America's worst charities

Our ranking based on cash paid to solicitors in the past decade

In detail#8: National Veterans Service Fund

National Veterans Service Fund notes on its website that "war does not end on the battlefield." Instead, the site goes on to say, American veterans and their families have been left without the help they need to overcome critical health and psychological problems at home.

National Veterans Service Fund says it offers guidance to veterans to help them qualify for aid they otherwise would go without. It also touts the "limited medical assistance" the charity hands out to needy veterans.

Those promises have helped persuade donors contacted over the phone and in mailers to give $70 million over the past decade. The for-profit solicitors paid to raise that money kept more than half. On average, the charity gave assistance it valued at about $500,000 a year to needy vets.

The percent going to professional solicitors has increased over time. In 2011, the charity raised about $9 million and solicitors kept nearly 82 percent of the total.

Philip Kraft, president of National Veterans Service Fund, said his charity buys wheelchairs, provides grocery store gift cards and pays rent for needy veterans. But no details of the grants are reported in any of the charity's annual IRS filings, which only refer to spending on "veterans assistance and relief."

The only cash grant mentioned in the charity's 2011 IRS filing is a $60,000 donation to a children's birth defect group in Orlando.

Betty Mekdeci, the Florida charity's president, said the grant was a huge help.

"I'm sure Phil would be happy as a clam if he could put up a website and the money would roll in,"Mekdeci said. "The problem lies with the public. If they would give in the most cost-effective way, these problems wouldn't exist."

Kraft, who was paid $118,800 in 2011, defended his use of outside solicitors to raise money for National Veterans Service Fund. "To blame a charity for the price charged by our fundraisers is like blaming a driver for the price of gas," he said.

Kraft said his charity has one other full-time employee and three part-timers to help veterans across the nation. Despite the millions raised in its name, the charity does not encourage needy veterans to apply for aid on its website. It can't afford to, Kraft said.

"If we put specific stuff on our website, there'd be a gold rush," Kraft said. "We'd be out of business in a week."

Instead, it relies on social workers to suggest worthy recipients and sees itself as helper of last resort, said Kraft, who has headed the group since 1989.

"We have to have someone on their (the veterans') end to ensure that they have been to all the other resources in their area, with names and reasons for rejection, before we can even think about stepping in to assist," Kraft said.

In their own words: the Charity's mission

To educate and inform the public about the needs of veterans and their families; primarily concerning the Agent Orange and Gulf War illness issues; to assess the needs and provide limited assistance, relief, and referrals to appropriate agencies using programs that combine family-guided case management (service coordination) and advocacy assistance while building social and community support.

Unedited mission statements provided by the Colorado Secretary of State

National Veterans Service Fund

Known state disciplinary actions

Find out more about the actions in our database

States bringing actions Number of known actions Outcomes Total fines
Colorado, Ohio 2 Disciplined-no details, Suspension 0

Fundraising and spending history

For years prior to 2008, cash raised from other sources might be included in the "cash raised by solicitors" column.

Year 990
raised by
was paid
Cash to
the charity
Cash to
direct aid
% cash to
direct aid
totals to
2011 pdf $8,934,269 $7,289,707 $1,644,562 $384,615 $1,167,796 13.07% $2,818,563
2010 pdf $10,855,194 $9,154,061 $1,701,133 $370,344 $1,347,068 12.41% $2,330,565
2009 pdf $10,360,558 $5,752,633 $4,607,925 $322,451 $779,963 7.53% $1,792,697
2008 pdf $8,830,048 $4,245,654 $4,584,394 $257,898 $500,713 5.67% $1,484,964
2007 pdf $7,363,360 $3,288,169 $4,075,191 $2,682,131 $629,321 8.55% $1,699,426
2006 pdf $5,899,427 $2,211,486 $3,687,941 $102,000 $449,314 7.62% $1,214,091
2005 pdf $6,047,670 $2,305,372 $3,742,298 $88,500 $531,875 8.79% $1,636,679
2004 pdf $5,425,906 $1,320,928 $4,104,978 $67,500 $83,769 1.54% $766,991
2003 pdf $4,394,302 $927,504 $3,466,798 $60,000 $6,416 0.15% $95,066
2002 pdf $2,122,560 $392,113 $1,730,447 $5,700 $0 0.00% $630,527
zTOTALS $70,233,294 $36,887,627 $33,345,667 $4,341,139 $5,496,235 7.8% $14,469,569

Who raised the money

Year Solicitor Cash raised Cash to solicitor Cash to charity % to charity Activity
2008 Northeast Concerts $28,681 $20,024 $8,657 30.20% prof f/r
2008 Fund Production $71,011 $26,355 $44,656 62.90% prof f/r
2008 Bee LC $304,675 $223,051 $81,624 26.80% prof f/r
2008 Direct Response Consulting Services $4,281,549 $489,698 $3,791,851 88.60% f/r couns
2008 Vehicle Donation Processing Center $2,675,924 $2,143,164 $532,760 19.90% prof f/r
2008 Courtesy Call $1,468,208 $1,343,362 $124,846 8.50% prof f/r
2009 Washington Lists $132,890 $49,169 $83,721 63.00% prof f/r
2009 Vehicle Donation Processing Center $4,471,012 $3,528,818 $942,194 21.07% prof f/r
2009 Direct Response Consulting Services $4,019,744 $634,442 $3,385,302 84.22% f/r couns
2009 Courtesy Call $1,356,640 $1,263,215 $93,425 6.89% prof f/r
2009 Bonded Couriers $20,322 $14,225 $6,097 30.00% prof f/r
2009 Bee LC $359,950 $262,764 $97,186 27.00% prof f/r
2010 Bonded Couriers $18,822 $13,175 $5,647 30.00% prof f/r
2010 Bee LC $330,527 $314,120 $16,407 5.00% prof f/r
2010 Direct Response Consulting Services $3,963,705 $3,737,818 $225,887 5.70% f/r counse
2010 Vehicle Donation Processing Center $6,542,140 $5,088,948 $1,453,192 22.20% prof f/r

Who got direct cash aid

Year Recipient Cash received Location
2010 Birth Defect Research For Children $60,000 Celebration FL