I researched this organization and they are a fraud. They have been kicked out of multiple states and told not to return. Their listed office building is not where they reside. I live in the same town and checked it out. This is not a legitimate non profit. Stay Away.
Well, I USED to work for them, in Georgia, and then in Fort Lauderdale. Though I may not agree with the methods used, I'm glad that they are being shut down. When I started, they had 25 chapters, and then they all started to shut down. From what my fellow Veterans told me, they are down to about 4 or 5 chapters total, and I won't be surprised if all of the chapters shut down for good, and Richard and Michelle end up in prison within the next couple of years either. Their lies are starting to catch up with them, as well as their methods of theft, etc. And, both of the ones that I worked in, shut down within 6 months of each other, and the reasons that they told us are not the truth. They was way behind on the rent on the (former) VSO in Snellville, like 6 months, and the same thing in Fort Lauderdale, where they was behind on the rent at the (former) Veterans New Life Haven. That name itself, sounds more like the name of a church, than a place for Veterans. I also found out from the VA that they was not legally allowed to charge us rent, but they did that anyways. Just like many things, and it is my understanding that the VSO, along with the owners, are not allowed to operate in the states of New York or Tennessee. Nor are the owners allowed in those states, for any reason at all. That's a shame that they thought that they could get away with this.
I worked with this organization and they really are scumbags. The management deal drugs and help supply drugs to many of the Vets who work there. There were a select few of us that were very respectable not everyone that worked for VSO was a scumbag. I helped this group restructure their entire approach up until late 2011. I realized after putting over a hundred hours a week in and still working for commission only while my intellectual property was being used to pay high salaries to VSO executives and chapter managers. If I could afford representation I would put quite a few lawsuits on this group they also participate in character defaming and used race color creed and ethics to keep people within the organization divided and hateful toward each other. The organization after using my intelligence I provided for all of their chapters in social engineering for public presentation and public speaking thought they can just sweep Combat Veterans like me aside and rely on their Felony Drug addict constituents to keep the ball rolling. THEY WERE SEVERELY MIS-INFORMED. I lived homeless on the street half the time working with them and they were making money hand over fist. The only thing I can say that is good is that if a Veteran helped raise money they would get paid for it. However I did not agree with having non vets making money. If the Vets needed help making money by all means I am for it to help them financially. However they ran the organization like a mafia thug would run a gang. I purchased several things to help the rec center in MT Vernon NY we had. I helped them bring in the money to get that chapter started. I purchased band equipment and all kinds of things to put into the rec center they used as a front to show people. I had a radio show I wanted to contribute to bring in vets from college and give them internships in digital media. THE ONLY THING VSO DID IN RESPONSE WAS make me feel like I wanted to kill myself and felt like I was a nobody and nobody cared. they smashed the drum set I bought for the rec center and even lied to people about me claiming I was a recovering drug addict. Without me they would have never have gotten at least half of the ideas and information to help Vets which they never followed through on. They even used other people who looked like me to claim they were me in Connecticut getting people who know my name through my family to think I was running the chapter there. I would certainly testify against this organization to make sure anyone in their ranks never ripps off our veterans again. I have more dirt and eye witness facts which I reported countless times to the managers and the president and nothing was done. Well I feel that all of us Combat Veterans who worked for VSO should be compensated. They should pay us thirty percent of everything they brought in nationally for the time and duration we worked for them. Plus they should compensate us for damages that they caused psychologically. I never cared much about the money either that's why I just tried to move on. It just urks me that I have to have my name tied to them. I don't stand for what they did and continue to do. I don't need their money either however It would help me accomplish what I intended to do from the get go and that is to broadcast on behalf of our vets and raise support and awareness for our communities to grow stronger and offer internships as stepping stones to enable Vets and college students to gain practical work experience in digital media journalism broadcasting. I enjoy doing what I do on the air I invested over thirty thousand hours in public service broadcast hours alone since 2011. Imagine what impact I would have made for other Vets to get opportunity with me ... especially in NY. VSO had no regard for the gifts I gave from my heart to help people. Not to say I wont give up and I haven't. However they owe a great deal of gratitude for what people like me did for that organization to be what they were able to become. I played a major part in gaining support from key people in communities. They owe a great deal for most of the money they brought in and the reputation they had once to do so to me! I witnessed Richard Bittleman telling us he ran the NY CT and NJ chapter. I witnessed Bittleman counting money and recording the books. That number of 5.7 million dollars that year is probably about half of what we took in! I helped start half of their chapters on the east coast. Bittleman had a lot more to do with the money and running that organization in NY NJ CT than anyone in VSO. The leadership in that organization is a mafia type criminal enterprise.
I have been working for the VSO, since August of last year. I was down on my luck, trying to live off my disability pay (which, at that point was only $243.00 a MONTH!), about to give up on myself and my own life. I felt like no one cared. I connected the local DAV, who, in my state had one primary focus: transporting Veterans to/from their appointments at the VAMC, that was all I knew that they did. One of the members of the DAV bought me groceries a couple of times, but because I had no utilities at all for 9 months, anything cold had to be eaten by 3 days, or it would spoil. At that point, I would WALK 10 miles/day, to go use a computer at a local college library. The VSO was set up outside a local Sam's Club, and offered me a job AND housing. I discussed this with the DAV, they basically turned me over to the VSO July of last year. They contacted the Chapter Manager on a Sunday, and they was impressed with the fact that the Chapter Manager was willing to drive up to meet me, and I began to fill out all the required paperwork. Within 3 days, I had a room at the VSO house in Snellville, and started working with the VSO. I was without a job for over 2 years, figuring with several years of experience within the retail environment, I would have no problem finding a job anywhere. Guess what? WRONG ANSWER!!
My two brothers and I lost our Mom to cancer on December 7, 2010. I was working at a Kmart in Athens, GA., and relocated to be closer to my family. I would research employment daily, go to the Department of Labor (either the office or the website), put in several applications/resumes within my qualifications, and wasted my time for over 2+ years. The VSO offered me a place to stay, all utilities that I was without for 9 months is included in the rent, plus a rewarding job. I was excited!
When I began to work for the VSO, yes, we was paid commission, but we changed that last October. We get paid every 2 weeks, via Direct Deposit, minimum wage. If we collect starting over a certain amount, we either get a bonus or overtime, which ever pays more. We had a representative from the Department of Labor come to our office every other Thursday, to help us with employment outside of the VSO, some of my coworkers took this opportunity, and have been employed with rewarding careers, and left the organization completely. It met their needs.
Yes, people with little or no knowledge will complain about us, and other Veteran related organizations. I've seen it first hand, I've experienced things myself. Each State has policies that govern how, where, when we can collect donations. In Georgia, each binder has all the required documentations we are required by law, to carry on our person every location that we collect at. We had a Certification of Authority, that allowed us to collect donations in Georgia. We did out of town road trips for a couple days per month, so we can collect in various cities in Georgia, we all had our store sheets, with approval to be at whatever location we was at. For example, I can't just set up my bucket at say a grocery store in Brunswick, GA. We have permission from the management, it is on the store sheet, usually two weeks in advance. There is a LOT that goes into what we do, that you won't see, unless you are at the offices itself. There is a LOT of "behind the scenes" work that goes on, that helps each worker out. Last year, at two malls, we had to pay to rent out a table inside the mall, not only to collect donations, but to ask people to sign Christmas Cards for hospitalized Veterans. No one saw our Chapter Manager, along with one of our room mates, and I go to the VAMC in Dublin, GA, except for the Veterans who was there, and the staff at this hospital. We passed out Christmas Presents, along with the signed Christmas Cards, to the Veterans there. If you could see the faces of the Veterans at the hospital, you would know what it was like. Trust me, seeing their eyes swell up, tears rolling off their faces, because people wrote to them on the cards. It is an experience that I will never forget.
Fast forward to February of 2013. One of my friends has an organization located in South Georgia, within less than a month, they responded to roughly 5 house fires. I asked my friend if anybody affected by these fires are a Veteran or not. She replied that at that point she didn't know, but they had to leave, to respond to a house fire. Four hours later, she came back online, and told me that the fire that they just responded to belonged to a 63 year old female Marine (USMC) Veteran, who was taking care of her 12 year old grandson and 13 year old granddaughter. I asked her if the Red Cross did anything at all to help them out, she said, "Yes...they put them up in a motel room for 3 days, and after that, they are own their own." I'm thinking, "Really? Three days? That gives them enough time to do WHAT exactly? Find a place to live just by snapping their fingers?"
So, I went to our VSO Office, on a day off, and discussed the situation with my Chapter Manager. He was upset, because, due to people misusing funds provided by grants, we can't offer grants at that time period (we went from grants to gift program around mid-January of 2013, I'm not sure IF we offer grants at this point or not, I'm the wrong person to ask about that, sorry. I'm just being honest here).
I was like, dude, we got all these boxes and bags all over the place, just sitting here. We can do something with that, and he agreed! I called my fiance, and also my friend, to tell them we can help them with clothes! I was given their clothes sizes per person, and a friend/coworker and I started our mission to find everything to get them back on their feet, just with clothes! We also found back packs for the children, one of them got a soccer ball, the other one got a puzzle! It was just something small to help them get their minds of the house fire, so they can have fun! Two days later, after I washed and dried all the clothes, we was on our way towards the Brunswick/Jesup area of Georgia, not only to work, but for me to give the boxes of clothes to my friends, so they can give them to this family.
How many of you reading this knew that we did that? Okay then, now you do!
Sadly to say, due to our New Chapter Manager not really doing his job, we had to temporarily shut our chapter down in Georgia, it will reopen sometime in the upcoming year, and I hope to be there when it does! However, for me, a Disabled Navy Veteran, I went from living in the VSO House in Georgia, to residing in the Veterans New Life Haven in Fort Lauderdale. All of us in the Georgia Chapter had an option of moving here, keeping our jobs, and STILL have a place to stay, OR we can collect unemployment. I did NOT want to be back living on the streets until my disability pay arrived (even though it was via Direct Deposit, it was 2 days AFTER the date we had to make up our minds), not even for 2 days. I wanted to remain with the VSO, live here in Florida, and gain more learning experience as I work behind the bucket.
I've seen a LOT of people's lives changed for the better, go from homelessness and hopelessness to having their pride restored...A pride they once had and lost...I know this firsthand, because I USED to be one of them myself, but thanks to the VSO, not anymore!! I love what I do, I love to interact with others, I get to travel, which was similar to being in the Navy all over again! If you was to see me a couple years ago, I had no pride. I didn't care anymore, I was about to give up. Thank you for being there for me, when I needed someone.
And, possibly another thing that you may/may not know:
Before anyone can work for the VSO, they have to pass a drug test. Sometimes we are randomly tested. I've done this a couple times here and there, and of course, I passed the tests. Just like I did when it was a requirement in the Military. True, not everyone who works for the VSO is a Veteran, however, pretty much most, if not all of the Non-Veterans has someone in their family who was, or currently is, in the Military. On our required name tags, it has the VSO logo, our name, and if we are a Veteran, it states which branch of the Military we served in; otherwise it will say NON-VETERAN on the name tags. We do NOT use the id tags from the VA, that is illegal. We do what is required by the laws (which may vary per state, and even two different cities) everything we are supposed to do. In our binders, we have what we simply call a "pie chart," it tells you right there how much of the donations goes towards what.
The VSO doesn't hire anyone outside the VSO to represent us. Why should we pay a professional solicitation company to do what we do? That would mean a LOT of what we collect goes to that. We don't mail anything out, we don't pay entertainers to do a commercial for us, and we don't need to. We are doing this four days a week, in front of preapproved locations, so we can earn some source of income. It has helped me out a lot. Since working with the VSO, I paid off a laptop that I purchased from Aaron's rental. I got a much better cell phone that meets my personal needs (with the money I get paid from working). I bought my fiance a tablet pc recently, and mailed it to her a couple weeks ago. Since I am diabetic, I have to have certain foods, which is usually costlier than what I can't eat, and I have had to go to various VA Clinics and Hospitals, because I wasn't taking care of my health as I should have. That was MY fault, I take the responsibility and the actions for it myself. Guess what? My Chapter Manager, along with Richard VanHouten (the President/Founder of the VSO), and Justin Wells (the Director of Operations for the VSO), was very concerned about my health. They was telling me that I should go to the VA Clinic or Hospital, so I can focus on my health, and not worry about work. It showed me right then and there that they are very understanding, down to earth people. They wanted me to put my own needs first, and not worry about anything else. It will take care of itself.
So, in my time with the VSO, I've come to realize some things:
We are here for Veterans. Our primary focus is on homeless Veterans, but we want to help you and your family out. We have no membership costs either, so don't worry about that!
It doesn't matter if you are: a Homeless Veteran, a Disabled Veteran, a Wounded Veteran, it doesn't matter what war you fought in, if you're a combat Veteran or not. What matters to the VSO more than anything else is: you are a Veteran. That's it. It doesn't get any more easier than that.
About the Veterans New Life Haven:
It is a 100+ bed facility for Veterans, regardless if you are a female or male Veteran, it's there for you, to help you get off the streets, and back into the workforce. If you are struggling with addictions, of any kind, we have great state members who can assist you with that! You don't have to pay rent at all for the first week. Part of the donations cover that. If you don't have a job, then talk to the counselor here, she can help you or point you in the right direction. That's what we are here for - we are here for our VETERANS!!
One thing I love about the founder of the VSO is, as soon as a problem arises, he does what is needed to correct it, as fast as he can. He can't be everywhere at once at all, no one can, but he takes the correct measures to do what he can to fix and resolve all these issues. We have helped out with the Camp Trotter for Kids in the past, with money collected from donations. Last year, the Georgia Chapter gave the Commander of the DAV an motorized wheelchair that was donated to us. They had a use for it, we didn't. We just had what they needed. We don't bad mouth other organizations, and if they have any problems with us let's resolve it as soon as we can. Don't waste precious time on what doesn't matter, let's work together as Veterans, so we can help as many Veterans as we can. That's more important, don't you agree?
The Veterans Support came into Caldwell County, North Carolina and started collecting funds for non state Veterans without contacting any of the Veterans Organizations, VFW, DAV, etc. We believe in making donations to take care of Veterans in our County and our State. Unless you are specifically helping our organizations in our counties and state; STAY OUT!!
I've been lucky enough to be given a job by VSO. I was on the brink of losing my house because no one wanted a Vet with PTSD working for them. But after sitting down with the Founder of VSO, I explained that I was a disabled veteran who had mental and physical injuries that kept me from normal employment. He and his staff welcomed me with open arms and gave me the opportunity to provide for my wife and child. I have seen how hard uneducated individuals try to bash the name of VSO through opinions.
"well I looked you up on the interned and saw an article stating you were a fraud."
Ha, well congratulations on looking at an outdated article and having a journalist make up your mind. I promise you, If you research VSO that you will find bad press. But look at the dates, and ask some damn questions. I cannot find a current article bashing VSO, the closest is from over a year ago (and the problems pointed out have been fixed and SOPs have been put in place to make sure they never happen again.)
Ask yourself this: If the Veterans Support Organization was a fraudulent non-profit, then how would we be in business for over 10 years, why would over 50 VAs rave about how we help their local veterans though donations, why would the IRS (as of a 2012 Audit) say that we passed with flying colors and should keep on doing what we are doing, how were we able to give over 400 veterans jobs in 2012, how are we able to house nearly 150 HOMELESS VETERANS.?
Too many people are not taking the time to ask the right questions,. We give 70% of the money we raise to our IN HOUSE PROGRAMS. we house veterans, we give them jobs as a stepping stone for better opportunities, we hove item/gift card donations to the VA and even have a grant program for vets in need. I have seen first hand how VSO helps veterans. I would have lost my home marriage and possibly my life if not given the opportunity to better myself.
I am a MC Vietnam Veteran and former police officer. I have worked for VSO and found the management to be suspect and shady. Most of these managers seem to be unorganized and disrespectful to the very veterans they have entrusted to collect donations and promote this charity. Noone in the management or collectors have been given any insight on what this organization is about other than it just helps. These homeless vets are clueless and meant to stay that way, just happy to have shelter. No support for any upward mobility is given, working 12 hrs a day and even violating Wage and Hour laws. Forced work for simple shelter.
I work For VSO and I'm in a quandary. I have asked for proof that we are actually helping Homeless Vets. Our Work Program is supposed to be entirely Homeless Vets, It ain't. But a good thing is the civilians don't last long but The Regional Manager( A Liar In His own right) is not going to the places that homeless vet hang to find workers. I believe he's too lazy. I've Said many times where he should look,now he's telling me I have a bad attitude, sends me to lousy locations And gives me grief. Folks, We (the collectors are not the bad guys, it's Ed Harris And Richard Van Houten.) So much more could be done, but they won't do it. There are far worse charities than us(Salvation Army, United Way) But we are chapters serving a region, that cuts down on overhead. The VA approves of us but that's like Satan Approving Hitler. The VA doesn't care about Vets, just keeping their jobs.And I'm afraid VSO feels the same
I was one unemployment check away from being on the street when I saw an add for Veterans support Orginization needing Veterans with a good driving record I responded to the add on a monday and by that following monday I was brought on board. I am a veteran and I would be on the street now If it was not for VSO. I spend four days a week standing at the donation table 8-10 hours a day , for those who complain about this organization they do not have all the facts and most of the complaints are over several years old. up to speed and check us out today.
VSO has been helping AVET Project military families in need for a few years now. When we have been in a bind, VSO has been there to help when no other veteran organizations could or would. Every request for support has been answered with a Big YES. Please show your support for VSO and Together we can help more.
Review from Guidestar