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Wounded Warrior Project begins restructure, lays off half of exec staff

A Wounded Warrior Project flag is hoisted on a bicycle during a 25-mile soldier ride in Germany on Aug. 3, 2012.

BROOKS FLETCHER/U.S. ARMY

By DIANNA CAHN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: August 31, 2016

After a decade of growth, the Wounded Warrior Project began laying off employees this week as part of restructuring in the wake of a shakeup of its top tier.

Retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Linnington, the organization’s new chief executive officer, confirmed late Wednesday that the giant charity for wounded servicemembers has cut 50 percent of its executive staff and laid off about 15 percent of the organization’s 600 employees. Executive staff salaries came to nearly $3 million. In addition, nine offices across the country would be closed, he said, though many of the staff there would remain, working at local VA hospitals.

“This is really righting the organization to make maximum impact,” Linnington told Stars and Stripes.

“I will be very clear: We’ve taken a hit in revenue,” he said. “Our resources are down. The fact of the matter is, we have to figure out ways to be as effective and efficient as we can possibly be.”

Linnington took the helm at Wounded Warrior Project in July after the board removed the organization’s longtime CEO Steve Nardizzi and Chief Financial Officer Al Giordano in March after news reports questioned the charity’s spending.

The crisis shook donor support for the charity, and Linnington made clear early on that once he fully assessed the situation, he would be making cuts and restructuring the organization. He said Wednesday that mental health programs for wounded warriors would not be cut and that in the coming days, the charity would be announcing new positions in those areas that could bring some of the laid-off employees back.

A press release from Wounded Warrior Project on Wednesday said that the charity would sustain help to servicemembers suffering from post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury with programs for long-term support; lifelong independence and financial resilience; and community engagement activities to help connect warriors with their peers.

Linnington said the charity would also engage with local and community organizations, government programs and businesses to sustain programs for wounded warriors

“We have explored every way possible to minimize cost and maximize impact,” Linnington said.

The news release also stressed a commitment to “improve accountability, transparency, trust,” with “clear consistent reporting,” but Linnington would not divulge the organization’s losses in the wake of the crisis.

He said he would release those figures at the end of September when the fiscal year ends, but they were “far less” than the $200 million being reported. The charity raised $372 million in 2015, according to its latest financial filing.

Linnington insisted that Wounded Warrior Project is still a “very fiscally sound organization” and he hoped to convince donors that their money will be spent on critical programs.

“I hope to make the point that the need is great and gracious, generous Americans all around the country have supported warriors, not the Wounded Warrior Project,” he said. “They have to trust that every dollar they give us, we are squeezing every nickel out of that dollar.

“I know what the right support can do,” he said. “These are amazing men and women and we owe them our best shot.”

Cahn.dianna@stripes.com
Twitter: @DiannaCahn

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