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.

Twitter Tags to Watch

@Militarydotcom Military.com

@PentagonPresSec Pentagon Press Secretary and Spokesman

@WWRUSMC Wounded Warrior USMC

@DeptofDefense U.S. Department of Defense

Find an Expert

Gary Tallman, Department of Veterans Affairs, Gary.Tallman@va.gov

Presenters from the Battle on the Homefront SRI:
Chris Adams, McClatchy Newspapers, cadams@mcclatchydc.com

Kelly Kennedy, USA Today, kskennedy@usatoday.com

Jim Dao, New York Times, dao@nytimes.com

Charity Fraud
Al Tompkins, The Poynter Institute, Tompkins@poynter.org

Cost of War
Linda Bilmes,the Kennedy School, Harvard; an expert on the short- and long-term costs of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, linda_bilmes@harvard.edu

Computer-Assisted Reporting
Mark Horvit, Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE), mhorvit@ire.org

Blogs to Follow

milblogging.com is a site to scour for blogs relating to veterans' issues. Searching "veterans issues" turns up a long list!

IAVA Blog: IAVA is an organization that supports veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Blogs are posted by members on a variety of topics of interest to veterans.

What Others Are Doing

Groundbreaking and informative stories from conference participants:

Pueblo's Haven for Warriors, Shanna Lewis, March 19, 2013

Fighting for Breath, Shanna Lewis, March 19, 2013

Haven Behavioral War Heroes Hospital: A Profile, Andrea Chalfin, March 19, 2013

Brothers-in-arms: Veterans see need for more 'peer-to-peer' care services, Nick Penzenstadler, Nov. 11, 2012

One of the Lucky Ones, Lauren Carter, July 15, 2012

Dog Helps Haverhill Veteran, Fallen Serviceman’s Family, Heal, Katie Johnston, July 1, 2012

American Homecomings: Utah Veteran Not 'Just a Student', Kristen Moulton, July 1, 2012

American Homecomings, a project following veterans that features an ongoing project by Kristen Moulton

Watertown Man Seeks Crackdown on Fundraising Scams for Veterans, Alec Johnson, June 17, 2012

War Stories, Heather Wysocki and others, May 26-28, 2012

Appleton Veteran Navigates Benefits Maze, Nick Penzenstadler, May 27, 2012

AP IMPACT: Almost Half of New Vets Seek Disability, Marilynn Marchione, May 27, 2012

New Veterans Fight New Battles After Coming Home, Marilynn Marchione, May 27, 2012

No One in Control: The Far-Reaching Fallout of the Good Neighbor Center’s Collapse, Renee Dudley, May 20, 2012

Eppinger Death in Afghanistan Ruled a Suicide, Nick Penzenstadler, May 14, 2012

SC Vets Wait Weeks, Months for PTSD Help, Tim Waller, May 8, 2012

Financial Woes Weigh Heavily on Veterans, David Tarrant, May 7, 2012

Utahn Is Fierce Advocate for Fellow Veterans in School, Kristen Moulton, May 6, 2012

Navajo Veterans Affairs Help Man Suffering PTSD Complete UNM Degree, Caitlin D. Pozernick, May 2012

Veterans Face Challenges Accessing Services at the VA and UNM, Aundrea D. Jackson and Mandy G. Hernandez, May 2012

Veteran Services Offer Stability, Support for New Mexicans Who Served, Aundrea D. Jackson, May 2012

Last Illinois National Guard Unit in Iraq Comes Home, Dahleen Glanton, April 6, 2012

VA Cuts Funding to Embattled North Charleston Shelter, Renee Dudley, April 5, 2012

Army: PTSD Treatable; Some Diagnosed Return to War, Julie Watson, March 23, 2012

Life on the Homefront: Iraq War Veteran Finds Job Search Daunting as He Returns to Civilian Life, March 22, 2012

Experts: Soldier Might Have Post-Traumatic Stress, Marilynn Marchione, March 16, 2012

Vets Fight for Jobs They Left Behind, Mark Brunswick, Feb. 27, 2012

Impact of War, Weekend Edition Saturday Series, Danyell Irby, supervising editor

Medics in Training: Treating Soldiers in Transit, Cheri Lawson, Feb. 19, 2012

Vets Help Others Move from Combat to College, Sean Beuter, April 10, 2012

'Veteran Quest' a New Model in VA Clinics, Erin Toner, April 30, 2012

Private Battles, Dallas Morning News series, by staff writer David Tarrant and photojournalist Sonya N. Hebert, 2011

Rate of Suicide in Military Sounds an Alarm, Jennifer McDermott, Dec. 22, 2011

‘It’s Their country; Let Them Have It’, Brian MacQuarrie, Dec. 18, 2011

Towns Faulted on Aid to Veteran, Brian MacQuarrie, Oct. 25, 2011

Living High on the VA's Money, Renee Dudley, July 31, 2011

Veterans Affairs Scrambles to Serve Female Veterans, Frank Morris, Nov. 7, 2010

Living With War at Home: The Transformation from Soldier to Civilian, Amanda Loder, July 19, 2010

Living With War at Home: A Rare Woman General, Bellamy Pailthorp, July 13, 2010

Fishing Derby Gives War Veterans a Boost, Krista Almanzan, Oct. 3, 2009

Mental Wounds Are Often Burned into Veterans’ Psyches, Mike Urban, March, 9, 2008

Coming Home Wounded: Part 1, Marilynn Marchione, July 2, 2007

Coming Home Wounded: Part 2, Marilynn Marchione, July 3, 2007

Horses and Heroes, a film by Ashley Semler

Key Resources

Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center

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.

Department of Veterans Affairs

The VA, the second-largest U.S. governmental department, encompasses:

Other Government Agencies and Resources

Defense Centers of Excellence: Part of the Military Health System; rehabilitation and reintegration of veterans with psychological health concerns and TBI. Offers resources for news media.

Benefits for Caregivers

National Center for PTSD: Learn about PTSD and how to cope with it on this section of the VA website.

National Center for Veterans Analysis and Statistics (NCVAS)

National Survey of Veterans (NSV)

Veterans Appeals Control and Locator System

VA Inspector General: Web page with links to reports and documents on veterans' issues.

House Committee for Veterans' Affairs

Government Casualty Data

GI Bill and other Education and Retraining

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.

Nonprofits

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.

Training

Webinar

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.

Self-Directed Courses

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.

Seminar Snapshot

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.

Chat Replay

How Can Reporters Take a Watchdog Approach to Their Reporting on Veterans Affairs?, available at Poynter.org