VA moves to fire executive who used veterans’ charity office for lavish spending
National Vietnam Veterans Foundation, which has raised more than $29 million in four years but spent less than 2% of that money on genuine veterans’ causes, agrees to shut down, confiscate its assets and president , VA attorney Thomas Burch, will repay a $100,000 severance package.
Burch remains a VA government attorney earning an annual salary of $125,000. He earned this salary while at one point receiving an annual salary of $65,000 from his foundation along with other benefits.
“VA takes this matter very seriously because unethical conduct undermines the confidence of veterans and the American people in the good and important work of VA,” VA spokesman Henry L. Huntley said in a statement. a statement to CNN. “After reviewing the evidence provided by the (Office of Inspector General), VA today initiated the process to remove the employee from federal service.”
In announcing the settlement, the New York Attorney General’s office said its investigators determined that nearly all of the money raised by the National Vietnam Veterans Foundation went to professional fundraising fees. And that “the fraction that actually reached the NVVF was further reduced by a pattern of abuse, mismanagement, and wasteful spending on the part of the former NVVF president.”
Burch remains a career government attorney with the Department of Veterans Affairs in Washington and runs the charity from his home in suburban Virginia. CNN reached out to Burch last May to ask about the lack of donations his organization has made to charity. Instead of answering questions, Burch drove off in a Rolls Royce bearing the “My Rolls” license plate.
The New York attorney general accused Burch of using donated funds to spend lavishly on trips, an annual salary and other personal benefits, including a severance package the charity gave him when he resigned after being exposed by CNN. Burch has agreed to repay $100,000 which will be redirected to bona fide charities according to the New York Attorney General’s office.
“There is nothing more shameless than exploiting military veterans for self-aggrandizement. The actions of this charity and its founder are appalling,” Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said. “This organization has taken advantage of the goodwill of millions of people, but has failed to deliver nearly all of its promises to help those who have sacrificed for our nation. This settlement sends a clear message that charities do not won’t get away with rogue donors in New York City.”
The National Vietnam Veterans Foundation has a long history of mismanagement. It got a zero rating from the monitoring group Charity Navigator. A public servant calling it one of the worst charities in the United States.
Under the terms of the settlement: Burch agreed to a permanent nationwide ban on access to charitable assets or decision-making, issued an apology to NVVF donors and Vietnam veterans he exploited for that fundraisers raise money, and admitted that NVVF gave 90% of its donations to its fundraisers and admitted to misleadingly marketing how the solicited money would be spent.
The settlement also says Burch admitted to using foundation funds to pay for trips abroad and domestically, frequenting Baltimore-area nightclubs almost weekly, ordering excessive food and drink, and expensive in the best restaurants in the country and lavish gifts to women. The settlement states that Burch spent an $800 nightclub and hotel bill in 2012 as “homelessness work” and a “veteran issue.”
VA is still investigating
Department of Veterans Affairs officials were first made aware of the Burch Foundation’s activities when contacted by CNN in May. The VA has opened an investigation into the case and told CNN the results are expected this week.
At the time, the VA said there was nothing wrong with an employee operating a charity outside of their job duties.