Story feed: Veterans wait in line on disability claims

Jeff Severns Guntzel
Senior reporter
Public Insight Network
Samara Freemark
Public Insight Network
Jeff Jones
Engagement Editor
Public Insight Network
Melody Ng
Public Insight Network
Meg Martin
Associate editor
Public Insight Network

American troops are returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan only to wait in line, joining a growing queue of veterans seeking compensation — payments and other support — from the Department of Veterans Affairs for service-related disabilities. [See our ongoing coverage of veterans' health issues here.]

Across the country, local VA offices are struggling to process the backlog of more than 800,000 disability benefits claims. It can take months — sometimes more than a year — for veterans to find out how much, if at all, they’ll be compensated for health issues related to their service.

Here, we share stories from veterans, the people who love them and the organizations, including the VA, who are working to help them navigate life after combat.


STORY FEED: AFTER COMBAT, A WAIT [full coverage here]
Fall/winter 2012

AUDIO, PHOTO and STORY | Financial relief for military families

Arizona is one of a handful of states with a relief fund that offers emergency grants to help vulnerable service members, veterans and their families. Learn how the fund became a financial stopgap for one young veteran as he waited more than a year on his disability claim.
Reporters: Jeff Severns Guntzel, senior reporter (
Links:  Audio embed available on SoundCloud | Story and photo available at

STORY and PHOTOS | Homelessness and disability benefits

The VA has set a goal of ending veteran homelessness by 2015. But it may be too big a problem to solve. Disability payments can mean the difference between sleeping under a roof or on the street.
Reporters: Samara Freemark, producer/reporter (  | Photos by Michel Duarte for the PIN
Links: Audio embed available on SoundCloud | Story and photos available at

AUDIO SLIDESHOW, PHOTOS and STORY  |  Mixed martial arts as therapy for PTSD

A group of veterans returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — some with post-traumatic stress diagnoses — have joined a mixed martial arts club in Mesa, Ariz. They say the training helps them work off stress and aggression and relieves symptoms of their combat experience.
: Audio by Samara Freemark | Photos by Brandon Quester for the PIN  |  Produced by Meg Martin, associate editor (
Links: Story and audio slideshow available at  |  Additional audio/photo profiles at and SoundCloud



  • When people who have no experience in the military learn about your military experience, what one question do you wish they would ask that they do not?
  • How does that sentiment resonate with you?


Please credit American Public Media’s Public Insight Network ( when using these materials.

Additional crediting materials (links, images and an Insight button) are available in our Dropbox folder.


This package was produced by these members of the Public Insight Network’s national editorial team:

Jeff Severns Guntzel – reporter (, 651-290-1226)
Samara Freemark – producer/reporter  (, 651-290-1289)
Meg Martin – associate editor  (, 651-290-1055)
Jeff Jones – engagement editor (, 651-290-1274)
Melody Ng – PIN analyst (, 651-290-1499)
Kate Moos – executive producer (, 651-290-1318)



Jeff Severns Guntzel Senior reporter
Public Insight Network

Jeff Severns Guntzel has reported from the Middle East and points all over the United States for a cadre of publications and news organizations that are not usually mentioned in the same sentence, including Punk Planet Magazine, National Catholic Reporter, Village Voice Media, and GOOD. He also did time as an editor at Utne Reader.

If he could make you read three things he’s written, it would be this profile of a forensic anthropologist, this brief history of Twin Cities hair metal and this musing on Baghdad before and after the 2003 invasion.

Samara Freemark Reporter
Public Insight Network

Reporter/producer Samara Freemark joined the Public Insight Network after four years at Radio Diaries in New York City, where she spent her time helping ordinary people tell their extraordinary stories for NPR. In the process, she developed an unshakeable belief in the beauty and power of personal narrative.

Before Radio Diaries Samara worked as an environmental reporter, a posting that took her to sinking islands, Superfund sites, and literal snakepits – Burmese pythons, to be exact. She also churned out copy and tape in the newsroom of WUOM Ann Arbor. Before settling on a career in radio she tried out policy research, community organizing, and urban planning before deciding she preferred soundwaves to spreadsheets.

Jeff Jones Engagement Editor
Public Insight Network

Jeff Jones is the Engagement Editor for the Public Insight Network. He’s worked for Minnesota Public Radio/American Public Media since 2003, including producing and directing MPR’s “All Things Considered” with host Tom Crann from 2006 to 2010. He has edited hundreds of broadcast interviews, but the most memorable ones feature “regular folks” with surprising stories to tell.

Jeff strongly believes that places have stories, too. So he created MPR Sound Point, a mobile phone-based audio tour of interesting places in Minneapolis and Duluth that gives listeners a chance to “talk back” via the PIN.

Melody Ng Analyst
Public Insight Network

As a Public Insight analyst, Melody Ng's job is all about finding out what people know, and then putting their experience and expertise to work making great news stories. She's particularly interested in getting diverse perspectives and voices into the news. So if you don’t hear people who think or sound like you in the news, then: Tell us what you know here. And come on into our newsroom!

Melody got into journalism through an internship with documentary unit American RadioWorks when looking for a different way to use the skills she had learned through doing science.

Meg Martin Associate editor
Public Insight Network
Meg Martin is's associate editor. She joined the PIN crew in St. Paul, Minn., after five years in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Roanoke, Va., where she led the online/multimedia team at the Roanoke Times newspaper. She spent two years before that in St. Petersburg, Fla., at The Poynter Institute - first as a summer writing fellow and later as a fellow and editor at Poynter Online - but she'll always be a Pittsburgher at heart.