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veterans

Families of service members missing in action gather at the Bellevue Marriott to hear how the Department of Defense is trying to match them with recovered remains.
KUOW Photo/Patricia Murphy

On a recent Saturday, the mood at the Marriott in Bellevue was lively considering the reason that people gathered there. From 7:30 in the morning until 5:00 in the evening, families packed into a ballroom to be briefed on what the federal government is doing to recover the remains of their loved ones.  

The fix is broken.

Two years ago Congress created the Veterans Choice Program after scandals revealed that some veterans were waiting months to get essential medical care. The $10 billion program was designed to get veterans care quickly by letting them choose a doctor outside the VA system. Now Congress and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs are pushing through new legislation to fix the program.

Theresa Larson developed an eating disorder while in the Marine Corps.
Courtesy of Theresa Larson

Marine Lt. Theresa Larson was forcing herself to vomit as many as five times a day when she was medically evacuated out of Fallujah, Iraq.

The problem had started back at Camp Pendleton in California, but Larson was doing her job and keeping it together, so the very few people who knew about it backed her up.

Soldiers place their hats on rack just inside the mess hall doors before eating breakfast in the controlled monitoring area at JBLM.
KUOW Photo/Kara McDermott

A federal law caps the interest rates that lenders can charge military service members, but a new report says lenders don't always follow that law.

The report released today from the U.S. Department of Education’s inspector general suggests more service members are paying too much for their loans than the government had previously revealed.

An animated film is up for best documentary short at the Oscars this year. It's only the second time an animated film has been in the running since the category was established in the 1940s. Last Day of Freedom is the story of Bill Babbitt, a man who turns his brother in for murder, hoping the police will help his brother get the care he needs for PTSD.

The Babbitts' story is told through more than 30,000 drawings, most of them in black and white. They were created by Dee Hibbert-Jones and Nomi Talisman, two Northern California-based artists.

Recent government sanctions against predatory for-profit colleges that preyed on veterans by using inflated job promises have opened the window on the wider challenges of helping veterans transition from service to higher education.

Clay Hull has a stubborn sense of justice.

After an improvised explosive device blast in Iraq ended his time in the military, he fought the Army and the Department of Veterans Affairs over the amount of compensation they awarded him for his injuries.

"If I'm in the wrong, I'll admit it. But I'm not going to let somebody just push me around, especially the VA," he says.

It was complicated and drawn out, but Hull now gets the maximum the VA pays for disability.

Officers of 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 'Ready First' 1st Armored Division, participate in an urban combat exercise at a training facility on Fort Bliss, Texas in 2011.
Flickr Photo/DVIDSHUB (CC BY 2.0)/http://bit.ly/1njNs6z

William Kerby was exposed to repeated blasts when he was deployed to Iraq as a Marine infantryman.

“For instance, we were setting off a charge on a door or a gate to blow it open, and there’s nowhere really to go, so you basically turn away from it within a few feet,” Kerby said. “You can feel that kind of concussion, that shockwave, as it goes through your body.”

During World War II, thousands of Americans lied about their age to enlist in the military. During the Iraq war, Daniel Torres lied about something else.

"I didn't want to be just another Mexican living in the U.S. I wanted to say I'd done something for the country," said Torres.

At a warehouse near Dallas, a black Lab named Papi tugs on a rope to open a fridge and passes his trainer a plastic water bottle with his mouth.

Service dogs are often trained to help veterans with physical disabilities. Now, a growing number are being trained to meet the demand from vets with post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health issues.

Those dogs learn extra tricks — how to sweep a house for intruders, for example, so a veteran feels safe.

Winston-Salem is among a group of cities nationwide that say they've met the White House goal to end veteran homelessness.

Volunteers from the Elks in Seattle and Shoreline pack take away bags for needy vets at a stand down event.
KUOW Photo/Patricia Murphy

At 6 a.m. in Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood, a damp fog hangs in the air.

Green Army surplus sleeping bags, backpacks and boots cover the floor in a large room at Seattle Central College. Volunteers will soon give them to homeless veterans to help them live on the streets.

The give-away became necessary because Seattle didn’t reach a national goal to end veteran homelessness in 2015.

Marine Veteran Vincent Romano with a fellow veteran. Romano served between 1967 and 2006.
KUOW Photo/Patricia Murphy

Hundreds of local veterans in need of supplies and services queued up at Seattle Central College Thursday. It’s called a “stand down” and is intended to be a one-stop shop for vets who may be homeless.

When I first met Shaun Tullar, he was locked up in the Vista Detention Facility in San Diego County, Calif.

He was being held in what the jail calls the vets pod — a ring of cells for veterans to live together like a military unit. We met in a room that felt like a school classroom, but with military flags on the walls, and guards at the door.

The number of military veterans in the country's jails and prisons continues to drop, a new report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics shows.

It's the first government report that includes significant numbers of veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — and the findings defy stereotypes that returning war veterans are prone to crime.

In January 1945, in a German POW camp, a U.S. soldier named Roddie Edmonds defied the threat of death to protect the Jewish troops under his command.

Seventy years later, he's being recognized for his valor.

It's the first time a U.S. soldier has been named Righteous Among the Nations, an honor from Israel's Holocaust remembrance and research center reserved for non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust.

Department of Veterans Affairs
Department of Veterans Affairs

The number of VA Puget Sound patients waiting for home health care soared over the space of six months, making the facility’s wait list the second longest in the nation.

That’s according to a report from the Department of Veteran’s Affairs Office of Inspector General.

Marine veteran John Knox arranges fall produce at the Growing Veterans farm stand at the VA Hospital in Seattle. Knox says learning to farm helped him make the transition back to civilian life.
KUOW photo/Patricia Murphy

Army vet Josh Wheeldon can tick off a half-dozen veterans groups he has volunteered with: The Mission Continues, AmeriCorps Vet Corps, Team Rubicon, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, 22Kill, Seattle Stand Down and Team Red White and Blue.

He’s also a lifetime member of the older Veterans of Foreign Wars. But he doesn’t always feel like he fits in there.

Oregon says it's making strides in finding housing for homeless veterans and just announced funding for two new housing projects for vets.

The leadership of the American Legion and VFW is seeking younger, more diverse members. But they face a challenge changing their public image.


Groups like the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars have served former service members for a century. But declining membership threatens to lessen their influence.


Navy veteran Donald Lollis said he's been sleeping on the streets for six months. 'They give you an honorable discharge and you just do the best you can. And that's how I've been living.'
KUOW Photo/Posey Gruener

It's 3 a.m. on the first day of a massive free clinic at Seattle Center. Anyone who needs medical, dental or vision care can find help here today — first come, first served. 

An Iraq vet named Ryan Mielcarek addressed the crowd: “By a quick show of hands, do we have any veterans in the audience here today?”

Mielcarek is the South Sound platoon leader with the veteran volunteer group, The Mission Continues. Their goal is to connect with veterans experiencing homelessness, more than 600 in King County according to official estimates.

Department of Veterans Affairs
Department of Veterans Affairs

U.S. Sen. Patty Murray is calling for disciplinary action after a Veterans Affairs investigation found that staffers in Seattle dumped mail about vets’ benefits in a yellow bucket and left it for months. 

A single number has shaped the way that Americans think about young military veterans.

It's the number 22, as in, 22 vets take their lives each day.

The number has become a rallying cry for advocates trying to call attention to suicide among vets, especially those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Twenty-two, not some vague, rounded-off number. Not 30, not 20. Twenty-two.

A number so specific it inspires action. Speeches, fundraisers, marches and even walks clear across the country.

But 22 doesn't quite add up.

Olympic College in Bremerton will receive money that will help to pay for a veteran center for students.
Olympic College

Lake Washington Institute of Technology in Kirkland and Olympic College in Bremerton will get a little more than $100,000 for the next three years to help student veterans.

The grants from the Department of Education will help create centers for student veterans. 

Henry Chamberlain looks at mementos from World War II. He spent three and a half years as a prisoner of the Japanese.
KUOW Photo/Patricia Murphy

In 1945 President Harry Truman declared Sept. 2 as Victory Over Japan Day. Japan surrendered aboard the USS Missouri. It was the official end of World War II.

But the suffering wasn't over for Henry Chamberlain, who had been captured on the Philippines' Bataan Peninsula more than three years before.

This is a tale of two cities. In New Orleans, there are signs of hope that veteran homelessness can be solved. But Los Angeles presents a very different picture.

Under the deafening highway noise of the Pontchartrain Expressway in central city New Orleans, Ronald Engberson, 54, beds down for the night. Engberson got out of the Marines in 1979, plagued even back then by problems with drugs and alcohol. He says that's mostly the reason he's been homeless the past 10 years.

Courtesy of George Patterson and Dave Cable

Lt. James Patterson, better known as Kelly, is missing in action.

Patterson went MIA 48 years ago, after his plane was shot down near Hanoi during the Vietnam War.

Department of Veterans Affairs
Department of Veterans Affairs

VA Puget Sound broke ground on a new mental health and research facility Wednesday.

It’s the first new structure on the VA's Seattle campus since 1988.

File photo of Joint Base Lewis-McChord headquarters.
KUOW Photo/Kara McDermott

The suicide rate among recent veterans is about 50 percent higher than non-veterans with similar demographics. But a study published Wednesday found that deploying to a war zone didn't necessarily increase a service members’ suicide risk.

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