VA Employee Runs ‘Worst’ Veterans Charity In The United States

news
A visitor to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington D.C. pauses to remember fallen service members.
DOD photo by Lisa Ferdinando

A well-funded charity organization called the National Vietnam Veterans Foundation is under fire after it was revealed that only 2% of its cash donations have actually been donated to veterans and their families. That information was recently brought to light by a team of CNN investigative reporters, who dug into tax records made available by a watchdog organization that tracks the financial performance of thousands of charities across the United States, and which named NVVF one of the “worst” veterans charities in existence — despite the fact that it’s run by a combat veteran who is currently employed by the Department of Veterans Affairs.


According to Fast Company, the watchdog group, called Charity Navigator, “ranks nonprofits on the efficacy of their getting and spending, measuring them against seven benchmarks and assigning each one a rating on a scale of zero to four stars.” For example, Concerns of Police Survivors, a charity organization that provides resources to surviving family members of law enforcement officials killed in the line of duty, has an overall score of 91.73 and four out of four stars. That’s good. That’s trustworthy.

Meanwhile, on the opposite end of the spectrum, NVVF, which, according to its website, was “created by veterans on behalf of veterans” and is “dedicated to aiding, supporting, and benefiting America’s veterans and their families,” maintains a score of 24.60 and zero — zero — out of four stars. That’s bad. Very bad. By Charity Navigator’s standards, that’s an organization Americans shouldn’t feel comfortable donating their hard-earned money to.

And it gets worse. According to the NVVF website, the board of directors is “made up entirely of veterans who have served in a combat zone.” J. Thomas Burch, the founder and CEO of NVVF, is not only a veteran himself, he’s a federally paid lawyer at the VA. In fact, he’s deputy director in the VA’s Office of General Counsel, where, according to CNN, he pulled in $127,000 in salary in 2014. That’s well over twice what the average household income was for Americans that year. But for Burch, who lives in the Washington D.C. suburbs and drives a black Rolls-Royce, that apparently wasn’t enough.

Between 2010 and 2014, NVVF raked in more than $29 million in donations, CNN reports. In 2014 alone, the organization raised $8.5 million, a mere $122,000 — or 2% — of which actually went that to veterans and their families. Where did the rest go? According to the charity’s 2014 tax return, which was obtained and reviewed by CNN, $65,000 of it went into Burch’s pocket, while more than two hundred thousand dollars more were spent on travel, unnamed “awards,” “parking,” “phones,” and, of course, “other expenses.” The rest went to “professional fundraisers.”

“It’s a zero-star organization and you can’t go lower than that,” Michael Thatcher, Charity Navigator’s CEO, told CNN. “They don’t have an independent board of directors, they actually don’t even have a comprehensive board of directors — only three members on the board at this point in time and some of the are family. So one can say, is this representative of an independent board? It’s not.”

So far, Burch has proved unwilling to provide an explanation, at least to CNN. When reporters attempted to contact Burch at the VA, he asked them not to contact him while he was working. So the reporters confronted him as he was returning home from work, at which point Burch sped off. The vanity license plates on his Rolls-Royce read: MY ROLLS. But it might not be his Rolls for much longer: According to CNN’s senior investigative correspondent, Drew Griffin, Burch’s position in the VA is now being reviewed by the Office of Inspector General.

“We have an open invitation to Mr. Burch,” Griffin told CNN's Jake Tapper. “If he wants to defend his zero-star rated charity, we are happy to sit down and listen.”

Photo illustration by Paul Szoldra

Navy Lt. Jonny Kim went viral last week when NASA announced that he and 10 other candidates (including six other service members) became the newest members of the agency's hallowed astronaut corps. A decorated Navy SEAL and graduate of Harvard Medical School, Kim in particular seems to have a penchant for achieving people's childhood dreams.

However, Kim shared with Task & Purpose that his motivation for living life the way he has stems not so much from starry-eyed ambition, but from the pain and loss he suffered both on the battlefields of Iraq and from childhood instability while growing up in Los Angeles. Kim tells his story in the following Q&A, which was lightly edited for length and clarity:

Read More

You can almost smell the gunpowder in the scene captured by a Marine photographer over the weekend, showing a Marine grunt firing a shotgun during non-lethal weapons training.

Read More

A Marine grunt stationed in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina is being considered for an award after he saved the lives of three people earlier this month from a fiery car crash.

Cpl. Scott McDonell, an infantry assaultman with 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, was driving down Market Street in Wilmington in the early morning hours of Jan. 11 when he saw a car on fire after it had crashed into a tree. Inside were three victims aged 17, 20, and 20.

"It was a pretty mangled wreck," McDonell told ABC 15. "The passenger was hanging out of the window."

Read More

Todd Robinson's upcoming Vietnam War drama, The Last Full Measure, is a story of two battles: One takes place during an ambush in the jungles of Vietnam in 1966, while the other unfolds more than three decades later as the survivors fight to see one pararescueman's valor posthumously recognized.

Read More
Protesters and militia fighters gather to condemn air strikes on bases belonging to Hashd al-Shaabi (paramilitary forces), outside the main gate of the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq December 31, 2019. (Reuters/Thaier al-Sudani)

With ISIS trying to reorganize itself into an insurgency, most attacks on U.S. and allied forces in Iraq are being carried out by Shiite militias, said Air Force Maj. Gen. Alex Grynkewich, the deputy commander for operations and intelligence for U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria.

"In the time that I have been in Iraq, we've taken a couple of casualties from ISIS fighting on the ground, but most of the attacks have come from those Shia militia groups, who are launching rockets at our bases and frankly just trying to kill someone to make a point," Grynkewich said Wednesday at an event hosted by the Air Force Association's Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies.

Read More