By Michael Isam
St. Augustine, Fla, (March 20, 2012) – The Allied Veterans story is giving cause for concern for Veteran organizations. Currently the most often discussed item on a meeting agenda is “How do we handle the fallout?”
With the possibility of “Witch Hunts” looming in the background as well as concerns over the public lumping all veteran organizations into a “Bad Apple” barrel, Veteran organizations are concerned.
What is a legitimate or reputable veteran organization? Many people regard the fact the organizations have been chartered by a congressional act as the determining factor of legitimacy. “Just because an organization has a not-for-profit status does not guarantee that the organization is “legitimate or reputable,” said local attorney Howard McGillin. “There are numerous ways to check the status of an organization” said McGillin, “and it responsibility falls on the donor to perform their own due-diligence before making a contribution.”
The IRS requires filing by EVERY organization which has obtained a 501(c) not-for-profit status. Be aware there is more than one type and many have a 501(c) 19 status reserved for military organizations. This sometimes keeps them from getting charitable donations as only 501(c) 3 status is acceptable to many organizations, even though the status is granted by the IRS.
Each state has their own form of reporting for not-for-profits and some require additional reporting for amount of income above a certain level.
Charity Navigator, http://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm, is an organization describing itself as an impartial evaluator of publicly reported financial information, issued. a “DONOR ALERT” for Allied Veterans of the World and Affiliates and the Jacksonville Fraternal Order of Police Foundation Inc. Inside the alert page were found stories from the Associated Press and The Florida Times-Union regarding the recent events.
Emotions run high around this issue. This is not the first group which veterans in St. Johns County have had problems. Veterans Support Organization, formerly of Daytona and now listed in Stuart, FL, has been appearing at various grocery stores, drugstores and the like for years. People collecting monies were dressed in “cammo” fatigues, with maybe an American flag patch, but nothing else to indicate branch of service or other information. After investigation by members of the Veterans Council, it was found none of the monies collected were given to veterans in St. Johns County. The people collecting monies were paid to do so and they were not necessarily veterans.
This organization has been tagged with a “DONOR ALERT” by Charity Navigator, citing a $20,000.00 fine by the Tennessee Secretary of State's Division of Charitable Solicitations and Gaming for violating the state's charitable solicitations law. Included is reference to a December 17, 2012 Associated Press article stating reports by workers of a quota system and very little money going to veterans.
Few Veteran organizations in the county are willing to talk to the press and are referring all questions to the Veterans Council. In a release issued by Bill Dudley, Chairman of the Veterans Council of St. Johns County, “The shocking news that the Allied Veterans of the World organization apparently raised such large sums of money for personal gain while using Veterans organizations as the purpose behind their “fundraising” is nothing short of despicable.”
The release goes on to state, “It is true there has been some good from this organization. There are many Veterans who have a place to sleep at night and food when they are hungry as a result of Allied Veterans donations.”
“The Veterans Council assumes no judgment of innocence or guilt of Allied Veterans and the other related entities. We will let the courts decide in this matter…”
The release challenges “local legitimate charities, churches, civic organizations and other Veterans to pull together and assist in keeping our veteran shelters open.”
Glen Tilley, Immediate Past Commander, Bryan Tutten Memorial VFW Post 2391 did speak about the situation, but not before making clear he was speaking for VFW Posts in general.
“The VFW post officers serve without pay,” said Tilley. “Nobody makes a dime serving in any leadership capacity. In fact, many will reach into their own pocket when the post has an immediate need.”
“A great event for us,” Tilley continued, “will net us maybe $2,000.00 maximum.” “Most events are in the hundreds of dollars, but it all adds up and it stays in the county,” concluded Tilley.
When pressed for his feelings about the overall situation, he shrugged and said “We all get our comeuppance, our karma.” “True justice,” he added, “would be if all the confiscated funds went to help fund every veteran organization in the affected areas. The veteran homeless shelter in Duval really can use the help.”