Wounded Warrior Projects downsizes, closes office in Alaska
The new CEO of the Wounded Warrior Project, an organization aimed at helping veterans, has announced big changes to the structure of the organization that includes closing a field office in Alaska.
Lt. Gen. Mike Linnington, a retiree from the U.S. Army, announced the changes in a press release Wednesday. In it, the organization stated they will reduce their total workforce, while investing and adding staff to areas of mental health to help veterans cope with post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries.
“We will remain committed to this generation of wounded warriors,” said Linnington. “It is our sacred responsibility as an organization, and as a nation, to support our wounded service members, veterans and their families for the long term.”
Joanne Fried, public relations director for the Wounded Warrior Project, said that though the Alaska office is closing, not all employees are being let go.
“I do know there’s one teammate up there because I was talking to them today and they are still employed and they handle benefits and claims for the alumni team so I know that is still there,” she said.
Fried said the nonprofit still plans to provide services to Alaska veterans, but she couldn’t comment on the specific numbers of jobs or programs cut, or if they plan to open different positions down the road.
“I know the plan is still to serve that area. I don’t know if that particular office had what’s called our ‘Transition Training Academy’ because that was a program that was discontinued everywhere and basically whatever is being discontinued in Alaska is being discontinued across the board and isn’t just focused on Alaska,” she said.
Support for Alaska may come from the regional office in Seattle, Fried said. The organization’s headquarters are located in Jacksonville, Florida and have been closed while the area braces for Hurricane Hermine.
The changes come in the wake of bad press for the nonprofit earlier this year. It was accused of wasting donations after public records reported by “Charity Watch” found the Wounded Warrior Project spends 60 percent of its budget on vets. Two of its top executives were subsequently fired, with Linnington assuming the role of CEO in July.
U.S. Air Force veteran Christopher Lapp said the Wounded Warrior Project helped him survive a tough chapter of his life after he retired; he was still carrying baggage from a deployment to Afghanistan.
“I can honestly say, and I don’t mind saying this to anybody and everybody, without that Project Odessy and WWP, I probably would not be here today,” Lapp said. “So it’s made that profound of an impact on my life.”
According to Lapp, the program didn’t grow in Alaska until it employed local people, which is why the announcement hurt.
“It hit me really hard and as a group, the alumni here in Alaska felt frustrated and almost like we were given the cold shoulder,” Lapp said.
Now, Lapp is hoping the project sticks to their word and continues to work with Alaska veterans from the Seattle office.
“They say they haven’t forgotten about us and I really hope that’s true because we are one of the highest veteran populations per capita and there is a definite need up here,” Lapp said.
KTVA’s Bonney Bowman contributed to this story.
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