A letter to the editor I quoted in “Homeless Veterans” created a lot of discussion — the overwhelming majority of it on how we can honor and help our veterans.
Several readers suggested ways in which we can help veterans both with volunteerism and with our wallets.
There are many ways we honor members of the armed services. We rise and applaud them at sporting events, wiping our eyes at the sight of muscular young men with prosthetic legs. We hang banners from overpasses, welcoming home local men and women who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. We attach “Support Our Troops” stickers to our cars.
But sometimes that’s just not enough: While symbolic measures are no doubt appreciated, veterans need much more than a standing ovation and a pat on the back. Many are suffering from traumatic physical and emotional wounds. Civilian jobs are scarce. More than 135,000 veterans are homeless.
As our readers suggested, there are dozens — if not hundreds — of charities that claim to help veterans.
But, sadly, there are some so-called veterans’ charities that shamefully take advantage of your goodwill and compassion for our heroes and rip donors off, but even more shamefully rip our veterans off. This week, as we approach Veterans Day, they’ll be working overtime.
USA TODAY cites the following example of abuse and fraud:
… a man who identified himself as Lt. Cmdr.Bobby Thompson raised millions of dollars and cozied up to some well-placed politicians by creating a sham charity called the U.S. Navy Veterans Association.
An investigation by the St. Petersburg Times found that the charity reported income of more than $100 million since 2002. The group’s founder, who never served in the military and apparently stole someone’s identity, has been indicted, but his whereabouts are unknown.
But the USA TODAY piece also tells us how to research a charity before donating our money and provides a list of veterans charities that have received an A or A+ grade from Charity Watch, a charity watchdog group that analyzes charities’ financial reports. Among these top-rated charities: Fisher House Foundation, Homes for our Troops, Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund and Operation Homefront.
Finally, USA TODAY gives some tips for donors. Among these:
•Don’t respond to phone solicitations unless you already have a relationship with the charity.
•Don’t give money to people who solicit for contributions outside retail stores or on the street, even if they’re wearing a military uniform. There’s no way of knowing whether the money is going to vets — or even if the individual asking for funds is really a veteran.
•Don’t give because you received something in the mail. Some charities send prospective donors flags, desk sets, blankets and other premiums. These organizations hope recipients will feel compelled to send in a contribution to pay for the items.
•Don’t be misled by impressive-sounding names. Just because a charity is named after a well-known admiral or military hero doesn’t mean it’s a well-run organization.
This Veterans Day week, please open up your wallet, but do it carefully.