In Case You Missed It: Another Embattled Veterans Charity Ceases Operation

The National Vietnam Veterans Foundation (NVVF) is no more. The organization’s former president in under internal review by the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs NVVF came under the microscope in May, when a CNN investigation showed that less than 2 percent of organizational revenue was going toward charitable causes. The organization’s demise was first reported by CNN this week, with an employee quoted as saying that NVVF President J. Thomas Burch, an attorney with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), had resigned and the organization had closed operations.

Calls placed to two numbers associated with the Alexandria, Va.-based organization were not returned and the website associated NVFF is no longer active. An email sent to a NVFF employee bounced back. While active, NVFF received a 0-star rating from watchdog group Charity Navigator.

NVVF reported revenue of $8,657,816 on its 2014 Form 990, up from $7,051,143 in 2013. Total expenses totaled $8,593,493.

Professional fundraising services accounted for more than 90 percent of the organization’s fiscal year 2014 expenditures — totaling $7,736,172, according to information on the Fundraising Activities section of the Form 990.

CSI/Outsource3000, Inc. was credited with raising $7,255,554 for the organization at an amount paid to the fundraiser of $6,501,594. Midwest Publishing Inc., was credited with raising $1,361,075 at a cost of $1,211,357 and Telcom Enterprises is listed as raising $27,271 at a cost of $23,221.

NVVF claimed that it netted $907,728 from the professional fundraising services.
A total of $122,333, 1.4 percent of expenses, was contributed to grants to domestic individuals, governments and organizations. The organization, on the tax information form, described its mission as supporting veterans and veteran organizations by, among other things, contributing to various veteran-focused organizations, charities and educational programs.

The grant total was less than the amount spent on events ($216,502), travel ($133,348) and employee expenses, salary and wages ($192,801) — a sum that included a $65,000 salary for Burch. Burch, listed as John T. Burch, earned $127,512 in 2014 as general counsel for the Department of Veteran Affairs, according to FederalPay.org, a public resource intended for government employees. Burch’s salary increased to $128,790 in 2015.

A VA spokesperson said that Burch’s supervisor knew that he was involved with an outside organization and that many VA employees are actively involved in outside organizations that serve and advocate for veterans.

“There is nothing inherently wrong with that, and if handled properly in accordance with the government ethics laws and other relevant rules, it can actually result in better engagement for employees and better outcomes for [sic] Veterans,” the spokesperson said in an email.

The spokesperson acknowledged that the VA is conducting an internal investigation into Burch. The complexity of such investigations lead to investigators being given “ample time to pursue all avenues of interest,” the spokesperson said. Further details regarding the investigation could not be disclosed. Federal employees, on or off duty, are required to abide by certain conduct requirements and criminal conflict of interest statutes apply.

VA as a government entity and its employees are required to be impartial. As such, the VA cannot endorse or denounce other entities, such as charities, the spokesperson said.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) works to prevent fraudulent, deceptive or unfair practices among business entities and charities. A FTC spokesperson, when asked whether NVVF has or will be investigated, said that all information regarding investigations — including whether or not there is an investigation — is nonpublic. The spokesperson said that he did not know whether or not the commission has fielded formal complaints regarding the foundation.