Advocacy group shares stories from veterans in claims backlog

By Daniel Moore, News21

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America on June 20 launched an  interactive database that shares the personal experiences of more than 1,700 post-9/11 veterans who are waiting — some for more than 10 years — on their disability claim to be processed.

The New York-based veteran advocacy group collected information from their members with a survey asking details about their claim, disabilities, wait time and how that wait has affected them emotionally and financially. Using the interactive, titled “The Wait We Carry,” the public can view each veteran’s response sorted by a variety of metrics, including location.

The public also may send messages to veterans to learn more of their story. Messages are sent to IAVA, which double checks with the veteran to make sure they are still open to speaking publicly.

Aminatou Sow, IAVA director of digital engagement, said the project is designed to “put a face to the big scary numbers” of the much-reported backlog of claims at VA regional offices by reaching out to all communities.

“One thing that we hear a lot from veterans is how they don’t feel heard specifically,” Sow said. “It’s one thing to say half a million people are still waiting for benefits, but the point of digital storytelling that the individual data points are as important as the aggregate.”

IAVA worked with Periscopic, an information design firm, and used a grant from the Knight Foundation to create the interactive.