Questionable veterans charity can still operate

Posted at 3:02 PM, Sep 18, 2015
and last updated 2015-09-18 15:02:20-04

The Florida Attorney General's office is allowing the Veterans Support Organization (VSO) to continue to solicit donations from the public.  But first, the state's top legal advisor is making VSO comply with a series of new measures including prohibiting non-veteran employees of VSO from wearing camouflage attire while soliciting donations and requiring non-veteran employees wear double-sided identification badges labeled, "non-veteran" when soliciting donations.

In July, the Contact 5 Investigators questioned the Palm City-based non-profit after several former employees came forward claiming the group, which touts itself as helping veteran by putting them back to work, was pocketing more money than what it was giving. 

Over the past several years, the group has been fined by other states.  South Carolina suspended the organization in 2013 after questions over how it collects money and what it does with those donations.

The group's founder and president, Richard Van Houten, spoke publicly about the questions surrounding his charity for the first time with Contact 5 Investigator Katie LaGrone this summer.  Van Houten has always maintained he and his organization have done nothing wrong.  Though, he admits problems in other states resulted from bad management at the time.

"We have made mistakes. VSO has made mistakes, I'm not saying we haven't.  If anything major was done the VSO fraudulent or anything, i wouldn't be sitting here with you running a nonprofit," he told us back in July.

As part of an "Assurance of Voluntary Compliance" with the AG's office, VSO will be required to provide the state updates on its fundraising and charitable efforts every 6 months for the next 5 years.
At the time of publishing, the founder and president of VSO, Richard Van Houten, had not returned calls for comment.
If consumers would like to report concerns about VSO, they are encouraged to contact the FL Attorney General's office.  The office can reopen its investigation at any time.
To report concerns, please click here.
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