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.
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?
This organization is a 100% fraud. I am a former Work Program Participate as they claim all their employees to be (so they can say the 30% - 35% that the person standing there collecting the money gets can say goes to Veterans) and even was offered a position into their management. I can assure you that they are indeed a LEGAL scam (Legal US Non-Profit Organization) and it's all a get rich scheme for their management and higher ups by using us Veterans as pawns. I have written an article about the Veteran's Support Organization "VSO" that is hitting the news soon. I will be doing an interview on 60 Minutes (T.V. show) and WNBC (Myrtle Beach, SC) because I have physical evidence showing what a scam they are. If you would like a copy of my article (Including the Evidence) that the VSO is a scam please send me an email to VSOFraud@gmail.com. People ask me why I didn't take the management position because of all the money I would of been making but the fact is when I found out they were a scam I wanted nothing to do with them because they are deceiving the American people especially in today's economy and I wouldn't be comfortable with accepting "Stolen Money" as pay. I was a Military Police Officer in the US Army and have more Integrity than that.
I have been an Area Commander with the American Legion, a member of the VFW and a member of the Vietnam Veterans of America. While Commander I came in contact with the VSO group and was very suspicious of the. I had them researched abd had the American Legion look into their finances to find that they were doing things correctly. If you look at the mission statements of the Legion, VFW, DAV and the Vietnam Veterans of America you will see that none of them show interest in our "Homeless" Veterans. The only organization that specifically targets "Homeless" veterans is the VSO. They hire "Homeless" Veterans and pay them to help and I am OK with that. Why not hire these Veterans instead of leaving them on unemployment, welfare or even leave them in the street. Someone needs to help our Veterans and they are so why would anyone object to "Homeless" veterans having an opportunity to get off the street and to get paid.
This group parades around as veterans and that is the reason people donate easily to them. The are all paid from the collectors to the CEO. Any legitimate veterans organization will accept donations and 100% of it will go to the veterans.
Look up American Legion, VFW, DAV, Amvets, Marine Corps League.and VVA in your phone book and send them a check. Or talk to a neighbor they may belong to one of these veterans organizations that are all about helping veterans and all volunteer.
Review from Guidestar
I really am impressed on how much this veterans organization REALLY helps our American heros! As a professional that knows alot about non-profits I do have to say that they cross all the t's and dot all there i's which alot of organiation DON'T do and they don't have to. They have gone out of their way to educate the public on everything the VSO does and also they do give out their financials. Their organization has opened their doors and books to everyone and anyone interested or that has a problem on what they do for those that really wants to see what, when why, how and I don't hear this from any other organizations.
They have helped our american heros in so many ways. Everyone reads the bad and runs with it but if you take the time to read the good maybe you will see that they really do help our veterans. See for yourself and take the time to investigate and educate yourself before you make pass judgment. 86% is awesome and keep up the wonderful work you do for our American heros, our veterans....
I am a very proud donor & supporter of this awesome organization! I believe that I live a free life because of these past, present & future veterans. This organization does what it says and I know because my brother wouldn't be here if it wasn't for the VSO!! Just think-there is a war still going on and these guys & gals come back with all kinds of problems and they fix their problems but then there comes another issue- unemployed veterans. No one wants to hire these veterans that have fought for our freedom so they are stuck. The VSO gives them stableness & their dignity back. My brother is in their work program and back with his family because of the VSO. Keep up the awesome work!!
Review from Guidestar
Veterans Support Organization. They were in the Dover Mall this past Christmas and have been set up at the Camden Wal-Mart this week collecting CASH or CHECK donations. I had some reservations about the group (they wear BDU's with service emblem hats and black combat boots) and the "Vets" didn't appear or sound legit when I asked a few questions about what they did or where they served. But, when I discovered they were back and now at Wal-Mart, I wanted to dig a little further.
An Internet search was very eye opening.
#1- On their own site, www.TheVeteransSupport.Org. Their financial report for 2009 shows 35% of the money collected went to management expenses, over 800K.
#2- The cards they hand out claim they are serving Vets in Delaware and Maryland. However; Delaware is spelled wrong on the card, the toll-free number is for a NY or PA branch and their own web site does not list any active services provides to Delaware Vets.
#3- This organization IS NOT on the list of Congressionally-chartered Veteran Service/Support organizations. Additionally, the are NOT listed on the National Resource Directory for approved Veterans Service Organizations.
#4- Some of the people they use at their collections points are NOT veterans of the US military. In fact, according to news reports I found on the Internet, some of these people are convicted criminals. Even more upsetting, these "vets" at the collection buckets are paid 25-30 percent of the money they collect each day. That's right, heart-felt donations from hard working people are "skimmed" off the top before they even have a chance to help a real Vet. Of the two "vets" working at Wal-Mart today, one admitted he is not a vet (while wearing a Red Marine Corps baseball hat and BDU's) and the other one would not answer my questions.
#5- They are using the word "Vet" or "VSO" as a marketing tool. Using these titles, they are preying on the public's admiration of the military and desire to support our troops. This organization is using this level of trust and respect for Vets and the real USO to siphon away money that could be going to local groups that actually support Delaware veterans.
#6- A Fox News New York investigation uncovered even mor. Use this link to verify this info. http://www.myfoxny.com/dpp/news/shame/veterans-support-organization-20110203
I am passionate about supporting our troops and I get personally offended when I see groups like this, taking advantage of people and using the titles of honor and respect for personal gain.
Thanks for listening, for caring and shining a light on this shameful group. Dennis Desilet
Review from Guidestar
ATTENTION VIETNAM VETERANS MC: THIS VSO GROUP IS A DECEIT SCAM RIPPING OFF VOLUNTEERS AND MOST OF THE DONATIONS THEY SOLICIT IN THE NAME OF VETERANS. KEY FIGURES IN THEIR ORGANIZATION ARE PROFESSIONAL CON ARTISTS, SOME WITH RELATED CRIMINAL RECORDS. SEE: http://www.myfoxny.com/dpp/news/shame/veterans-support-organization-20110203
Review from Guidestar
I saw the group first in FL then they showed up in NY in my area. I started doing research. I cntacted the VA Vol Service Division in Miami, then in NYC. They both gave them A Plus. Then I started loking at the web. Very mixed reviews. I have worked with non-profit groups for years in substance abuse and am seeing more and more vets. We need lots of help in serving that population. I ultimately contacted the group for a grant for a vet needing financial assistance in housing post treatment. They came through in 3 days with a check for this vet. No other group I called gave one penny and most did not even call back.
Review from Guidestar
This "charity" FRAUD is based in Warwick, RI with Officers/Directors clustered around Margate and Lauderhill, FL. I encountered them soliciting cash in NY. The paid "Manager" hires street people in Brooklyn who keep 30% of what they collect. He drives them to locations, usually outside malls or supermarkets. The "charity" spent $21,000+ on "uniforms" last year - - - they dress these street people collectors up in Army Uniforms to get sympathy from suckers who drop dollars in their bucket. They state they work in RI, GA and FL. They were collecting in New York. No one in NY Vets Adm Hq has heard of them. Same for RI. They line the pockets of the Directors in FL. The $2 million plus they reported in 2009 saw "donations" of less than 20% of income spent on charity. 80% of their income wasted on salaries of $100,000+ and almost $100,000 in cars, and travel and entertainment expenses. And they put on uniforms as part of the scam!!! I have asked the NY Atty General to investigate them. Check out their filed reports in NY on the Atty General website, it spells out all the names, addresses, who gets paid and how much money they use to line their pockets. Oh yeah, the "thrift store" they brag about wasn't even opened in September 2009 - it's in the report. Tell your friends, Vets Organizations and your local law enforcement about these 21st century grifters. SHAME ON THEM!
This organization set up a table at a local grocery store to receive donations. I spent time researching their 990 tax return and spoke with the countywide Dept. of Veterans Affairs Health Care for Homeless Veterans officers. The VA has no contact with the non-profit and they have not provided any service to any veterans or veterans organization that anyone is aware of. Their 990 shows they collected over 1 million dollars but only 90,000 actally went to veterans in need. The rest was for subcontractors, fundraising expenses and board member expenses. That is 9 cents on the dollar and unexceptable behavior for an agency who professes to help veterans.