Donated to the Wounded Warrior Project? You might've helped fund lavish parties for employees rather than veterans in need. A two-part CBS News investigation, based on interviews with more than 40 former employees, finds millions in Wounded Warrior donations have been wasted. "Their mission is to honor and empower wounded warriors, but what the public doesn't see is how they spend their money," says Erick Millette, a former employee who suffered a traumatic brain injury in Iraq. He accuses the organization of "using our injuries, our darkest days, our hardships, to make money," which is then spent on catered employee parties, fancy restaurants, and so-called team-building retreats at beachside hotels, where bar tabs can reach $2,500. The cost of the charity's four-day annual meeting at a five-star Colorado hotel in 2014: $3 million.
Employees describe CEO Steven Nardizzi arriving to events on a horse or Segway. One time, they say, he rappelled down the side of a building. A former staffer believes the charity wants "to show warriors a good time," but there's no follow up, per CBS. "It just makes me sick," adds Millette. He says Wounded Warriors waits for veterans to call, rather than reaching out to them, though the charity denies that claim. A rep also describes the spending as "the best use of donor dollars to ensure we are providing programs and services to our warriors and families at the highest quality." Tax forms note spending on conferences and meetings spiked from $1.7 million in 2010 to $26 million in 2014, the same amount spent on combat stress recovery that year. Public records also show the charity spends 60% of its budget on vets, compared to up to 96% for other veterans' charities.