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Highlands Today
Published:   |   Updated: March 11, 2013 at 07:17 PM

Beware of solicitors

On a recent drive down U.S. 27 in Sebring, I twice encountered at busy intersections solicitors for the organization Disabled Veterans Foundation.

Clad in camouflage and passing out American flags to drivers, they ignored the obvious danger they posed to themselves and drivers in collecting money for their supposed "cause."

I've solicited money for legitimate organizations. Never was I told to do it along a dangerous roadway. It was always done at a store or business that had given its permission for the charity operation.

Suspicious of the true intentions of this organization, I did some investigative research.

Neither Charity Navigator nor Charity Watch listed Disabled Veterans Foundation. This is not unusual. Questionable charities make frequent name changes to hide their true purpose. Both watchdog groups did list Disabled Veterans National Foundation. The results are appalling and should enrage any American interested in assisting veterans in need.

Last month, an investigation was initiated into the affairs of DVNF by Sen. Max Baucus and Rep. Richard Burr. The charges claim that "DVNF has spent little of the tens of millions of dollars it has raised since 2007 on programs to help veterans." Charity Watch gave DVNF an "F" for its questionable practices. CNN reported that a 2008 audit revealed that DVNF spent only 1 percent of its budget on veterans.

Where, then, did the contributions go? Marketing firm Quadriga Art was the major beneficiary. CNN investigators found that contributions went to them before token payments were made to veterans.

Both Baucus and Burr lambasted DVNF for its abhorrent huckstering at the expense of deserving veterans. Baucus stated, "Our veterans should never be used as pawns in a scheme to exploit the taxpayers."

Burr was more emphatic. "Our nation's veterans … have gone above and beyond in their service to our country. They … deserve to be treated with honor and dignity, not taken advantage of by scam artists."

I contribute to the VFW, American Legion, DAV and other legitimate organizations that help veterans. Don't be taken in by huckster solicitations. Avoid these phonies masquerading as "patriots," especially if they are on busy highways — in camouflage.

Ed Engler

Sebring

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