Coming Home Project

Credit c_vincent/iStock / Thinkstock

The Coming Home Project was launched by WNPR's Lucy Nalpathanchil in 2011 to tell the stories of veterans in transition and the issues that matter to them and their families. 

Lucy Nalpathanchil / WNPR

The state Veterans' Home sits on a sprawling campus in Rocky Hill but most of the buildings were built more than 70 years ago. In August, Governor Dannel Malloy asked for the creation of an advisory group to examine how the property--which offers several types of residential care-- can be transformed to serve more veterans.

Lucy Nalpathanchil / WNPR

Over the last 13 years, the media has focused on the sacrifices of the thousands of service-members who have served in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. But behind these men and women are their families. We talk to author, Sarah Smiley who writes about her life as a Navy wife. Her latest book is a memoir about how she and her children invited members of their community to dinner as a way to fill the void in their home during her husband’s 13-month deployment.

Lucy Nalpathanchil

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is holding town hall meetings as part of a nationwide effort to hear from the public. It comes after months of bad press about some VA systems hiding the actual amount of time veterans are waiting for care. 

Tech. Sgt. Rick Sforza / The U.S. Army

Throughout the U.S. occupation of Iraq, there was concern about what would happen to the country when combat forces left. Over the last year, militant extremists have slowly taken over the country and now President Barack Obama is weighing his options. "We will not be sending U.S. troops back into combat in Iraq, but I have asked my national security team to prepare a range of other options that could help support Iraqi security forces," Obama said on Friday.

Captain Rich Evans: a Legacy of Fight and Defend

May 30, 2014
Jake Warga

"I joined the Army the day after September 11," said Captain Rich Evans, sharing his long legacy in fighting for the United States. He admits freely his changing emotion towards Afghanistan. 

Should VA Secretary Shinseki Step Down?

May 25, 2014



This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin. This coming week, Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki is expected to update President Obama on a nationwide review on VA facilities. Many VA hospitals have been accused of covering up long wait times for veterans and cooking the books to hide these delays. Shinseki announced yesterday that some VA clinics would enhance their capacity and the administration would also make it easier for veterans to get more of their care from private facilities.

Jake Warga

Staff Sergeant Christen Cohen speaks about her deployments in Afghanistan and on being the only woman in her unit.  She carries with her a reminder of her mortality.

Jake Warga

Captain Jason Pace tries to treat symptoms of depression and stress without medication. He believes that there are burdens a solider must carry inside that may never be lifted.

Corporal Dan Elenhof as a Medic in Afghanistan

May 9, 2014
Jake Warga

In addition to the physical objects Corporal Elenhof carries on his person, he also says he brings with him a sense of hospitality. "You know, just working every day with a foreign culture," he said, "definitely that culture rubs off on you. In Afghan culture, hospitality is a huge part of it. I'm definitely going to be carrying home a lot of that."

Jake Warga

Specialist Lackey carries with him the remains of his father in a small urn around his neck. 

U.S. Army / Creative Commons

Inspired by Tim O’Brien’s Vietnam War book The Things They Carried, journalist Jake Warga set out to document some of the physical objects and emotional memories carried by U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan. Jake recently joins us to talk about the series, The Things They Carry: U.S. Soldiers in Afghanistan, which will begin airing as part of our Coming Home Project on WNPR.

We also visit with John Moe, host of the public radio show Wits. He's in Hartford this weekend to moderate the Connecticut Forum’s season finale event, Nerd Fest: Why Nerds Rule the World.

Creative Commons

UConn's School of Business is included in a ranking of the top 60 business schools for veterans. This is the second year Military Times issued the ranking after surveying 140 colleges and universities. 

glegorly/iStock / Thinkstock

A recent decision by the Connecticut Appellate Court could help local veterans who have been wrongfully terminated because of their military service.

Harriet Jones / WNPR

More than 40 employers took part in a hiring fair in Groton Tuesday aimed specifically at veterans. It was part of the Hiring Our Heroes campaign run by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Jaki Lauper

U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal promised to fight for a wide-reaching veterans' bill that includes restoring a cut to cost-of-living adjustments for military retirees.

The legislation, Senate bill 1950, is more than 300 pages. It includes money to help the federal VA eliminate its claims backlog, and extends the number of years that returning veterans can access VA health care. It also expands benefits for caregivers.

Courtesy of CVLC

A legal services non-profit that assists veterans has received a sizable grant to study outcomes for those getting help through the federal VA.

New Haven-based Connecticut Veterans Legal Center and its project partners in New York City received a two-year $700,000 grant from the Bristol-Meyers Squibb Foundation. 

Margaret Middleton, CVLC's Executive Director, said the non-profit entered into a first-of-its-kind medical-legal partnership with the VA Connecticut health care system four and a half years ago. 

Courtesy of Michael Zacchea

It’s been two years since the U.S. military left Iraq. Some of the deadliest fighting was in the western cities of Fallujah and Ramadi, where more than 1,400 Americans died battling Al Qaeda insurgents. This week, news broke that Al Qaeda has taken control of the cities. 

During the Christmas holiday, President Barack Obama signed a bill into law that has the potential to help more than 2,000 Iraqis. It extends the special immigrant visa program for Iraqis. 

Jason Neely

Veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and the Cold War era gathered at Fairfield University Monday night, November 11, to read from their creative writing. 

Photo provided by the Eldridge family

The VA estimates 22 veterans commit suicide each day. There’s a stigma that surrounds military suicides. When a loved one dies in this manner, grieving family and friends often don’t talk about it openly. But Joanna Gallup Eldridge of Waterford says their stories need to be heard. 

Chion Wolf

A few months ago we told you the story of an Iraqi translator for the U.S. Army who moved to Connecticut under a special immigrant visa program.

WNPR caught up with 49-year-old Falah Abdullatif on Thursday, October 31, right before his U.S. citizenship ceremony.

Early Wednesday morning, WNPR learned of the tragic death of 31-year-old Justin Eldridge of Waterford. He was a Marine who served 8.5 years in the military including a deployment to Afghanistan. 

Lucy Nalpathanchil / WNPR

Despite the federal government shutdown, there was a decrease this month in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs backlog to process veterans' disability claims. The VA said pending cases dropped by 10,000 since September 28. But this doesn't mean the pressure is off the federal department to do more.

Center for Investigative Reporting

The House Veterans Affairs Committee is holding a hearing to find out more about a shocking trend of opiate prescriptions in VA hospitals nationwide.  A report by the Center for Investigative Reporting found that since 9/11, the number of opiate prescriptions has grown 270 percent. CIR says this has contributed to the rate of overdose deaths among veterans that is double the national average.



On a Thursday, this is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm David Greene.


And I'm Steve Inskeep.

The remains of four American service members were returned yesterday to Dover Air Force Base. They were killed in Afghanistan.

Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki warned lawmakers on Wednesday that the partial government shutdown means that about 3.8 million veterans will not receive disability compensation next month.

Shinseki, in testimony before the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, said pensions to more than half a million vets or surviving spouses will also be derailed if the stalemate over a temporary spending measure drags on into late October.

The Associated Press reports:

The severely backlogged benefits office of the federal VA is about to slow down again. That's because the VA announced its furloughing nearly 10,000 VBA workers including its IT department. U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal  issued a statement today in response to the news. He said many of the employees are veterans themselves.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

The national unemployment rate for veterans has improved in recent years, hovering around the civilian rate of seven percent. At the height of the recession, returning Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans were unemployed at nearly double the rate of non-veterans. A host of programs have been created to help former servicemembers support themselves after their military service ended. 

Adithya Sambamurthy / The Center for Investigative Reporting

A new report by the Center for Investigative Reporting found that since 9/11, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has prescribed opiates at an alarming rate. Between 2001 and 2012, the number of opiate prescriptions has grown 270 percent. CIR says this has contributed to the rate of overdose deaths among veterans that is double the national average.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Homeless veterans have told the VA  that one of their top needs is finding legal assistance. The Connecticut Veterans Legal Center in New Haven is one organization that fills this need.  Now the non-profit is working to build a network of similar legal service providers.