Monday, May 27, 2024

On this Memorial Day: An Introduction to the USO

As I sat to write a blog post on this Memorial Day, I was Googling recommendations for charities that support current service members, veterans, and their families.  As the USO repeatedly appeared as the first entry on a numbers of searches, I realized that I actually know very little about it.  I think we’ve all probably seen pictures of movie stars and famous singers visiting the troops out in the field from time to time (there’s a great collection of vintage photos here), but I never really thought about the organization that made that happen.

Until now. 

“USO” stands for the United Service Organizations, which reflects its origins as a collaboration among a variety of existing charities that were serving military members and families during World War II.  The USO is not part of the Department of Defense; rather it is one of a handful of federally chartered corporations in existence (see 36 USC 2201 et. seq.) – although its statute provides “the Corporation shall maintain its status as a corporation incorporated under the laws of New York, another State, or the District of Columbia.”  The 2022 Form 990 reports its state of legal domicile as the District of Columbia.

Per its organizing statute, the USO was designed, in party, to   

accept the cooperation of, and provide an organization and means through which, the National Board of Young Men's Christian Associations, the National Board of Young Women's Christian Associations, the National Catholic Community Service, the Salvation Army, the National Jewish Welfare Board, the Travelers Aid-International Social Service of America, and other civilian agencies experienced in specialized types of related work, which may be needed adequately to meet the particular needs of the members of the Armed Forces, may carry on their historic work of serving the religious, spiritual, social, welfare, educational, and entertainment needs of men and women in the Armed Forces and be afforded an appropriate means of participation and financial assistance,

According to its 2022 Form 990, the USO is a private organization that is tax-exempt under Code Section 501(c)(3) and a public charity under Code Section 170(b)(1)(a)(vi).

By statute, the USO is a membership organization overseen by a Board of Governors.  The Board consists of six members appointed by the President, the Secretary of Defense (or designed), and representatives of the organizations listed above (or the public at large) that have the power to appoint the board of directors.  It is a membership organization, but the voting members are the six appointees of the President. According to its 2022 Form 990, it has a 38-person board, of which 37 are reported as independent (the one person who is not independent is the current President & CEO – he is also the only compensated member of the Board of Directors).

It’s hard to summarize all that the USO does for our military service members and their families. In addition to the well-known entertainment tours, the organization provides care packages for service members, transition services for soldiers re-entering private life, and various support services for military spouses, among other things.  It operates in a number of foreign countries as well in order to provide services to our military service members stationed overseas.   I strongly recommend visiting its website or, for the tax nerds among us, reading the details of its program services on Form 990 Schedule O.

There is a separate USO Foundation, which the USO lists on its Form 990 as a directly controlled entity within the meaning of Code Section 512(b)(13).  It was formed in 2007 as a fundraising arm.  The USO Foundation’s Form 990 indicates that it is a Type I supporting organization of the USO and covered under the USO’s group exemption letter.

If you wish to read more: uso.org

To review the USO’s Forms 990 and financial statements, see here:  https://www.uso.org/about/financial-statements

If you wish to donate, link is here.

Thankfully and in remembrance,

eww

https://lawprofessors.typepad.com/nonprofit/2024/05/on-this-memorial-day-an-introduction-to-the-uso4.html

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