Coming Home Project

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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. 

Courtesy of South Park Inn

This month, the federal government awarded the state $1.46 million dollars from the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development and the VA. The grants are known as HUD VASH and they're used to help veterans avoid homelessness.

The housing voucher program has existed for four years. Since then more than 400 vouchers were allocated to housing authorities across the state to help chronically homeless veterans, including women veterans with children.

Traumatic brain injury or TBI has been called the signature injury of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Defense Department data indicates more than 233,000 veterans have been diagnosed with at least a mild brain injury. But the number is even higher because not all veterans seek help. A non-profit and the VA have partnered to offer support to these servicemembers in Connecticut.

March 23, 2012-An analysis of Department of Defense records shows that hundreds of veterans have been wrongfully discharged since 2008. The Vietnam Veterans of America allege that service members were incorrectly diagnosed with “personality disorder.”

Chion Wolf

In late January, the city of St. Louis did something unusual. Actually, in the America of 2012 it was more than was extraordinary...they held a parade to honor those who fought in Iraq.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Thousands of troops are home from Iraq - and soon from Afghanistan - to a country that, in many ways, barely noticed they were gone. These wars have been fought at such a distance from a public that was told to “go shopping” to support a war effort, that we don’t have the impact of similar returns from Vietnam or World War 2.

Returning To Iraq

Mar 14, 2012
USAG-Humphreys (Flickr Creative Commons)

Roman Baca entered the U.S. Marine Corps in 2000 and was eventually deployed to Iraq. He returned to Connecticut and struggled to adjust to civilian life. He finally found purpose in his dance. Baca started the Exit 12 Dance Company and is the artistic director there. He’s getting ready to embark on a trip back to Iraq later this month where he will teach dance to local children there.

Chion Wolf

Today we'll profile an interesting program happening at Central Connecticut State University within the English Department.  It’s in collaboration with the “Veteran’s Project” which is putting together a “Welcome Home” event on March 31 at the Armory in Hartford. English professor Mary Collins is working with her creative writing students to tell Veteran's stories.

Photo by Chion Wolf

A 2004 law requires a certain percentage of federal contracting dollars to go to small businesses owned by service disabled veterans. But a recent inspector's report from the Department of Defense finds that in 2010, more than two dozen contracts were awarded to companies that weren't eligible.  

Courtesy of The National Guard

Governor Dannel Malloy and other governors signed a letter to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta voicing their concern with the DOD's proposed budget, specifically disproportionate cuts facing Air National Guard units. WNPR's Lucy Nalpathanchil reports on how the budget will impact Connecticut's force.

Major General Thad Martin of the Connecticut National Guard anticipates there will be no reduction of the 1144 Guardsmen and women who serve with Bradley's 103rd Airlift Wing.  The Defense Department releases firm numbers on Tuesday.

Business Boot Camp Gives Veterans A New Start

Mar 1, 2012

The pullout of American troops in Iraq and those returning from Afghanistan have brought many service members back to their families and into the civilian job market.

While there is a new law that offers incentives to employers who hire them, many veterans across the country are trying to start their own businesses. A rigorous, free program started at Syracuse University is giving them the tools to be their own boss.

Connecticut Veterans Legal Center

The General Assembly's Veterans Committee is considering a bill that could strengthen programs to keep veterans out of jail. Veterans who have served in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars face a variety of challenges when they return home including physical and mental health issues. 

Black Knights Services

A version of this story aired on NPR's "All Things Considered" on February 29, 2012

A few months ago, WNPR reported on a unique training program for veterans at the University of Connecticut. A consortium of business schools run The Entreprenuership Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities, which teaches veterans to be their own boss.

As part of our Coming Home project, WNPR's Lucy Nalpathanchil follows up with an EBV grad who is now a small business-owner.

Unemployed veterans hope new tax credit initiatives at the state and federal levels will help them find jobs. Some Connecticut businesses say they’re just waking up to the opportunity.

Courtesy of Flickr CC by Copepodo

Veterans who are students at the University of Connecticut at Storrs will come back from winter break to a space just for them. It's called OASIS, or Operation Academic Support for Incoming Servicemembers.

The idea goes back to 2007, when the state Department of Veterans Affairs decided servicemembers who enrolled in college needed a place on campus where they could seek out support as they transitioned back to civilian life.

Photo by Tyler Antrim

A lot of attention has been paid lately to troops coming home from Iraq now that the war is over. 

But thousands of soldiers who have served post 9-11 are home already and many continue to struggle in civilian life.  One of these struggles is combating suicidal thoughts.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs finds that eighteen veterans die by suicide each day. In Connecticut, Commissioner of Veterans Affairs, Linda Schwartz says in the last year, an estimated fourteen veterans in the state committed suicide. But she stresses suicide is often underreported.

A University of Connecticut professor has been studying two treatment therapies for post traumatic stress disorder. The study focuses on the military community which sees a disproportionate number of PTSD cases.

Families who have lost a loved one killed while serving their country were honored today at the State Capitol. It's the second year for the ceremony organized by the Connecticut Fallen Heroes Foundation 

Returning Home

Nov 11, 2011
HarshLight / Creative Commons

Last month, President Barack Obama announced the U.S. will withdraw troops from Iraq by the end of 2011. 100,000 troops have already been removed and the latest withdrawal will bring the last 40,000 home. Today, where we live, as we celebrate Veterans Day a conversation about the transition from military life to civilian life for the thousands of Veterans who have and will return from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Courtesy of South Park Inn

After a decade of wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan, more young veterans are back from combat with nowhere to live. New numbers just released from the federal VA and HUD find in the last year, 13,000 homeless veterans were between the ages of 18 and 30.

They make up nine percent of homeless veterans nationwide but their numbers are only expected to rise as troop drawdowns continue.  In Connecticut, there are anywhere from 3,000 to 4,000 veterans who are homeless each day.

Courtesy of Friends of Fisher House Connecticut

Most people have heard of Ronald McDonald houses that provide a place for sick children and their families to stay while seeking medical treatment. But chances are you haven't heard of a Fisher House. Now there's an effort to build one in West Haven.

Courtesy of Flickr CC by Ars Electronica

Airdate: October 17, 2011 A recent Pew Center study of U.S military in the post 9-11 era found 37 percent of veterans suffer from post traumatic stress. For those diagnosed with PTSD and who are getting care at a VA facility, one of the treatments used is Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing or EMDR. It's therapy to resolve trauma related disorders.

Veterans who have served in the last decade are eligible for benefits under the Post 9-11 GI bill. As WNPRs Lucy Nalpathanchil reports, recent changes to the bill will help veterans pay for vocational training.

Under the current GI bill, veterans can get all or part of their college tuition paid for depending on years of military service. But not all veterans chose four-year schools.

There are several thousand veterans in the community college system in Connecticut. David Welsh is a Veterans Advisor at Tunxis Community College in Farmington.

US Navy photo by (SCW) F. Julian Carroll

A briefing with a three star Army General was the first order of business Tuesday at the journalists conference at Ft Leavenworth. Lieutenant General William B Caldwell was all set to appear before us via video teleconference from Afghanistan but technology got in the way. The link up didn't work properly so he spoke with reporters using the old fashioned telephone conference.

Lucy Nalpathanchil

It's Military 101 on the first official day of the journalists conference at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Inside Lewis and Clark Hall, men and some women stream through wearing the Army combat uniforms: tan, grey and green camouflage that blends well in the desert. Occasionally, you see officers from other countries like Brazil, Botswana, and Singapore, who are also here to study at the Command and General Staff College.

Jeremy Pollack.

Recent college graduates are finding it difficult to get a job at a time when the national unemployment rate remains stagnant at nine percent. But imagine if you're a veteran just back from serving overseas. You're trying to find employment while carrying the physical and mental effects of war. A consortium of schools including the University of Connecticut are helping turn disabled veterans into small business-owners. As part of WNPR's Coming Home Project, Lucy Nalpathanchil introduces us to a entrepreneurship 'bootcamp'.

Photo by Lucy Nalpathanchil

Bridging the gap between the media and the military: that's the goal of a week-long conference hosted by the University of Kansas School of Journalism and Fort Leavenworth Combined Arms Center. Seventeen journalists including myself were accepted into the program because of our interest and backgrounds covering military issues.

More than 1,000 veterans from all over Connecticut were expected in Rocky Hill Friday for an annual event called Stand Down; it's an outreach event hosted by the state Department of Veteran Affairs to help veterans in need. Stand Down is in its 16th year, an event VA Commissioner Linda Schwartz looks forward to every year. Here, she is welcoming nursing students who volunteered at the event. "Hey, hey!' 'Hi Commish.' 'It's the Yale School of Nursing!"

Veterans are among college students heading back to class this fall. At the University of Connecticut, more than 400 students have military experience. They're considered non-traditional students given the fact many enroll after multiple deployments. WNPR's Lucy Nalpathanchil reports on one way campuses are working to accommodate their needs. 

The U.S Department of Labor says nearly 12 percent of veterans who've served since 9-11 were unemployed last year. Twenty-five percent of them have service-related disabilities. The number of unemployed is expected to grow now that more veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan are returning to a country trying to recover from the recession.  A small program by Congress aims to help veterans get back into the workforce. 

Many veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan have suffered some type of brain injury. In 2009, the U.S Department of Defense found up to 90,000 troops had traumatic brain injuries. They require specialized care to regain such skills as concentration and memory. As WNPR's Lucy Nalpathanchil reports, the VA hospital in Connecticut is one of several in the country that will participate in a clinical trial to help these veterans.