In this podcast of an IowaWatch Connection program that aired on radio stations Aug. 11-13 — before veterans day at the 2017 Iowa State Fair in Des Moines — we hear from those whose jobs are to help veterans and tell their stories.
ByAaron Glantz/Center for Investigative Reporting |
Far fewer veterans are facing long waits for disability compensation after the Department of Veterans Affairs spent the past six months focusing on the backlog, including mandating case worker overtime and rolling out a new computer system. In Iowa, 4,743 veterans were waiting at the beginning of November for disability benefits. On Nov. 12 the number was down to 4,678. Both totals are down from 6,714 at the beginning of this year.
ByMeg Wagner, Anthony Cave and Hannah Winston/News21 |
The federal government has yet to document how many students on the Post-9/11 GI Bill have graduated, or even if they stayed in school. Tom Harkin’s Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions questions whether or not veterans attending for-profit schools were benefiting from the education or being used to meet certain federal funding requirements. A committee led by Sen. Tom Harkin has looked into the problem.
ByJeff Hargarten, Forrest Burnson, Bonnie Campo and Chase Cook/News21 |
Veterans are killing themselves at more than double the rate of the civilian population with about 49,000 taking their own lives between 2005 and 2011, a News21 reveals. Veterans committed one of every five suicides in Iowa in 2005 through 2011.
ByMary Shinn, Daniel Moore, Steven Rich and Hannah Winston/News21 |
Some regional offices paid bonuses to VA workers while veterans waited for claims to be processed. At least costly efforts to go paperless have improved wait times. Your portal to these stories, plus several more in this special report from the News21 project, is here.
The Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense spent at least $1.3 billion during the last four years trying unsuccessfully to develop a single electronic health-records system between the two departments — leaving veterans’ disability claims to continue piling up in paper files across the country, a News21 investigation shows. This does not include billions of other dollars wasted during the last three decades, including $2 billion spent on a failed upgrade to the DOD’s existing electronic health-records system. For a veteran in the disability claims process, these records are critical: They include DOD service and health records needed by the VA to decide veterans’ disability ratings and the compensation they will receive for their injuries. Stacks of paper files — including veterans’ evidence from DOD of their military service and injuries — sit at VA regional offices waiting to be processed instead of being readily accessible in electronic files. Although Congress repeatedly has demanded an “integrated” and “interoperable” electronic health-records system, neither the DOD nor the VA is able to completely access the other’s electronic records.
ByMary Shinn, Daniel Moore and Steven Rich/News21 |
The Department of Veterans Affairs gave workers millions of dollars in bonuses for “excellent” performances that effectively encouraged them to avoid claims that needed extra work to document veterans’ injuries, a News21 investigation found.
Veterans who survived Taliban and al Qaida attacks, roadside bombs, mortar fire and the deaths of fellow soldiers told reporters from the News21 project they have returned home to a future threatened by poverty, unemployment, homelessness and suicide.
The Post 9/11 G.I. Bill promises a college education, paid in full, for veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Getting that promise fulfilled however, is difficult for some Iowa veterans whose payments arrive as many as two months later than expected, leaving them struggling to pay for housing and other living expenses.