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Impact Rating

Paralyzed Veterans of America

Top Veterans Nonprofit

Impact: $2,900 increases disability benefits claimed by a veteran by $29,000.

Veterans Disability Assistance Program meets the benchmark for high cost-effectiveness. One dollar spent by the program results in more than $1.50 in benefits secured for a veteran.

Note: The impact of this program may not be representative of the entire operation of Paralyzed Veterans of America.


Governance: Passes checks


Paralyzed Veterans of America (Paralyzed Veterans) is the only congressionally chartered Veterans Service Organization dedicated solely to the benefit and representation of veterans with spinal cord injury or disease. For over 70 years, we have ensured that veterans receive the benefits earned through their service to our nation.



Rated Program

Veterans Disability Assistance Program

Program Geography

Washington, DC


Donations processed by the nonprofit.



Rated Program

Veterans Disability Assistance Program

Program Geography

Washington, DC


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Rated Program


Veterans Disability Assistance Program


Paralyzed Veterans of America provides assistance to help disabled veterans claim the government benefits they are owed.

Program Type

Veterans Disability Benefits

Beneficiaries Served

Military personnel
People with disabilities


Washington, DC

Outcomes: Changes in people's lives. They can be caused by a nonprofit.

Costs: The money spent by nonprofits and their partners and beneficiaries.

Impact: The cost to achieve an outcome.

Cost-effectiveness: A judgment as to whether the cost was "worth" the outcome.


Outcome Metric

Government benefits claimed for a disabled veteran

To calculate impact, we estimate how many outcomes the nonprofit caused.

Data Source

Paralyzed Veterans of America publicly reports how many claims it filed successfully or how many veterans it served, as well as the dollar value of claims filed successfully.

Time Period of Data

July 1, 2017, to June 30, 2018

Ratings are based on data the nonprofit itself collects on its work. We use the most recent year with sufficient data. Typically, this data allows us to calculate direct changes in participants' lives, such as increased income.

Method for Attributing Outcomes

We estimate the amount of benefits claimed as a result of the nonprofit's work by comparing its reported figures to the amount of benefits that would have been claimed without the nonprofit's help (the “counterfactual”). Without the nonprofit, some veterans might have successfully filed claims on their own or with the help of other organizations. These counterfactual successes must be netted out of the successes we observe. Otherwise, we would be attributing a change (benefits received) to the nonprofit when it would have happened anyway. Few nonprofits estimate the counterfactual themselves, so we construct our own counterfactual estimate based on research and educated assumptions. Specifically, we assume that attorneys and claims assistants at other nonprofits generally have full caseloads. We also assume that veterans applying or appealing on their own experience half the success rate as if they had been assisted by the nonprofit.

We don't know if the observed changes were caused by the nonprofit's program or something else happening at the same time (e.g. a participant got a raise). To determine causation, we take the outcomes we observe and subtract an estimate of the outcomes that would have happened even without the program (i.e. counterfactual outcomes).


Data Source

Cost data reported by Paralyzed Veterans of America and data and assumptions about partner and beneficiary costs.

Cost Calculation

$15,976,735 program costs + $0 partner costs + $0 beneficiary costs = $15,976,735 total costs

After estimating the program's outcomes, we need to determine how much it cost to achieve those outcomes. All monetary costs are counted, whether they are borne by a nonprofit service deliverer or by the nonprofit’s public and private partners. In-kind donations, of labor or supplies, are not counted.


Impact Calculation

$15,976,735 total costs / 159,293,367 additional benefits claimed = roughly $3000 increases disability benefits claimed by a veteran by $30000.

Numbers may not divide precisely due to rounding and time discounting.

We calculate impact, defined as the change in outcomes attributable to a program divided by the cost to achieve those outcomes.


Benchmark for Rating

Impact ratings of veterans disability benefits programs are based on the return of benefits secured per dollar spent. Programs receive 5 stars if ever dollar spent results in $1.50 in benefits secured, and 4 stars if a dollar spent results in $0.85 to a veteran. If a nonprofit reports impact but doesn't meet the benchmark for cost-effectiveness, it earns 3 stars.


One dollar spent by the program results in more than $1.50 in benefits secured for a veteran.

Why We Could Be Wrong

We welcome your suggestions for improving our methodology. Our methodology section includes explanations of how we mitigate these issues.

  • The outcome could oversimplify total impact. Using “dollars of disability benefits claimed” as the metric of analysis does not intuitively convey potential downstream effects like reduced financial stress, the ability to afford better health and home care, and greater justice in giving to veterans that which they are owed.
  • There could be multiple important outcomes not captured in our analysis.
  • Paralyzed Veterans of America may be spending additional money in order to serve harder-to-reach and/or particularly valuable populations.
  • In the absence of better data, we assume uniform counterfactual rates for programs, at the risk of masking variation across nonprofits.
  • Our estimates rely on data made public by Paralyzed Veterans of America on its website, annual reports, financial statements and Form 990s.
  • We only analyze programs that meet our criteria. As a result, this report may not fully reflect the impact of Paralyzed Veterans of America.
  • We do not assess what explains the nonprofit's cost-effectiveness.

We assign a rating to the nonprofit using the rubric:

  • There are indications of governance or financial health issues at the nonprofit.

  • After being given an opportunity, the nonprofit chose not to publish impact information.

    We are not yet issuing this level of star rating.

  • The rated program does not meet our benchmark for cost-effectiveness.

  • The rated program is cost-effective.

  • The rated program is highly cost-effective.

Read More

Nonprofit Comment

We are pleased that ImpactMatters has recognized the cost-effective work that Paralyzed Veterans of America does to provide deserving veterans with the benefits, services, and resources they need to live healthy and independent lives – particularly after they have suffered a spinal cord injury or related disease such as MS and ALS. These types of disabilities are expensive and life-changing, which is why it is important for us to work efficiently to obtain as much financial help as we can for as many veterans as we can. We thank ImpactMatters for their thorough accounting, and will continue to use our resources wisely for the benefit of all veterans.

— Paralyzed Veterans of America

Before publishing, we ask every nonprofit we can to review our work, offer corrections and provide a comment.

Analysis Details

Analysis conducted by ImpactMatters and published on November 22, 2019.

An ImpactMatters analyst searched the Form 990s, annual reports, audited financials and the website of Paralyzed Veterans of America to calculate impact and rate cost-effectiveness. A second analyst conducted quality control.

We welcome corrections. If you are interested in exploring applications of ImpactMatters data, contact us at

Governance Check

Despite one warning sign, Paralyzed Veterans of America passes our governance check.

Conducted a financial audit

Warning sign: Overhead spending is high (>35% of total spending)
Although there may be a legitimate explanation, we consider high overhead spending a warning sign. Nonprofits fail our governance check if they have two warning signs.

Charity Navigator has not issued a fraud or mismanagement advisory

Paralyzed Veterans of America itself has not reported any material diversions of assets

Paralyzed Veterans of America itself has not reported any excess benefit transactions

Source: Paralyzed Veterans of America Form 990 and Charity Navigator

How We Calculate Impact

This rating is based on ImpactMatters analysis of the impact of Veterans Disability Assistance Program relative to costs. Impact is the change in the social outcomes of people served by the program, net of the change that would have happened even without the program (the “counterfactual”); divided by cost. Learn more.

For Donors

A guide to our process for analyzing nonprofits and assigning ratings.

For Nonprofits

Learn about best practices for reporting impact for different program types.

For Researchers

Our collected guidelines on how we analyze impact of nonprofit programs.

Rating is a complex exercise and we urge you to read our frequently asked questions for details of how and why we issue these ratings.