October 9, 2010— -- A decorated Army colonel is suing the Military Order of the Purple Heart after he said the veterans organization for soldiers wounded in combat turned on him after he blew the whistle on alleged corruption and wasteful spending among the top brass.
Ret. Col. Henry Cook III alleges that after he spoke out in an ABC News investigation, he was wrongly removed from his position as the National Commander.
In an affidavit filed in the lawsuit, Cook says the organization retaliated against him and dismissed him "for my exposing of the mismanagement of funds and grants of "Purple Heart Dollars" on national television."
Cook speaks with ABC News Chief Investigative Correspondent on this week's episode of "Brian Ross Investigates," telling Ross that he doesn't believe anything has changed in the organization since he left and that only a small fraction of money donated makes it to veterans.
"I want to see change," Cook tells Ross. "I want to see something come of this. If I have to fall on that particular battlefield and be expelled, I'll pay that price if we get the change. But I've decided I'm not going to pay it if they're not going to change, so I'm fighting them."
Charity watchdog group the American Institute of Philanthropy, still ranks the Military Order of the Purple Heart Service Foundation an "F" in its latest charity rankings. The report says that only 32 percent of donations are actually spent on program services, and the organization spends $63 to raise every $100.
In a statement to ABC News, the Military Order of the Purple Heart said, "We absolutely disagree with Mr. Cook's allegations in the lawsuit, and we also disagree with Mr. Cook's effort to "try" his case in the media. We will not otherwise comment on pending litigation, but rather will let this matter run its course through the court system."
John E. Bircher III, director of public relations for the group, said, "Speaking personally, I am a 30-year veteran and a Purple Heart recipient myself and I am extremely proud of the military Order of the Purple Heart Service Foundation whose members work tirelessly to provide needed services to the membership and all veterans."
Purple Heart Vet Says Donation Dollars Should Be Given Locally
During the episode of "Brian Ross Investigates," Cook tells Ross that donation dollars should be directed locally.
"I think if you want to help combat wounded veterans, find the local [MOPH] chapter," Cook said. "Because that's where the good work for veterans really takes place. They have no overhead."
The original ABC News investigation led to a ressional hearing into veterans charities that collect a lot, but contribute relatively little to vets. The story featured Cook as he blew the whistle on his own organization, saying foundation leaders threw lavish parties, including a $40,000 retirement party for top charity official with guests thrown in from across the country.
Joe Palagyi, then the national adjutant for the MOPH who told Ross in the original report that "something has run amuck in the process," was also voted off the Service Foundation board.
"Brian Ross Investigates" is a weekly 30-minute investigative news magazine show that features exclusive interviews, undercover videos and extended investigations and story updates.
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This week is the 27th episode of "Brian Ross Investigates." All shows are archived on Hulu for viewing.