By Ann Scott Tyson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 11, 2008
A nonprofit veterans group has "squandered" hundreds of thousands of dollars of the $17 million in federal funds it has received since 2001 and essentially abandoned its mission of helping veterans start small businesses, according to the results of a Senate investigation to be released today.
The National Veterans Business Development Corp., also known as the Veterans Corp. (TVC), grossly mismanaged taxpayer dollars -- including lavish spending on costly dinners and luxury hotels, first-class travel, and compensation for its top two executives that amounted to nearly a quarter of the charity's federal funds, according to a report obtained by The Washington Post.
Created in 1999 to set up a national network of veterans centers and help veterans start small businesses, TVC has spent only 15 percent of its funding on the centers since it was formed, including only 9 percent last year, the investigation found. As a result, centers in Massachusetts, Michigan and Missouri are in danger of closing, it said.
"It's appalling that an organization created to aid our nation's heroes would instead squander taxpayer dollars, wining and dining their executives instead of helping veterans," Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, said in a statement. Kerry launched the investigation with the committee's ranking Republican, Sen. Olympia J. Snowe (Maine).
Kerry and Snowe recommended that TVC receive no more federal funds and that instead the funding go to the Small Business Administration's Office of Veterans Business Development.
"It is deeply regrettable that The Veterans Corporation squandered the well-intentioned efforts of so many to create a national veteran entrepreneurship network," Snowe said in a statement. "I am confident that, with sufficient funding, the Small Business Administration can more efficiently and effectively oversee valuable veteran entrepreneurship programs and centers."