Legal Meets Practical: Accessible Solutions

President of Zero-Rated Vet Charity Speeds Off in Rolls Royce

We know there’s a lot of veteran-related fraud out there – scams playing the “it’s for veterans!” card, folks who defraud the veterans disability compensation system, shell companies set up to take advantage veteran status on federal contracts, etc. etc. But this one might take the cake.

I warn you: if you are a veteran who cares about your blood pressure, you might not want to read further.

A few months ago, CNN outed Mr.Thomas Burch, Jr. for running National Vietnam Veterans Foundation (the “Foundation”), one of the worst-rated veteran charities in the country. The now-defunct organization was located in Washington, D.C., and was bashed by CNN for donating only $122,000 to veterans of its $8.6 million raised in 2014. That’s around two percent.

In that CNN report, the watchdog group Charity Navigator gave the Foundation zero out of four stars. According to its public tax returns, called 990s, the Foundation took in $29 million over a four-year period but nearly all of it went to telemarketers and fundraisers. In one year, the charity also paid a parking garage bill of nearly $8,000.

Maybe this went to keep Mr. Burch’s Rolls Royce safe. This car has been photographed multiple times during the media scrutiny – a beauty of a vintage vehicle with the customized license plate, “My Rolls.”

Yesterday, CNN announced that the organization has shut down. This was confirmed by an interview with its vice-president; also, the website has been removed from the Internet.

Even though it’s horrible to think of someone running an extremely profitable veterans organization that did not actually give back to veterans, for me, the kicker is how it wasn’t shut down sooner. Because – wait for it – Mr. Burch was/is also a VA attorney!

For years, Burch managed to hold concurrent employment as the highest officer in a non-profit organization for veterans, as well as a senior employee at the VA. (He is the leading Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) attorney for the VA Office of General Counsel. He is also the Deputy Director of Homeland Security and Operations at VA). In public statements, the VA claims it was not aware of Burch’s involvement with the Foundation, but did no one with the VA have access to the Internet? Surely any Google search, LinkedIn update, Facebook post, etc., would have clued anyone in.

Obviously, this implicates conflict of interest rules. By executive order of the President, an officer or employee who is appointed by the President to a full-time, non-career position in the executive branch (such as the VA) may not receive any outside earned income during that appointment. Other higher-level officials in the executive branch – that is, non-career officials who are compensated at the rate above a GS-15, are limited in their outside earned income opportunities by other provisions of the Ethics Reform Act of 1989.29. Such officials may not have outside income which exceeds 15% of the official salary earned by a level II on the Executive Schedule.

Regardless of the category Burch fits into, according to information published by CNN, he earned $65,000 in 2014 as the head of National Vietnam Veterans Foundation, while also earning $127,000 at the VA. This is well over the 15% cap provided by the Ethics Reform Act (applied to the lower-rate category). Other conflict of interest rules likely apply as well – those put in place to ensure that an individual is able to carry out the ethical and fiduciary duties of his tax-paid position.

An internal investigation, conducted by the agency’s Office of Inspector General (“OIG”), is still in progress; and for now, Mr. Burch remains on the VA’s payroll as a staff attorney.

CNN has noted that attempts to reach Burch for comment both by phone and email were unsuccessful. At one point, when a reporter attempted to speak with him at his home, he sped off in his Rolls Royce.

I’d like a Rolls Royce, too, but I’d prefer to earn it by other means.

*Did you find this article informative? If so, sign up for Sarah Schauerte’s legal blog on veterans issues at:




One Response to “President of Zero-Rated Vet Charity Speeds Off in Rolls Royce”

  1. I think they should throw the book at him, but he’ll likely get a slap on the wrist and keep his job and his Rolls.

Leave a Reply

Mission Statement

My mission is to provide accessible, high-quality legal services to small business owners and to veterans. I will strive to clearly communicate, understand objectives, and formulate and execute effective legal solutions.


No Attorney-Client Relationship

This website is maintained exclusively for informational purposes. It is not intended to provide legal or other professional advice and does not necessarily represent the opinions of the lawyer or her clients. Viewing this site, using information from it, or communicating with Sarah Schauerte through this site by email does not create an attorney-client relationship.


Online readers should not act nor decline to act, based on content from this site, without first consulting an attorney or other appropriate professional. Because the law changes frequently, this website's content may not indicate the current state of the law. Nothing on this site is meant to predict or guarantee future results. I am not liable for the use or interpretation of information contained on this website, and expressly disclaim all liability for any actions you take or fail to take, based on this website's content.


I do not necessarily endorse and am not responsible for content accessed through this website's links to other Internet resources. Correctness and adequacy of information on those sites is not guaranteed, and unless otherwise stated, I am not associated with such linked sites.

Contacting Me

You may email me through the email address provided by this site, but information you send through email or this website is not secure and may not be confidential. Communications will not be treated as privileged unless I already represent you. Do not send confidential information until you have established a formal attorney-client relationship with me. Even if I represent you, please understand that email security is still uncertain and that you accept all risks of such uncertainty and potential lack of confidentiality when you send us unencrypted, sensitive, or confidential email. Email from me never constitutes an electronic signature, unless it expressly says so.