Men Die in Military and Building Bridges

Help Our Veterans

Dying on the battlefield, or later of wounds from military service, is a key way that men do die young. Every day the news sources are decrying the apparent serious problems of providing medical help to our veterans via Veterans Administration Hospitals. If the richest country on earth cannot take care of our wounded, both physically and mentally, we need to re-think how many battles and wars we can support. So we need to take the best possible care of our veterans. But apparently we are not doing a very good job with even the first priority: helping them heal their wounds.

Beyond the medical side WhyMenDieYoung wonders why there seems to be so little progress with the next two priorities: education/training and employment. One continuing theme seems to be that the organizations that are soliciting contributions seem to be good at raising money but not so good at using it to help our veterans. There are hundreds of organizations claiming to support veterans. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs publishes a jumbled-up ("good enough for government work"?) 128-page directory that lists 136 different organizations, but there are many others not listed in this directory.

Related to this theme is that it is not clear how organizations such as the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Disabled American Veterans, Wounded Warrior Project, and myriad others are actually helping our veterans to recover from their traumas of military service and help them live the rest of their lives in a happy, healthy, and productive fashion. The American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars were established for World War 2 veterans, and have thousands of "posts" (circa 1950 buildings) where veterans of that generation can meet, but those veterans are literally dying out and veterans of more recent conflicts complain that those posts and their programs are not relevant. On the flip side, others value the facilities and chide their cohorts for not getting involved to create meaningful programs.

What does seem clear, after some probing, is that there is a wide range of quality among these organizations, from ones that truly provide an honest and beneficial service to those that are out-and-out scams taking advantage of the heart-rending situations faced by many veterans. (One clue to some of the scams is that their names add a word such as Association or Foundation to that of some large and famous honest organizations.) WhyMenDieYoung will do our best to explore the activities and productivity of these organizations, but it is not easy because there are so many claims made by so many people with widely different agendas.

We strongly urge potential contributors to do some homework before contributing, looking especially carefully at the compensation of executives or unidentified third parties. There are some watchdog organizations. One, called Charity Navigator, looks promising, but it only does organizations granted tax-exempt status under section 501(c) (3) of the Internal Revenue Code and that file a Form 990. 501(c) (3) organizations are considered public charities and all donations to them are tax-exempt. So if you can find a Form 990 for the organization of interest, and are able to interpret it, you should be on solid ground. Unfortunately that does not seem to include many of the organizations that claim to benefit veterans. More common seems to be 501(c) (4) organizations that are allowed to spend a substantial portion of their revenue on lobbying our government and not every donation to them is tax-deductible. Presumably contributors cannot deduct the full amount of their contribution to the latter type.