SC Secretary of State's office preparing investigation against Veterans Support Organization

A new non-profit is already getting a closer look from the South Carolina Secretary of State's office.

The Veterans Support Organization (VSO) has only been in South Carolina for a little more than two months, but the community and other veterans' organizations are questioning whether the VSO is actually giving enough of their donations to veterans.

"Every weekend I get calls saying the VSO is here, the VSO is here," says Little River Veterans Welcome Home and Resource Center Director Kris Tourtellotte. "I tell them there isn't a whole lot we could do about it now."

But now, the SC Secretary of State is preparing to issue a notice of violation to VSO. Secretary Mark Hammond's office said they could not discuss the details of the notification until the final notice is sent to the organization.

During an interview with NewsChannel 15, the VSO was not aware of a possible investigation. "VSO has filed and is registered as a charitable organization in South Carolina," says VSO spokesperson Hilarie Viener. "In the event that VSO receives a "Notice of Violation," VSO hopes to work with South Carolina to remedy any and all issues raised."

Some say the VSO is deceptive in how they collect money. Men and women in camouflage collect donations on the highway, even if they are not veterans. Tourtellotte says the company is not giving the amount they claim they are to veterans. "If they can show me facts and figures showing exactly what they are claiming, I would believe it, but they haven't," he says.

An independent 2010 audit report given to NewsChannel 15 by the VSO, shows 14 percent of donations go to corporate salaries. The audit shows the other 86 percent went to program services for veterans and needy individuals, including the workers who collect the donations who get to keep 30 percent of what they collect.

South Carolina VSO Chapter Manager Ron Knapp says the rest, 56 percent, goes to other programs. "One of the things we do is donate to the VA hospitals," says Knapp. "Matter of fact, we just gave $1000 to the VA in Columbia."

Tourtellotte says he doesn't believe the money is staying in the state. "My card was passed out as one of the organizations that was receiving money," says Tourtellotte. "They've never contacted me, and my card has been passed out several times."

Knapp says that's not the case. "The money that is raised in South Carolina stays in South Carolina. A lot of people don't know who we are or what we're doing because we haven't been able to get with all the other organizations yet. We're making a difference."