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VA Turns to Social Networking Sites to Help Vets

By Joyce Kryszak

http://stream.publicbroadcasting.net/production/mp3/wbfo/local-wbfo-833861.mp3

VA Web

Buffalo, NY – The Department of Veterans Affairs is reaching out to returning veterans with social networking. The VA has launched a new web site with blogs, and links to Face Book and You Tube.

Since Vietnam, the VA has struggled to meet the needs of returning vets. Many veterans of the two continuing wars say they've come back to inadequate services and poor support. Lack of funding for the VA was certainly one of the problems. But even as more money has trickled into the system, vets say there's been a disconnect. The Department hopes the new web site will help change that.

The VA's You Tube link featuresshort pieces profiling returning vets, VA services, and celebrity messages. The FaceBook link has links to fans and photos. So far all the posts and videos are produced by the VA. But Buffalo VA spokesperson Evangeline Conley says vets can submit their own for consideration. Conley says it's all part of a stepped-up effort to help vets reconnect.

But the interaction goes both ways. Veterans can leave their own blog on the site for others to read and comment. Some blogs up on the site now are critical of VA. Conley says the communication is authentic -- but closely monitored.

One veteran's brother blogged about the vet's violent attacks and suicidal comments. An editor's response let the public know that the blogger was contacted and that suicide prevention staff are now providing services to the veteran. Conley says making sure those lines of communication are open is a primary goal.

Veterans and their families can find the hotline and other links on the VA web site for returning veterans.

Click the audio player above to hear Joyce Kryszak's story now or use your podcasting software to download it to your computer or iPod.