When individuals make a donation to the Wounded Warrior Project, it is expected that the money will go to meet the immediate, practical needs of returning veterans. However, the nation’s leading organization for providing aid to veterans also funds unconventional programs that donors may find questionable.
The Wounded Warrior Project recently awarded $125,000 to the David Lynch Foundation to teach Transcendental Meditation (TM) techniques to soldiers across the nation. The Lynch Foundation claims “published research shows the technique reduces symptoms of post-traumatic stress among veterans by 50 percent.” Many, however, question the effect of the practice introduced by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in the 1950s.
The Wounded Warrior Project has not responded to our requests for more information on the grant given to the David Lynch Foundation or the benefits of TM techniques for veterans.
The David Lynch Foundation was founded by noted Hollywood director David Lynch, and the foundation claims in a press release that it was founded in 2005 “to fund the implementation of scientifically proven stress-reducing modalities, including Transcendental Meditation.” The foundation is holding a star-studded fundraising concert in November at Carnegie Hall in New York City, with Katy Perry, Sting, and Jerry Seinfeld set to perform.
Given the support the Lynch Foundation receives from high-profile celebrity millionaires, many may question whether the $125,000 grant from the Wounded Warrior Project was an actual issue of need. Questions might also arise as to why the Wounded Warrior Project is supporting the Lynch Foundation, instead of the other way around.
Although exact details of how the grant will be used are not known, it appears at least one TM program is already underway. According to the Asheville Citizen-Times (NC), a program to teach veterans Transcendental Meditation funded by the Wounded Warrior Project is already underway in North Carolina. The Asheville Transcendental Meditation Center is offering classes to teach the technique to “veterans affected by combat-related post-traumatic stress or other mental health challenges related to service.” It is unknown if this program is funded by the Lynch Foundation grant or another grant from WWP.
While The David Lynch Foundation (and presumably, the Wounded Warrior Project) tout the benefits of TM, a review of the practice by the medical community has found few upsides. According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, “mindfulness meditation programs had moderate evidence of improved anxiety, depression, and pain and low evidence of improved stress/distress and mental health–related quality of life. We found low evidence of no effect or insufficient evidence of any effect of meditation programs on positive mood, attention, substance use, eating habits, sleep, and weight. We found no evidence that meditation programs were better than any active treatment (ie, drugs, exercise, and other behavioral therapies).”
The Wounded Warrior Project has been criticized for its fundraising and operating practices in the past. A report by The Tampa Bay Times found WWP only spends 58% of the money it raises on actual programs for veterans. Charity Watch gives the organization a “C” rating, who has also been criticized for the high salaries it pays its staff. Ten employees earn $150,000 or more, including chief executive Steve Nardizzi, who earned $330,000 last year.