Wounded Warrior charity pushes back against allegations of waste

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The Wounded Warrior Project is pushing back against a CBS News investigation that said the organization spends excessive amounts of money on lavish employee retreats. 

"We demand that CBS immediately correct the record, issue a retraction of the false statements, and issue an apology to the public and the tens of thousands of wounded veterans and their families who have been offended by these false statements," Ayla Tezel, executive vice president of communications for the Wounded Warrior Project, said in a letter posted on Jan. 27.

"We expect your prompt attention to this urgent matter," she wrote. 

CBS News reported earlier this week that the charity brought in $300 million in 2014, but spends only 60 percent of those funds on veterans.  

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Tax forms showed that the group spent $26 million on conferences and meetings in 2014 — about the same as it spent on combat stress recovery, CBS News said. CBS also said the charity spent $3 million dollars on a four-day conference in Colorado for 500 staff members.

The news outlet said it spoke to more than 40 former employees who said spending was out of control. CEO Steven Nardizzi, it reported, has entered conferences rappelling down a building, coming in on a Segway and even riding a horse. 

Tezel's letter disputed many of those specific points. 

She said WWP spends 80.6 percent of its money on wounded service members, caregivers and families, and that 94 percent of the $26 million spent on conferences and staff meetings "was actually a program expense for warriors and their families to participate in services such as mental health programming." 

She blasted the allegation that the group spent $3 million on an annual training conference as "absurd and patently false."

"We can only deduce that CBS willfully set aside the information WWP provided in favor of the false statements made by a handful of former, disgruntled employees," the letter said.

Tezel said the conference cost $1,500 per person, including travel, meals, accommodations and material for four days. She did not include the number of people who attended. 

CBS said 500 employees attended, which would amount to $750,000. 

She also said WWP conducts strategic planning and program development and that no alcohol is purchased by the organization at the training. 

The organization pointed out that one of CBS's own senior executive sits on the board and is the WWP's Audit Committee Chair and could provide "accurate and truthful information regarding WWP's financial documents."