By Ryan Schuette
April 23, 2014
Last week, President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki welcomed wounded veterans to Soldier Ride, one in a series of cycling events that the Wounded Warrior Project organizes every year.
The White House rollout was one of 19 the Florida-based nonprofit plans to hold with amputee veterans, whom it equips with adaptive bicycles specially made to fit each veteran’s specific handicap.
The South Lawn kickoff on Thursday was the fifth for the Wounded Warrior Project and represents its ascension to a place in the national spotlight that other charities can only covet.
Left unmentioned at the media-friendly reception with the president was a lawsuit in the works against a disabled Indiana veteran who claims the Wounded Warrior Project didn’t do much for wounded vets with the more than $150 million in revenue it raised in 2012.
"They want to send a message to every other person who wants to speak out against (the Wounded Warrior Project)."
Ret. Staff Sgt. Alex Graham
The defendant, Ret. Staff Sgt. Alex Graham — a veteran of combat operations in Iraq with diagnosed post-traumatic stress disorder — first criticized the charity in a blog post he made last year, with claims the Wounded Warrior Project spent little on wounded vets and paid senior execs lavish salaries. The post appeared on the now-defunct website for Help Indiana Vets, his own tax-exempt charity, which he says he had to shut down in the wake of the lawsuit.
That was a post heard around the world.
Graham’s claims quickly ricocheted around the Internet, with numerous blogs — including Veterans Today, a news website and benefits forum — publishing his article and amplifying a Google search that now pulls up 84,000 results for the phrase “Wounded Warrior Project scam.”
The charity subsequently filed charges against Graham in December that accused the vet of defamation and unfair business competition, alleging that his post confused donors and led to a $75,000 drop-off in contributions.
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