Coalition to Support America's Heroes
by E.M. Abernathy
Why did Coalition to Support America's Heroes (actually Coalition to Salute America's Heroes) receive an F? Is it a scam? Having read the overall reason, it begs the question if one should or should not donate to this cause.
I just received a solicitation of monies to allow a disabled veteran to take his wife out for a Mother's Day Dinner, which sounds like a good thing.
We just received the same solicitation from the organization, whose name is actually Coalition to Salute America’s Heroes (CSAH)
. Whoever is employed to write their solicitation letters definitely knows how to tug at America's heartstrings. Before major holidays, they come out with a sob story that makes you want to open up your wallet and send them whatever you can – until you learn more.
Don't be lured in by their talented (and probably well-paid) copywriter, because not much of the money you send them actually goes to help veterans
or their families. Much of it goes to questionable expenditures that no donor would approve, if they only knew.
The Coalition to Salute America's Heroes (CSAH) was founded in 2004 by San Diego real estate developer Roger Chapin, who has been under fire from various sources for many years. Chapin, a veteran of the Army Finance Corps, has been called a "charity entrepreneur," due to his 40-year history of running ostensibly charitable organizations.
The stated purpose of the Coalition to Salute America's Heroes is "to provide support to wounded troops, veterans, and their families."
Chapin’s other veterans charity is Help Hospitalized Veterans (HHV)
, which provides "therapeutic" arts and crafts kits to hospitalized veterans. I can think of a LOT of things a hospitalized veteran might need or want more than an "arts and crafts kit." Can't you?
In December of 2007, the American Institute of Philanthropy's Daniel Borochoff testified before Congress about veterans charities. Borochoff called Chapin "very good at setting up charities that don't do so much charitable, but bring in lots, lots of money."
A Washington Post
review of the tax return for HHV at that time indicated that Chapin, 75, the charity's president, received $426,434 in salary and benefits
. His wife, Elizabeth, 73, received $113,623 in salary and benefits as "newsletter editor," according to the Post
The AIP report contained these additional statements about HHV/CSAH:
"A good example of questionable in-kind items flowing through the financial statements of veterans charities is the $18,750,000 of ‘phone cards’ that Help Hospitalized Veterans (HHV) in fiscal 2006 received and passed through to its related entity, Coalition to Salute America’s Heroes (CSAH).
"These 'phone cards,' which were distributed to overseas military personnel by CSAH, were not for soldiers to call home to their family
but rather to make free calls for sports scores
with ads provided by a company called EZ Scores.
"HHV and CSAH, who share the same president and founder, each counted $18,750,000 of the sports score cards as a contribution and program expense in their respective fiscal 2006 financial statements.(HHV received the cards as a donation, then "donated" them to CSAH, who distributed them.) These sports score cards and $2 million in donated public service airtime accounted for 85 percent of CSAH’s total program expenses reported in its 2006 financial statements."
There is now some question about whether those cards were ever distributed at all. The USO in Washington, DC, was listed as a recipient of a substantial number of the cards. The USO said it never actually received the cards. CSAH has filed an amended tax return and acknowledged that there is some question about the cards, which it is still investigating.
The New York Times
wrote of "Roger Chapin and his fishy charities for veterans" in February 2008:
"They have lavished millions of donated dollars on administrative expenses, salaries, and perks while sending only a relative trickle to charitable services that sound highly dubious
, like sending overseas troops a shipment of 1.5 million telephone cards that could be used only to call for sports scores, not to talk to family members."Forbes
magazine reported in January of 2008:
"San Diego 'nonprofit entrepreneur' Roger Chapin admitted to a congressional panel . . . that one of his veterans charities reimbursed him $43,225 for a forfeited condo-purchase down payment
(what?!), loaned $135,000 to help a longtime director
finance a divorce settlement
(you've got to be kidding!), and paid $17,000 (a year) for a country club membership
How many of you would donate money to a veterans charity (or any other charity) to be used for those purposes? Neither would I.
These gems were revealed in Chapin's testimony before the House of Representatives' Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which investigated fundraising practices of various veterans charities. When Chapin declined an invitation to appear voluntarily, he was subpoenaed to appear before the committee.
Rep. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.) asked Chapin what would happen if his charities told donors how their donations were spent.
"We’d all be out of business," Chapin said. "Nobody would donate."
From 2004 to 2006, only 25% of the $168 million raised
by the two charities (CSAH and HHV) actually went to veterans
. The rest was spent on direct-mail fundraising, administrative costs, and 'other expenses' (including the eye-openers above).
Among other "questionable items" reported by Forbes
"In 2001, $500,000 donated to HHV ended up going to other Chapin nonprofits focusing on cancer, Alzheimer's disease and drug-free youth."
While those are worthy causes, that money was given by donors to help wounded veterans!
"HHV loaned $1 million to the direct-mail company of Richard Viguerie, . . . responsible for much of Chapin's direct mail. Both Chapin and Viguerie said that Viguerie couldn't get a loan from commercial lenders, and that it was later repaid."
So? That is another million intended for veterans that went elsewhere.
And here's a jaw-dropper: "Chapin . . . paid retired General Tommy Franks a one-shot $100,000
and another retired general, Arthur F. (Chip) Diehl, $5,000 a month for use of their names in direct-mail pitches
. . . . Franks later withdrew permission to use his name . . . ."
Are you kidding me?! Those two generals should have had enough sense to realize that was just wrong. I'm appalled at their lapse in judgment.
Another very sad commentary: "Over the objection of his staff, Chapin authorized the Coalition to Salute America's Heroes Foundation to pay $250 to $500 to injured vets for use of their name and case history in future fund raising
. An affidavit put on the record from coalition employee Stephanie D. Lepore quoted Chapin as saying, 'Not having these pictures and stories is costing us hundreds of thousands of dollars.' Chapin testified he wasn't sure any money was so paid."So not only are Chapin and the Coalition to Salute America's Heroes NOT using your money to help the veterans you intend to help, they're actually exploiting their stories for the paltry sum of $250 - 500, in order to get more and more donations, money that also won't go to help veterans.
Henry Waxman told Chapin, "It's unethical, it's wrong, it's really a fraud against Americans who ... give you their hard-earned dollars."
We couldn't agree more. Instead of the fabulous retirement package Chapin created for himself, we think he should be housed at taxpayer expense, provided three-square and closely supervised, as our guest at Fort Leavenworth.
Chapin's pension deal with HHV will pay him 75% of the average of his three highest consecutive years of compensation after he retires. That compensation package exceeds half a million dollars a year. Wonder how much his other "charities" pay him?
Despite all of this, Chapin's newest "charity" was granted tax-exempt status by the IRS in 2008. The Make America Safe Foundation lists its headquarters as Chapin's San Diego home.
Make sure you investigate before giving to any charity.
There are a number of reputable veterans charities that do great work to help our veterans. Among them, we recommend:
Fisher House Foundation
National Military Family Association
Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund
AIP also gives top ratings to:
Armed Services YMCA of the USA
Homes for Our Troops
Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund
Operation Homefront (national organization)
We have repeatedly received CSAH solicitations via World Net Daily
's mailing list (for which WND is paid by CSAH). We have corresponded with WND editor and publisher Joseph Farah, calling to his attention the dismal record of CSAH. Mr. Farah has assured us that WND would accept no further advertising from CSAH. We need to stop the flow of money into CSAH and HHV. Help us spread the word by using the buttons at the bottom of the page to share this article.
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