America's worst charities

Our ranking based on cash paid to solicitors in the past decade

In detail#47: Our American Veterans

For seven years, Our American Veterans raised money in the name of helping needy vets. Over that time, just a few pennies of every dollar raised was given out as aid.

Reports filed with state regulators stated that help would take the form of "housing, job search and placement, transportation, clothing, food, and medical assistance." On the basis of such promises, donors gave $2.6 million from 2003 to 2009. The charity spent $2.3 million of that paying for-profit solicitation companies.

Less than $80,000 of what was raised was spent on direct financial aid to veterans. Over the same period, the charity paid its president and his wife more than $116,000.

In 2009, regulators in two states sued the charity, claiming it was deceiving donors about how their cash was being used. Missouri assessed a $120,000 penalty. Founder Sidney Young shut down his charity.

But the story doesn't end there. Young used a variation of his name — Oliver S. Young — to start a new charity. The same year he dissolved Our American Veterans, Young launched American's Helping Veterans Corp. from the same address in Fort Valley, Ga.

Much like Our American Veterans, the new charity says it provides veterans with direct support. But it has followed a familiar formula. In 2010, the charity raised $420,000 through professional solicitors. It paid those for-profit companies 80 cents of every dollar raised.

Young, now 74, and his wife earned a combined $31,000 for their work at American's Helping Veterans Corp. in 2010.

Reporters mailed a certified letter to the address listed on the charity's most recent tax filing. The letter was returned undeliverable. The phone number listed for the charity in IRS documents is disconnected.

In their own words: the Charity's mission

Tax-exempt status afforded to non-profit organizations. OAVI is here to serve all honorably discharged veterans, anywhere and at any time as is reasonable. This will include but not be limited to housing, job search and placement, transportation, clothing, food, and medical assistance.

Unedited mission statements provided by the Colorado Secretary of State

Our American Veterans

Known state disciplinary actions

Find out more about the actions in our database

States bringing actions Number of known actions Outcomes Total fines
Colorado, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri 4 Fine/penalties, Lawsuit, Suspension $118,752

Fundraising and spending history

For years prior to 2008, cash raised from other sources might be included in the "cash raised by solicitors" column.

Year 990
raised by
was paid
Cash to
the charity
Cash to
direct aid
% cash to
direct aid
totals to
2009 pdf $340,210 $303,697 $36,513 $20,538 $0 0.00% 0
2008 pdf $733,542 $657,531 $76,011 $41,124 $53,015 7.23% $53,015
2007 pdf $589,975 $519,278 $70,697 $15,450 $3,734 0.63% $40,385
2006 pdf $341,829 $297,550 $44,279 $18,096 $2,150 0.63% $20,683
2005 pdf $389,606 $339,523 $50,083 $17,900 $150 0.04% $20,683
2004 pdf $178,363 $149,627 $28,736 $14,550 $1,107 0.62% $12,348
2003 pdf $27,850 $15,501 $12,349 $0 $0 0.00% 0
zTOTALS $2,601,375 $2,282,707 $318,668 $127,658 $60,156 2.3% $147,114

Who raised the money

Year Solicitor Cash raised Cash to solicitor Cash to charity % to charity Activity