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Wounded Warrior Project cleared of ‘spending lavishly,’ report finds

Soldier Ride is sponsored by the Wounded Warrior Project and provides injured troops the opportunity to reclaim their confidence and strength through cycling. (Army Staff Sgt. Brooks Fletcher/U.S. Army Europe Public Affairs Office)

After months of investigation, the Better Business Bureau has cleared the Wounded Warrior Project, one of the nation’s largest veterans charities, of “lavish spending,” and gave the nonprofit organization its seal of approval.

The bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance report found that Warrior Project spending has been “consistent with its programs and missions.”

Last March, the Wounded Warrior Project fired its top administrators amid news reports that the charity was spending millions in donations intended for veterans on a swanky convention in a five-star hotel along with other parties and employee perks and high salaries.

At the time, two of the organization’s leaders, who were let go, were making $473,015 and $369,030, respectively, in 2013, the last year for which tax documents are readily available. The Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance suspended the charity’s seal designation, and donations fell off with donors uncertain about how their money would be spent. About 85 employees were laid off in September from the organization, which now has 500 employees.

One source of contention was over media reports that said the organization had spent $3 million on that “all-hands” Colorado conference, but Wounded Warrior said last March that the expense was less than $1 million.

Likewise, the Better Business Bureau said its review found that the cost was less than $1 million. The investigations found that based on the 415 staff members, the cost was about $440 per day per employee for the five-day conference, including hotel rooms, food, travel and conference space, according to Stars and Stripes, which first reported the news.

Retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael S. Linnington, who took over the Wounded Warrior Project in July, said in an emailed statement that he is “pleased to see the Better Business Bureau’s report validating our impact and commitment.”

In a previous interview, he said he understood how the Colorado conference appeared from the outside. The Wounded Warrior Project no longer holds such events and already has increased the scrutiny on spending for travel and all expenses, he said, adding that he would be paid less than those before him, with his salary at $280,000.

“This year the non-profit WWP will hit a milestone by providing meaningful resources to our 100,000th wounded warrior,” he wrote. “And we are humbled and honored to provide continued support to these warriors and their families for many years to come.”