VVMF Statement on Memorial Maintenance Fund

(Published 5:17 p.m. ET May 5, 2020)

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund (VVMF) today addressed some recent inquiries related to management of funds used for repair, maintenance and name additions to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.

“What appears to be a simple misunderstanding has led to concerns about memorial maintenance funds at the VVMF.  We want to reassure everyone that the funds being stewarded by VVMF are safe and being used only for their intended purposes,” said John Dibble, chairman of the board.  “Our financials are under constant review and scrutiny by outside accountants, the Board of Directors, and external independent auditors.  Those reports are made available to the public through our web site and anyone can review them.”

In this case, someone read VVMF’s 2019 audited financial statement (page 19) and noted the numbers for the memorial maintenance account were different than listed in the 2018 audited financial statement (page 17).  The person noted a difference in the numbers and raised an alarm.  Unfortunately, it seems the person did not see the notes explaining what changed and why (page 16).

In fact, in 2019, VVMF restated the amount in the maintenance fund to correct an error between values of the memorial maintenance fund account and other accounts.  The note explained, “After issuance of the September 30, 2018 audited financial statements, the Fund revisited its investment earnings allocation methodology and concluded that too much of the earnings was being allocated to the memorial maintenance fund. As a result, the previously reported net assets without donor restrictions at September 30, 2018 were increased by $1,146,736 and net assets with donor restrictions were decreased by the same amount. This restatement had no net effect on the total net assets at September 30, 2018, as previously reported.”  All monies are fully accounted for and being used for their intended purposes.

In short, VVMF staff discovered a discrepancy that turned out to be an honest mistake by outside accountants.  The error was a result of too much investment income and interest being added to the memorial maintenance account.  The mistake was easily corrected, reviewed by independent auditors and the Board, and then disclosed publicly through the 2019 audited financials.

At the beginning of fiscal year 2015, the value of the memorial maintenance fund was $3,041,984.  As it has been for many years, the memorial maintenance fund was invested and the earnings used to do maintenance work.  After five years and more than $800,000 spent in maintenance and repairs, at the end of fiscal year 2019 the memorial maintenance fund still had a value of $2,679,840 — a difference of $362,144.  Maintenance projects included inscription of new names and changes to status symbols, replacement/upgrade of the In Memory Plaque, a new contract for quarterly cleaning and preservation for the Three Servicemen Statue, complete replacement and repair to the planting bed around the statue, new directory books annually, replacement of the 35-year-old directory stand glasses, replacement of landscaping, and even some lawn care.

“It is unfortunate that honest mistakes are made sometimes, but none of us is perfect.  In this case, VVMF discovered a mistake, corrected it, made sure it was reviewed by auditors, and then fully disclosed it through our audited financials,” said Jim Knotts, president and chief executive officer.  “This is exactly how the public should expect a well-run nonprofit to conduct itself.  This was handled with the utmost professionalism, due diligence, honesty and transparency.”

“It is fair for someone in the public to scrutinize what we do,” said Dibble.  “The Board is confident VVMF is doing the right things and, notwithstanding occasional mistakes, we are doing things the right way.  The most important thing is that the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund has a small but capable staff carrying out the mission of VVMF every day.  They are supported by professionals with pure intent and high qualifications.  And we are lucky to partner with volunteers and partners who share our commitment to honor and remember our Vietnam veterans – those listed on The Wall and those who returned home – and to educate people about the service and sacrifice of the Vietnam War generation.”

Since Congress authorized the creation and sale of a commemorative coin in 1994, VVMF has used the proceeds of that sale to pay for repair, maintenance and addition of names to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.  This includes things like contractor fees, inscription costs, architecture costs, bushes, lighting systems and a portion of overhead costs related to project management.  The types of charges against this memorial maintenance fund have remained the same since its inception.