April 28, 2012; Source: Associated Press

This story about the Oregon attorney general’s investigation of Lacey’s House, a nonprofit that provides housing to veterans, is a sad read. According to the AP, the nonprofit is “high-profile,” with “prominent supporters” such as a Hillsboro, Oregon state senator and state representative. Its publicity includes “a $25,000 donation by Wal-Mart on the ‘Today’ show in 2010.” Founded by Lacey Palmer and her husband, Mike Bryant, to provide housing to veterans with significant problems such as substance abuse, Lacey’s House has attracted detractors in the form of former residents who charge that they got little or nothing in the way of services and that “the organization cared mostly about whether they could pay $450 a month in rent or help sell fundraising raffle tickets.” The state AG is looking at Lacey’s House’s use of charitable donations, but the unpaid president of the nonprofit, Tim McDonald, who spoke for the two founders, says, “The state’s inquiries were documentation issues.”

One of the problems in the sector of nonprofits that provide services to veterans is that there are a lot of small nonprofits, perhaps thousands, but it isn’t clear who or what is vetting these veterans’ groups to ensure that they know what they’re doing, that they’re following best practices, and that they are accountable not just to state and federal oversight offices, but to the veterans’ community itself. Whether Lacey’s House is just facing some technical compliance issues that are easily remedied or has more significant program problems that require the AG to get in there and make some changes is important, but not enough. The NPQ Newswire has covered problems of accountability among veterans’ charities in the past (most recently, here). Who is really doing the deep analysis of veterans’ nonprofits to give veterans and their families a sense of security in knowing that the groups offering them help are on the up-and-up in terms of their probity and their skill at being able to deliver veterans the help that they promise?—Rick Cohen