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Is Valley veteran business really doing charitable work?

November 20,2018 09:17

Make a lot of money all while helping veterans? Sounds like a great job, but it's not a charity. So is this local business doing a good thing or is it a misleading way to make money? An alluring ad you may have seen on Craigslist promises up to $8,000 ...


Make a lot of money all while helping veterans? Sounds like a great job, but it's not a charity. So is this local business doing a good thing or is it a misleading way to make money?
An alluring ad you may have seen on Craigslist promises up to $8,000 a month for salespeople. And you'd be able to help veterans by working for the Disabled Veterans of Arizona.
For $199, businesses would get a disabled vet sticker for their window, an advertising tax deduction, and their name listed on a website showing they support vets.
But it was another part of the ad that we really questioned; it said that salespeople get to keep 60% of what they take in.
So what does that leave for vets?
We visited their Scottsdale location to find out what was really being sold.
We found while it may sound like a charity, it is not.
Disabled Veterans of Arizona is a for-profit advertising business run by David Kaplan.
Kaplan registered the name Disabled Veterans of America with the Arizona Corporation Commission and each state has its own website.
We asked, why the charitable-sounding name?
Undercover, Kaplan told our producer he uses the name for a very specific reason.   
"I call myself the Disabled Veterans of America instead of David's Advertising so I don't get hung up on," he explained.
Kaplan strongly defends his business. He says he has a heart for veterans. And he says he's trying to be a business that gives back.
At the time, Kaplan also told our producer undercover that because the business name is Disabled Veterans of America, vet-owned businesses called by salespeople think it's a charity and don't ask where the money is going.
If asked, Kaplan says salespeople should tell businesses that 100% of the money they send goes to veteran charities, minus administration costs.
What are those costs?
Kaplan told our producer salespeople actually get 65% of what's sold.
That means of the $199, there'd be about $70 left for operations and then he says, for vets.
So, in his first six weeks, with businesses already listed on his site, how much did Kaplan give to vet charities?
He says, despite being $50,000 in the hole with start-up costs, he was able to give… $500.
All of that went to a local DAV branch.
DAV stands for Disabled American Veterans, a long-standing respected vet charity.
But we found, the DAV thinks Kaplan's Disabled Veterans of America is too similar to their own name.
The DAV says the organization "clearly intended to misdirect the general public."
In a letter they sent to Disabled Veterans of America, and a copy to us, they demand the business cease and desist using the name.
They say there has been no official agreement and no affiliation between the organizations, and they tell me they are sending back the $800 received from Kaplan.
It's hard to know where any of Kaplan's money goes.
Because Disabled Veterans of America is a business, it doesn't have to show that, as a charity would.
Margy Bons has concerns about transparency, saying people must ask questions.
She runs the charity Military Assistance Mission or MAM. They are the initials for her son, Michael Adam Marzano, who was killed while serving as a sergeant in Iraq.
She thinks the name is a misleading way to make money.
We asked Kaplan about any additional donations to veteran-focused charities.
He didn't answer. But he did send an email saying he's considering turning his business into a non-profit.
Before donating anywhere, be wary of similar names to established charities.
Also, you need to know what part of your donation goes to the cause, and how much just pays the bills.
Check out a charity by going to give.org, charitywatch.org, charitynavigator.org and guidestar.org.

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