Strangers Bearing Gifts

Because I’m a veteran I try to keep an eye open for any scams that target veterans and their families. My last article was about unscrupulous telemarketers that target Small businesses run by immigrants.  The article is titled “Military Family Scams”.

One of my readers sent me an e-mail asking if I had heard about an organization called “Disabled Veterans National Foundation. They send out “gifts” then bill you for them. He said a veteran at a VA Hospital told him about it. After some research I found an article and with permission re-printed it here.

Organization uses concern for disabled vets in scam fundraising
by peacearena

Maybe you’ve received one of their mugs, or a flip calendar, or a blanket. Maybe you responded to these “gifts” from Disabled Veterans National Foundation by sending them a check.

If so, you have been had: the group is a scam. Please make sure not to confuse them with honest and legitimate organizations that serve disabled veterans.

My mother, who is 88, started getting these free “gifts” (usually personalized with her name) a couple of years ago. The first thing was a rather clever flip-up desk clock that she decided she wanted to keep and use, so she sent them a small check to “pay” for the “gift.”

Big mistake! Since then, she has received (that I know of) a t-shirt, a mug, a blanket, all of course with donation forms so that you can reimburse them for the “gift.”

My father was a vet, and so Mom is a bit of a softie for such appeals. Like most patriotic Americans, whether from military families or not. Who doesn’t want to help disabled vets?

Well perhaps that’s why the founders of this “charity” thought putting “Disabled Veterans” “National” and  “Foundation” all together for a sure-fire way to get money out of those on limited incomes, or too quick to give to un-researched charities with heart-tugging, official-sounding names.

After several of these gifts, and resulting payments, I got suspicious and tried to find out a bit about the group. Little was available, since none of the charity watchdog or ranking agencies listed then. But a Google search did find some blog and forum discussions, with the general consensus being that no legit vets or vets groups had ever heard of “Disabled Veterans National Foundation” and certainly not received one bit of service from them.

The only “service” available on their web site is a link to a map of VA facilities provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs. Wonder how much of their donation money went to that?

So we found an email for them,, on their web site, and sent a request to be removed from their database.

But today, Mom got a letter from the outfit, over the name “D. Washburn, President” with a “2009 Membership Statement” marked “PAST DUE!” It begins, “I am deeply troubled …” Yeah, I bet you are, D. Washburn!

And here’s the kicker:

I found the previous email I’d sent them, clicked forward, and added another, much sterner admonition that if my mother’s name wasn’t removed, I would report them to my state’s attorney general, and file a report with the postal inspector.

This time my email was immediately bounced back to me with this error:

Delivery to the following recipient failed permanently:
Technical details of permanent failure:
Google tried to deliver your message, but it was rejected by the recipient domain. We recommend contacting the other email provider for further information about the cause of this error. The error that the other server returned was: 550 550 sorry, mail to that recipient is not accepted (#5.7.1) (state 14).

I don’t know what those numbers mean; maybe some smart Kossack will. Here also is part of the bounce-back header I think is relevant — again not sure what it tells me:
Received: by with SMTP id b11mr5389439wak.114.1238610306483; Wed,
01 Apr 2009 11:25:06 -0700 (PDT)

At first I thought they had just blocked my email address or IP, but apparently, after a friend tested and got the same thing, they just don’t or can’t take any email.

Long story short, I am convinced this is not a good charity that will reliably turn donations it receives into service to those it purports to exist to help. Please spread the word to others you think may have been confused by this group’s name and stated mission.

If anyone has any further info to add (including correcting my negative conclusions, if necessary), please do.

For the record, here are some groups that, as far as I know, are doing good work for disabled veterans and other vets in need:

Charity Watch category Veterans & Military
Disabled American Veterans Charitable Service Trust
Stand Down

Editor’s Notes: Thank you Bill McGillis for the email and for helping protect our veterans because they are the bases for our freedom. To all my readers, stay aware and when in doubt e-mail the Troubleshooter.

Update: June 2012
Disabled Veterans National Foundation Investigation Sparked by Anderson Cooper

Following  an incendiary CNN Anderson Cooper 360 report accusing the charity Disabled Veterans National Foundation (DVNF) of misusing millions of dollars, a Senate Finance Committee  investigation has been launched to take a closer look at the nonprofit’s financials.

Well before this scandal however, starting in 2009, GreatNonprofits members were already negatively reviewing the veterans’ charity, giving it the lowest rating of only one star. Reviewers cited concerns about how donations were spent and the many useless “gifts” received via direct mail through “guilt-based” marketing.