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Returning veterans focus of new series by investigative program, News 21

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The Center for Public Integrity is pleased to be partnering once again with News 21, the annual student journalist investigative reporting project that launches this year’s effort on Sunday.  

After previously focusing on transportation safety, voter suppression and food safety, about two dozen top students from 12 universities are investigating a variety of issues facing returning veterans, the nearly 2 million young men and women who have served the country in Iraq and Afghanistan over the last decade of war since 9/11. 

The “struggles and blinding bureaucracy confronting returning veterans” that News 21 portrays in detail have been researched and reported during the past eight months.  

Titled  “Back Home: The Challenges Facing Post-9/11 Veterans Returning from the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan,”  this series of in-depth online reports will be published by the Center for Public Integrity and other  partners beginning early Sunday morning, Aug. 25 . You can find these daily reports at on the Center for Public Integrity's website as well as the News 21 website. News 21 is based at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. Former Washington Post Editor Leonard Downie leads this investigative project, assisted by Jacquee Petchel, the former investigations editor at both the Miami Herald and the Houston Chronicle.  

Our first story will show how the country and the government are still largely ill-prepared to meet veterans’ needs for health care, housing, education and employment, much less evaluations and assistance for any disabilities. This overview will show that even though Republican and Democratic administrations, as well as the Congress, have mandated that these needs be addressed, veterans are still experiencing unfulfilled promises and lack of accountability.

We will publish about a dozen of the News 21 reports, rolling them out one a day starting Sunday. And the series will feature numerous multi-media presentations, including an opening animated graphic illustrating the key characteristics of today’s post-9/11 vets.

On Monday, we will publish an investigation of the multiple backlogs facing returning veterans, highlighting the bureaucratic failures of the Department of Veterans Affairs to process disability and assistance claims in a timely fashion, though there has been a bit of progress recently. We will include an interactive graphic that compares wait-time for a benefits claim in different cities and regions of the country.

Look for a new “Back Home” report each day as this investigation unfolds, telling the individual stories of veterans, and the larger story of systemic failures.  News 21 is supported by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation, the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation, the Hearst Foundations, the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation, Women & Philanthropy at ASU and the Peter Kiewit Foundation. 

Congratulations to this year’s student journalists and to Len Downie and his team at ASU for an excellent project on a critical topic.

Until next week,
Bill