the gaps in what VA attempts to provide.
WWP and a number of other outfits have discovered this rich vein of giving and climbed onto the bandwagon. This is nothing new. Remember old Jimbo and Tammy Faye Baker back in the eighties with the air-conditioned dog house? Jimmy Swaggart who got busted with the fluffer at the No Tell Motel? The modus operandi is identical. Smoke the masses with pleas for a genuine cause and buy a Gulfstream IV to deliver the goodies to South America. Or Maui. Or Bermuda. Or Africa.
Why is this so hard to comprehend? Why is it indigestible mentally to conceive of WWP’s Big Dogs being scalawags? What cachet of respectability can attach to someone who usurps a legitimate 501(c)(3) for himself from the Melia family founders and then proceeds to vote himself a paycheck that dwarfs the imagination of most tax-paying Americans? Mostly, how to you hornswoggle so many Americans-Veterans included- into believing your actions are all for the betterment of Wounded Warriors?
That Dean Graham, or even myself should have to rationalize-let alone legally defend why we feel this is inappropriate, selfish, rude and harmful to thousands of homeless, starving Veterans- is almost tragicomical. Can Americans be so blind as to what is transpiring right under their very noses?
I would ask any who read this to perform one simple test. Some may not be so brave or have the chutzpah to do so. Approach a Veteran who is quite obviously para/quadraplegic and first thank them from the bottom of your heart for your freedom. Next, ask them if they have been helped financially in any way, shape or form by WWP. By that, I mean have they helped with the rent, a power bill, air transportation or some selfless act that requires financial investment. I have yet to find even one who has had his or her life changed financially by them. I have received several letters telling me of their largesse but it merely involves seminars on how to manage their money. Some tell of a sports event like an NFL football game but seem unaware that the tickets were donated. I’m sure this is not dispositive of the fact that they have helped some but the paucity of individuals stepping forward with tales to refute my contentions is rather damning evidence to the contrary.
With over one hundred million in the bank and a payroll of $2.1 million just for the fellows at the top who have to slave all day counting up the donation money, you can readily see why very little of it ever touches the lives of the Veterans who most deserve it. Every Tuff Mudder competition you attend takes their funds and donates them to the WWP yet none of that is distributed in little white envelopes to Vets. Every concert Trace Adkins puts on to honor our wounded warriors results in mass quantities of cash donated and collected but nary a dime is disbursed directly to defray the cost of life for these physically compromised Veterans. On the contrary, they are offered sports “fun runs” and parades. They are offered counseling and “how to” seminars on how to extract the most from the VA who should legitimately be doing this themselves. They are paraded on stage like circus freaks to promote even more giving but without any remuneration. They are brainwashed into becoming “alumni” to the tune of $20 a month when it is they who can ill afford to part company with even $2.
The parallel line between the WWP and the Jimmy Swaggarts of Veterans Charity is mighty fuzzy. The only difference is that, to date, we haven’t heard anything about No Tell Mo-tels. I don’t mean to cast aspersions on the sexual mores of anyone in the WWP hierarchy. I’m sure they are all fine and morally upstanding souls. I reserve the right to withhold the sobriquet of Christians based on their greed.
Most folks know I’m not very religious. What I did in Southeast Asia is not conducive to getting a seat in Heaven-even a seat in the back near the kitchen entrance. I can live with that. Not all of us Veterans were destined to make the acquaintance of St. Peter personally. Someone has to break the eggs for life’s omelet. With that said, I still subscribe to the tenets of it being more blessed to give than to receive. Apparently Steve Nardizzi and Albion Giordano didn’t get the email. Do me a favor and send them one. Hear?
And have a very happy Easter.