The Chicago Sun Times has been brave enough to defy the usual press silence on Veterans Affairs. Through the years even large rallies with intelligent, informed speakers have been boycotted by the Press. Those few who attend have to surrender their stories to the Editor's axe. Thomas Jefferson said:
“Our liberty cannot be guarded but by the freedom of the press, nor that be limited without danger of losing it.”

WOUNDED WARRIORS: A Special Series of articles on treatment of Veterans

ABOUT THE SERIES: The Chicago office of the federal Veterans Affairs agency consistently awards less disability pay to disabled vets than do VA offices elsewhere. With more wounded soldiers surviving today, the problem is likely to get worse as more return from Iraq, reporters Cheryl L. Reed and Lori Rackl found.

Illinois' wounded vets paid less
Illinois vets each receive thousands of dollars a year less in disabilty pay, on average, than vets from other states and U.S. territories.
The top three:
1. Puerto Rico: $11,607
2. New Mexico: $10,851
3. Maine: $10,842
The bottom three:
50. Illinois: $6,802
51. Michigan: $6,733
52. Ohio: $6,710
SOURCE: 2003 VA annual benefits report

Who decides what wounded vets get?

In Illinois, military veterans' disability claims are decided by 31 raters in the Chicago regional office of the Department of Veterans Affairs, based on medical, military and personnel records.
To appeal, vets can ask for a review by one of nine regional review officers or by one of 300 attorneys and law judges on the Board of Veterans Appeals in Washington potentially a years-long process.
Any further appeals go first to the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, which currently has six judges and then on to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit and, finally, the U.S. Supreme Court.

State's wounded vets at bottom for benefits
December 3, 2004
BY CHERYL L. REED Staff Reporter

"It shouldn't have taken this long," Faris said. "My father is 73 years old. He should have been getting benefits the day he got discharged. Why don't they tell them what they're entitled to? They just deny and deny and hope you give up."

Nearby states play it cheap with disabled vets
December 6, 2004
BY CHERYL L. REED Staff Reporter

That fact, revealed in a Chicago Sun-Times article last week, sparked Illinois politicians Friday to demand investigations into why the federal VA office in Chicago was one of the stingiest in the country. On Saturday, Mayor Daley joined the chorus of politicians seeking a VA review, including Gov. Blagojevich and U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.).

Hastert jumps into vets scandal
December 10, 2004
BY CHERYL L. REED Staff Reporter

In 2000, a VA doctor diagnosed Vargas with post-traumatic stress disorder and told him not to return to his job as a mechanic at a nuclear power plant. But Chicago raters told him he couldn't prove he ever saw combat and continued to deny his claim.

Vets at meeting say VA ducking questions
December 22, 2004
BY CHERYL L. REED Staff Reporter

Some of the most disturbing testimony came from Korean War veteran George Baxter, 74, who was a prisoner of war. Baxter was shot twice, his right leg was amputated and his left leg was deformed by repeated military surgeries to repair severe frostbite he suffered in the mountains of Korea. . . Part of Baxter's challenge was that VA raters kept insisting that Baxter's mangled left foot was a genetic deformity.

VA 'wakes up,' sends vet $18,144
February 4, 2005
BY CHERYL L. REED Staff Reporter

Ciancanelli's fight with the Chicago VA office was detailed in a Dec. 26 article that also disclosed the agency's Chicago office has ranked among the stingiest in the nation for more than 70 years.

A soldier's Easter story
March 27, 2005

BY CHERYL L. REED Staff Reporter

"They promised additional security that day, and it never showed up," Williamson said, his voice rising as he remembered leaving Baghdad on Easter morning to deliver fuel to Marines in Fallujah.

"They said: 'You're going to have to go without it.' You don't argue orders, so you go without it...."

VA chief touts S. Side shelter

April 23, 2005
BY CHERYL L. REED Staff Reporter

"While they once survived the ravages of battlefield, they now survive the trauma of the streets," Nicholson said of the nation's 200,000 homeless veterans, about 18,000 of whom live in the Chicago area.

Data contradict VA's explanation on disparity in veterans' benefits
May 31, 2005
Knight Ridder Newspapers