Resources for Covering Veterans' Issues
Thousands of soldiers are heading home from Iraq and Afghanistan. These veterans need medical services, mental health services, education, jobs and more as they reintegrate into civilian life. Unprecedented numbers of veterans are grappling with brain injuries, PTSD, amputations and other life-changing traumas. The government “safety net” for veterans is being strained far beyond its capacity. Many veterans struggle to obtain the services and care that they need.
Journalists’ job is to tell their story. To do so, journalists need to explore the challenges that veterans face as they reclaim their places — in their families, their jobs and their communities. Journalists need to understand the web of government organizations, corporations and nonprofits that offer services to veterans. And journalists need to monitor whether these bodies are delivering on their promises — and expose frauds and failures.
This page provides the resources to facilitate an investigative approach to covering returning veterans.
This information is provided as part of a Specialized Reporting Institute, "Battle on the Homefront," that was held March 5-7, 2012 at Boston University. The workshop was hosted by The New England Center for Investigative Reporting and funded by the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.
The Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center (DVBIC) serves active duty military, their beneficiaries, and veterans with traumatic brain injuries. A Congressionally mandated collaboration of the Department of Defense (DoD) and Veterans Affairs (VA) health centers, the DVBIC network includes DoD and VA hospitals as well as civilian TBI rehabilitation programs.
The VA, the second-largest U.S. governmental department, encompasses:
VBA (Veterans Benefits Administration), responsible for registering veterans, determining eligibility for benefits, and overseeing benefits
VHA (Veterans Health Administration), responsible for providing all forms of health care to veterans
Other Government Agencies and Resources
National Center for PTSD: Learn about PTSD and how to cope with it on this section of the VA website.
VA Inspector General: Web page with links to reports and documents on veterans' issues.
Additional Information Sources
A Soldier's Next Battle: This presentation from the Battle on the Homefront SRI offers tips for researching and investigating the VA. It points journalists to key databases with veterans' records and information, and provides tips on using these databases as sources.
Overview of Major Issues Facing OIF/OEF Vets: This presentation from the Battle on the Homefront SRI identifies key issues facing veterans and their families and communities as they reintegrate into civilian life.
Veterans' Issues Tip Sheet: Tips and story ideas from Kelly Kennedy of USA Today, a presenter at the Battle on the Homefront SRI. Many issues include relevant website links.
Soldiers Returning from Iraq and Afghanistan: "The Long-term Costs of Providing Veterans Medical Care and Disability Benefits," a faculty research working paper from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, January 2007. Download the pdf
Protection Against Education Fraud: On April 26, 2012, President Obama signed an executive order to help protect veterans against education fraud. This press release describes the order and names some organizations where journalists can find out more about the GI Bill, fraud and other issues veterans face when using their education and retraining benefits.
Veteran Charity Fraud: This presentation from the Battle on the Homefront SRI event reveals nonprofits that truly are aiding veterans, exposes those that are defrauding donors and offers tips for telling them apart.
Charity Navigator and CharityWatch: These organizations evaluate and rate charities, looking at what percentage of money raised is spent on a charity's stated mission or program vs. the percentage of donations that support fundraising efforts and other expenditures.
Disabled American Veterans: DAV is a nonprofit that provides services to veterans with disabilities. The website offers information about legislative issues and local and national events and names of potential contacts.
Veterans of Foreign Wars: VFW is a non-government organization that serves veterans of overseas conflicts. Website is a good starting point for information on veterans' issues and activities that assist veterans locally and nationally.
Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America: IAVA is a nonprofit organized specifically to support veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Website offers potential contact names, information on programs and services for veterans, blogs and more.
American Veterans Center: Website has video and article links, soldiers' stories, and links to radio documentaries about veterans and soldiers' experiences in wars from WWII to the present.
National Alliance on Mental Illness: This grassroots mental health organization promotes advocacy and awareness raising for mental health issues.
Covering Veterans' Issues: What Happens When Soldiers Come Home, Webinar replay on Poynter's News University that will teach you to evaluate how well local and federal programs are meeting the needs of veterans, unravel the web of bureaucracies responsible for providing services to veterans, assess whether agencies are delivering on their promises and bring to light their successes and failures.
Journalism and Trauma: This course will teach you how traumatic stress affects victims and how to interview trauma victims with compassion and respect.
Reporting on Nonprofits: In this course, you will learn what constitutes a nonprofit and how it gets its tax-exempt status. You will get tips on digging for information — especially on how to decipher an IRS 990 tax form — and what to do with that information once you have it.
Covering War at Home: Poynter faculty and visiting professionals explore the issues surrounding the impact in the U.S. of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq in this seminar snapshot from May 2008.
How Can Reporters Take a Watchdog Approach to Their Reporting on Veterans Affairs?, available at Poynter.org