Wounded Warrior Project officials are firing half of their executives, closing nine offices and redirecting millions in spending to mental health care programs and partnerships as part of an organization overhaul in the wake of spending scandals earlier this year.
Mike Linnington, a retired Army lieutenant general who took over as CEO of the embattled organization earlier this year, said the moves aren't an indictment of past practices at the charity but a recognition of changes needed to keep the group relevant and providing the best resources possible to veterans.
"This is a case where the negative publicity have caused us to take an internal look at how to do things better," he said. "Where Wounded Warrior Project came from to where we are now is a success story. We have 90,000 post-9/11 veterans we're helping."
The moves come months after the 13-year-old organization came under attack for accusations of exorbitant staff salaries, lavish corporate retreats and other reckless corporate spending.
Without acknowledging any wrongdoing at the time, board members dismissed two top WWP officials and promised better transparency and accountability of group finances.
Those finances are a hefty total. Fundraising jumped from under $100 million five years ago to more than $300 million last year. Linnington acknowledged that the recent scandals have hurt fundraising totals this year, but insists the changes are focused on ways to better serve veterans and not just appease big donors.
That includes boosting support for some programs, like the Long-Term Support Trust initiative and parts of the group's Warrior Care Network, but also killing off others.
Officials are ending the group's Transition Training Academy, which has received criticism for duplicating existing employment programs offered by federal and private-sector sources. In its place, the group is planning to explore more partnerships with other advocacy groups and agencies.
"We had to look at the programs that are the most essential to who we serve, and make sure we're providing the greatest assistance to those in the greatest need," Linnington said.
The nine offices being closed are in areas where staff typically work from home or in the public. Along with the cuts to management, other WWP employees are being shifted to new programs or responsibilities to better connect veterans to the organization.
Officials said that while the group will reduce its workforce overall, they are planning to add staff "in the areas of mental health, long-term in-home support, warrior engagement, and other roles essential to its mission."
Linnington also said the group is not planning to reduce its support to fellow veterans charities in the near future. In fiscal 2015, WWP handed out about $11 million in grants to outside groups.
He also said officials are refocusing their efforts on offerings that may have lower visibility than past events but reach more veterans, part of a philosophical correction to ensure that publicity isn’t overtaking core mission needs.
Ideas like free gym memberships for members are being phased out to instead provide more resources for direct fitness and health consultations between staff and veterans.
Whether the changes will be enough to change public perception of the organization remains to be seen. Since the scandals emerged, numerous veterans groups have praised WWP as a key advocate in the community, but others have questioned whether the impressive financial haul has really been supported with sound business practices.
Linnington said he is confident the group is headed on the right path.
"We’re still a very healthy organization," he said. "We have been talking to our members throughout this process and making it clear that we aren’t changing who we are. We’re increasing investment in our most important programs, and still committed to helping veterans." Follow @LeoShane
Leo Shane III covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He can be reached at