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VA Web Site Links Returning Vets to Social Networking

By Joyce Kryszak

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 have 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 has been a disconnect. The Department hopes the new web site will help change that.

The You Tube link takes vets to a page with short 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 said vets can submit their own for consideration. Conley said it is 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 where others can read it and leave comments. Some blogs up on the site now are critical of VA. Conley said the communication is authentic - but closely monitored.

"It is a little bit of risk-taking for VA," said Conley.

But Conley said the comments allow to find out about problems and address them. That has already happened in at least one case. 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 suicide hotline and other links at US Department of Veterans Affairs.

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.