U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)

Department of Veterans Affairs

A worker with the Department of Veterans Affairs has been arrested in an alleged bribery scheme that federal authorities say targeted a program meant to help disabled veterans, women and other small business owners become successful contractors.

U.S. Navy / Collections of the National Archives

The remains of a Marine from Colorado have been identified nearly 80 years after he was killed at Pearl Harbor.

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Each day about 20 veterans and active-duty service members take their own lives. It's a stubborn number that hasn't changed much since 2005. If the trend continues, 100,000 veterans and troops will have been lost to suicide by the end of this year.

Matt Bloom/KUNC

A woman with electric blonde hair and floral print pants floated among the six dancing couples, stopping only to correct a step or give praise.

“Step! Step together, step! Step! Step together, step!” she yelled over the Diana Krall song coming from a stereo in the corner of the room. “So, scoot a little instead of marching, ok?!”

The floorboards in the basement of the Masonic Temple in Fort Collins creaked beneath Sandy Newlin’s feet as she came to a stop.

Department of Veterans Affairs

For the first time the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs has released veteran suicide statistics by state. It shows Colorado’s rate at 47.1 per 100,000 people, while the national rate is 38. Overall, suicide rates are highest in Western states.

The data shows in 2014 in Colorado 178 veterans committed suicide. Almost all were men and more than 65 percent used a gun.

Grace Hood

Eighteen states allow for the use of medical marijuana to treat symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, but Colorado is not one of them. According to state health leaders, there’s not enough research available to make the case. That hasn’t stopped veterans who rely on marijuana to treat their symptoms.

One of those veterans is Denver resident Curtis Bean.

Courtesy Chris Blumenstein

Vietnam War veteran Rodger Holmes became ill in 2014, at the height of a national scandal over long patient wait times at care centers and allegations of negligence at the Department of Veterans Affairs. Holmes, who sought care for his Hepatitis C liver disease at the Grand Junction VA Health Care System, was among those to complain.  

"He lost a tremendous amount of weight," said Chris Blumenstein, who served as a VA social worker to Holmes. "He was losing his mental clarity, his mental sharpness, he couldn't remember things."

Holmes died in December 2014, but in response to concerns, the VA's national Office of Inspector General launched an investigation and released recommendations May 11, 2016.

A decade ago, plans were drawn up for a huge Veterans Affairs hospital near Denver intended to replace old and crowded facilities for nearly 400,000 vets in Colorado and neighboring states.

The original budget was $328 million, but that was totally unrealistic, the VA now acknowledges. So how much did it finally cost?

Ask Americans if someone in their family served in the military, and the answer is probably no. After all, fewer than 1 percent of Americans serve these days.

But ask if one of their grandfathers served, and you'll likely get a different answer. Between World War II and the wars in Korea and Vietnam, millions of men were drafted into service — and both men and women volunteered.

NPR — along with seven public radio stations around the country — is chronicling the lives of America's troops where they live. We're calling the project "Back at Base." This story is part of a three-part series about veteran benefits (Part 1 / Part 2).

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