Veterans charity reaches settlement with NH and 23 other states

  • Scenes from the Veterans Day ceremony at the New Hampshire State Veterans Cemetery in Boscawen on Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz

Monitor staff
Tuesday, November 14, 2017

An Illinois-based nonprofit organization that raised millions by misrepresenting its charitable programs to donors will be shut down as part of a 24-state settlement agreement that includes New Hampshire.

The settlement resolves allegations against VietNow National Headquarters Inc., which also goes under the name VeteransNow. Further, an injunction order against the charity’s directors and officers forces them to cease all operations and requires their cooperation in any ensuing investigations of VietNow’s fundraisers, according to the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office.

VietNow’s remaining assets will be paid to two legitimate national veterans charities: Fisher House Foundation, which provides military families with housing close to loved ones seeking medical treatment, and Operation Homefront, which provides emergency financial assistance, for expenses like food and housing repairs, to those in need.

VietNow has been raising money by using deceptive telemarketing scripts, including those that falsely claimed the charity “gave a minimum of 12 percent after expenses back to veterans in the donor’s state,” authorities said. Some scripts also said donations helped veterans locally in the donor’s state when in fact VietNow did not have local programs in most states. Others falsely claimed donations provided “medical facilities and treatment” to veterans.

“In its most recent financial statement, VietNow reported raising nearly $2 million nationwide. Most of this cash was paid to fundraisers with less than 5 percent of funds raised going to its charitable programs,” the attorney general’s office said.

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan sued VietNow after a 2015 Chicago Tribune investigation revealed falsities in the charity’s donation claims. Thereafter, a total of 23 state attorney generals joined the lawsuit.

New Hampshire Attorney General Gordon MacDonald encouraged residents to carefully research charities before donating, and advised they give to those with “a track record of service.”

(Alyssa Dandrea can be reached at 369-3319, adandrea@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @_ADandrea.)