Disabled Veterans National Foundation

A letter from Stephen B. Whisenhunt

Director of Fund Development, Adult Care Services

I personally have always been an admirer of Anderson Cooper, and had ACS not had direct experience with the DVNF I might very well have bought into the hype.

It is a constant struggle for us to find donors and supporter in this wretched economy. It sickens my heart to see somebody that actually IS reaching out to help, take the bashing that you have from CNN and frankly I just don’t get it.

I could provide a list of hundreds of organizations who have never offered us a dime in response to our requests for help. I can tell you that half of the letters that I send out in search of support, go completely unanswered, including a few to Anderson Cooper himself. Adult Care Services non-profit organization that is fighting to stay afloat in order to provide services to those who have no insurance and cannot afford the care that they need. More than half of our residents and participants are Veterans who at one time, offered their lives for our country. We struggle every day to compete with “for profit” organization who are turning our clients away. Without the support of organization like the DVNF, we would have to cut back services and many of our participants would go without care (which includes medical monitoring and two nutritious meals per day).

It would be my sincere pleasure to help you and the Foundation in any way that I can. And we cannot thank you enough for the support that you have provided us.

Most sincerely,

Stephen B. Whisenhunt; M.S., MBA
Director of Fund Development –Adult Care Services

About the Disabled Veterans National Foundation

The Disabled Veterans National Foundation (DVNF) has provided $16.1 million in cash and requested items such as clothing, food, health & hygiene products to tens of thousands of underserved and disabled veterans nationwide. DVNF is devoted to serving the men and women who come home wounded or sick after bravely defending our nation’s safety and our freedom. DVNF brings hope to the veterans who need it most, to underserved veterans desperately looking for jobs, facing evictions or suffering homelessness.

DVNF was founded in the latter part of 2007 by six female veterans who had significant experience in their states as veterans coordinators, which includes coordinating outreach events, identifying and assessing the needs of veterans, and providing recommendations for benefits and service improvements to state directors of veterans affairs. DVNF’s founders have decades of experience addressing the needs of veterans. They recognized that the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan had resulted in an increasing need to provide ways to help disabled veterans, and sought to expand the types of jobs that are made available to veterans.

The first president of DVNF, Delilah A. Washburn, was also the Houston regional director of the Texas Veterans Commission. Among her many accomplishments, Ms. Washburn was nominated in recognition of her outstanding leadership by the Texas Veterans Commission and named an “Outstanding Woman in Texas Government” in 2005, 2006 and 2008 by the Governor of Texas.

Following the death of Ms. Washburn in 2010, Precilla Wilkewitz became president. Ms. Wilkewitz has spent almost her entire adult life in the service of her country and her fellow veterans. She is a Vietnam veteran who has devoted over forty years of her life to military and/or civil service. She was awarded the Vietnam Service Medal, and, in 1985, she became the first female veteran ever elected State Quartermaster and appointed State Adjutant to serve the Department of Louisiana, Veterans of Foreign War. In 2000, she was appointed to be one of the first females to serve on the Louisiana Veterans Affairs Commission. In 2002, she became the first State Women Veteran’s Coordinator for the State of Louisiana, and was re-appointed to serve on the Louisiana Veterans Affairs Commission in 2005.

These are dedicated volunteers who share a lifelong commitment to serve America’s veterans. They are ceaseless advocates for the unsung men and women who have fought so hard for freedom. Now in its fourth year, DVNF continues to focus on developing and growing essential programs concentrated on our underserved and disabled veterans, women veterans and their families.

CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360 (AC360) has run a series of misleading and inaccurate segments, which have ranged from unfair to irrational. Despite being provided a multitude of information, AC360 has knowingly withheld information that would have provided a balanced view of DNVF’s work and fundraising program.

A few of these inaccurate areas include:

1. AC360 claims that none of the money raised by DVNF went to help disabled veterans.

• This is FALSE. DVNF has provided $16.1 million in cash and requested items, such as clothing, food, health and hygiene products to tens of thousands of underserved & disabled veterans nationwide. Despite being given this information, AC360 has refused to report it.

• DVNF’s Grants to Provide Stability (GPS) Home Program provides grants of up to $1,000 to help prevent veterans from becoming homeless and/or who are in dire financial situations. These grants can be used by veterans to pay rent, mortgage and essential utilities to prevent evictions and homelessness. DVNF receives hundreds of applications a month for the GPS Home program, and strives to rapidly respond to the overwhelming requests. Since its inception, DVNF has given more than $1,450,000.00 in direct cash support to approximately 28,122 veterans through programmatic activities.

• Over the past 4 years, DVNF has also spent $27.8 million towards educating and informing the public on challenges faced by underserved and disabled veterans.

2. AC360 repeatedly points to two shelters that received candy and chef’s coats from DVNF, and claimed that they were unwanted and without use. AC360 contacted numerous veteran shelters to inquire about support from DVNF, yet the unfavorable responses were the only featured on air. In particular, an interviewer from Alabama mocked the fact that DVNF sent more than 11,000 bags of candy, which he claimed were unrequested.

• Since 2007, DVNF has transported more than 70 shipments to all 50 states in requested goods and services to more than approximately 126,000 underserved and disabled veterans. DVNF has provided assistance in the form of items such as blankets, sanitizers, sleeping bags, bottled water, food, furniture and equipment. Such assistance by DVNF has been made possible by the success of DVNF in soliciting inventory gifts from manufacturers and distributors throughout the United States.

• All veterans groups who seek assistance through DVNF’s Wellness & Morale program receive a Letter of Agreement, complete inventory list, and approve all requested goods before delivery. This process has worked to successfully match requested items with facilities, including the Alabama agency highlighted in the recent AC360 coverage.

• DVNF provided the Alabama shelter’s documentation to AC360, but they failed to report this information.

3. AC360 asserts that the money raised by DVNF went to fundraising efforts but – despite being given the information – has failed to even once explain the success of those efforts.

• With large numbers of disabled veterans returning from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq every day, DVNF’s fundraising program was designed to have the highest impact in the shortest period of time. The need was urgent and growing quickly. DNVF embarked on an aggressive fundraising program designed to rapidly increase their donor base.

• DVNF submitted to CNN a comprehensive report written by Professor Steinberg of Indiana University – the most prominent school of fundraising in the United States – on the value of building a donor base. CNN refused to refer to the report and turned down the professor’s offer to appear on television.

• The issue of the costs of fundraising is an important concern that DVNF shares with charities throughout the United States. Unfortunately, the onset of their campaign coincided with the recession, which increased the time it has taken to achieve their goal of developing a large donor base. Despite the unanticipated impact of the recession, the strategy has been validated. At the present time, DVNF’s donor file has approximately two million names – a major achievement given the time and circumstances. CNN has never pointed out the success of this program to go from zero to two million names.

4. AC360 has called into question the integrity of DVNF’s board members and staff.

• DVNF’s founders are six female veterans who have decades of experience addressing the needs of their fellow veterans.

• The board takes no salary or benefits, which CNN has never acknowledged.

• AC360 producers sat at the DVNF offices in Washington and talked to CAO Raegan Rivers (no cameras), and DVNF has repeatedly told CNN it would be happy to answer any questions in writing. Over the last two years DVNF has provided CNN with written responses to more than 25 questions and explained its fundraising plans and goals. It also provided an independent study validating its fundraising strategy. AC360 reported very little of this. Instead, it took DVNF’s comments out of context and ambushed its director for an on-camera interview.

• AC360 spent one night describing a rambling, incoherent email received by CNN from DVNF President Wilkewitz. In fact, her e-mail was hacked and authorities were notified. DVNF made multiple efforts to confirm with CNN that the hack was fraudulent, yet they ran a segment anyway. Subsequently, AC360 stated that DVNF “claimed” they had been hacked, but questioned the truth of that claim. This was unnecessarily humiliating.

• Most astonishing, DVNF President Precilla Wilkewitz and staff have received death threats as a result of CNN showing President Wilkewitz’s face on television every night. DVNF filed a report with local authorities and informed CNN of these threats but they keep playing the tape.

Countless veterans’ organizations and individual veterans have benefited from DVNF’s help, and have acknowledged this assistance in warm letters and calls. Find out how disabled veterans are benefiting from DVNF’s important work at www.dvnf.org and at www.helpingdisabledvets.com.