It’s a broad but closely held sentiment within the veterans’ advocacy community: grumbling and critiques about the fundraising behemoth WWP has become, and whether it has been as effective as it could be.
In interviews, critical veterans’ advocates and veterans charged that the Wounded Warrior Project cares more about its image than it does about helping veterans; that it makes public splashes by taking vets on dramatic skydiving trips but doesn’t do enough to help the long-term wellbeing of those injured in combat.
These criticisms come from a broad cross-section of veterans and their advocates, the vast majority of whom refused to speak on the record due to the sway the Wounded Warrior Project carries.
“They are such a big name within the veterans’ community. I don’t need to start a war in my backyard,” a double-amputee veteran who served in Iraq told The Daily Beast.
But granted anonymity, the vet gave voice to what is at the very least a perception problem for the WWP: “They’re more worried about putting their label on everything than getting down to brass tacks. It’s really frustrating.”
The same veteran spoke of waking up in the hospital after an IED hit his supply truck—WWP, he said, had given him only trivial merchandise: a backpack, a shaving kit and socks.
“Everything they do is a dog-and-pony show, and I haven’t talked to one of my fellow veterans that were injured… actually getting any help from the Wounded Warrior Project. I’m not just talking about financial assistance; I'm talking about help, period,” he said.
Some gripe in interviews with the Beast about how the charity has become more of a self-perpetuating fundraising machine than a service organization. WWP certainly is successful at fundraising: It had revenues of more than $300 million, according to its most recent audited report, up from approximately $200 million the year before.
“In the beginning, with Wounded Warrior, it started as a small organization and evolved into a beast,” said Sam, an active-duty Army soldier who works with Special Forces. It's “become so large and such a massive money-maker,” he says, that he worries the organization cares about nothing more than raising money and “keeping up an appearance” for the public with superficial displays like wounded warrior parking spots at the Walmart.
Sam said he’s not interested in becoming involved with the Wounded Warriors Project after he leaves active-duty service—he prefers small nonprofits that are “just trying to survive” with a smaller budget and narrower mission.
“They’re laser-focused on making money to help vets, but forgetting to help vets,” said one veterans’ advocate. “It’s becoming one of the best known charities in America—and they’re not spending their money very well.”
The organization also engages in branded partnerships for everything from ketchup to paper towels to playing cards—something that rubs other veterans’ groups the wrong way.
“It’s more about the Wounded Warrior Project and less about the wounded warrior,” said a second veterans’ advocate.
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