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Operation Homefront fires co-founder after records show $36K discrepancy in goods meant for military families

Amy Palmer, co-founder of Operation Homefront, talks during a press conference in 2010.
Amy Palmer, co-founder of Operation Homefront, talks during a press conference in 2010.Mark Stehle / AP Images for Advance Auto Parts file

A founder of Operation Homefront, one of the largest safety nets for wounded veterans in financial trouble, has been fired for allegedly falsifying the records of goods donated to struggling military families — many of which now face heightened money worries as the government shutdown threatens their benefit checks. 

Amy Palmer, formerly the organization's chief development officer, was terminated within the past three weeks after employees at the San Antonio-based nonprofit noted a $36,000 discrepancy in their records of contributed items available for delivery to current military members and ex-troops, said Jim Knotts, president and chief executive officer Operation Homefront. 

"Due to several staff members following processes and procedures, Operation Homefront recently discovered a falsified acknowledgement letter regarding the receipt of approximately $36,000 in donated items. As a result of our investigation, we had clear grounds for termination," Knotts said.

"However, we are still determining the disposition of some of those donated items. While an investigation is ongoing, we have no indications that this situation involves any cash or other donated items. The letter originated with one staff member. In order to hold the person accountable for their actions, and consistent with Operation Homefront’s value to do the right thing, we terminated the employment of Amy Palmer. 

Palmer did not respond to a request for comment by NBC News.

Founded in 2002, Operation Homefront helps military families navigate rough financial times by providing food assistance, auto and home repair, vision care, travel and transportation, moving assistance, essential home items, and financial aid. This includes help to veterans who were wounded or became ill after Sept. 11, 2001. 

According to the nonprofit watchdog site Charity Navigator, Operation Homefront has earned a perfect score for accountability and transparency.

During 2012, the group accepted $66.8 million in contributions, donations and grants and, in turn, spent $51.7 million on its programs and services. The nonprofit reports that it has helped 4,200 "wounded warrior families." 

The work to plug holes in the budgets of military and veteran families gained urgency Oct. 9 when Veteran Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki warned a congressional oversight committee that, if the federal shutdown lingers into late October, more than 5 million veterans would not receive their November compensation checks.

Should that occur, veterans would likely need to turn increasingly to organizations like Operation Homefront to keep their homes and feed their families. 

In his explanation of Palmer's termination, Operation Homefront's leader acknowledged the importance of maintaining  the nonprofit's reputation. 

"Regardless of role, we hold all Operation Homefront employees accountable to the very highest standards of conduct," Knotts said. "Given that our ability to deliver our mission is based on the bonds of trust and confidence we hold with each other, and in turn, with those who so generously support us, we had no choice but to take this action."