Tag Archives: data

Making the grade: Expert tips for covering veteran education

By Jennifer-Leigh Oprihory

WASHINGTON — Veteran education is a perennially urgent issue for members of the United States military.

In order to raise awareness about barriers to veteran education and initiatives being undertaken to improve it, National Louis University and Student Veterans of America joined forces to host March 26’s “Improving Veteran Education Symposium” at the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center in Washington.

There, the Medill National Security Journalism Initiative spoke with two expert panelists (who also happen to be veterans themselves) to get the inside scoop on how the media can do a better job of covering veteran education.

Advice from Megan Everett, Northwestern University alum, Program Officer of the Veterans Program at the Robert R. McCormick Foundation and United States Navy veteran:

  • Put higher education institutions who are dropping the ball when it comes to serving veterans on blast in order to pressure them to step their games up.
    • Indicators to watch:
      • Does the school have staff members explicitly dedicated to serving veterans?
        • “We have certifying officials that work to certify the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill and do some financial aid work, but there’s no person who has ‘veteran’ in their title,” Everett said of Northwestern University, where she is currently working to improve the state of veterans’ resources on campus.
      • Do veterans have dedicated physical spaces on campus?
      • Does the school have a functional veteran service group?
      • Other data points and factors to keep an eye on
        • Veteran student recruiting
        • Veteran student retention
        • Utilization of veteran student skill sets

Advice from David Goldich, Senior Consultant at Gallup and United States Marine Corps veteran:

  • Don’t assume that very veteran’s experience is identical or make instant extrapolations about the entire military community based on a single person’s story.
    • “Realize that it’s not a monolith; it’s a mosaic, when you’re talking about veterans or the military,” he explained during the post-panel Q&A. He advised reporters to recognize how differences in areas such as military branch, employment status, gender, levels of physical ability and more impact individual experience.
  • “Connect the dots” and move from merely looking at veteran graduation rates to an analysis of “what works for who [sic] and why.”
    • “No one’s talking to each other,” he explained. “Everyone’s measuring their little own slice of the block—pie. They’ve got blinders.”
  • Questions to ask:
    • Does education lead to an improved quality of life
    • Does education lead to better employment?
    • What identifiable indicators led people to pursue higher education after their military service?
    • Find “thematic connections” between different stages of a veteran student’s life to better understand the stories behind different veteran outcomes.

The Veteran Student Continuum

Military suicides flat for first quarter of 2014

By SB Anderson

Suicides in the military were about the same in the first three months of this year compared to 2013, data from a new quarterly report from the Pentagon shows.

Data from the report by the Defense Suicide Prevention Office shows 120 suicides among active duty forces in the first quarter, two fewer than a year earlier. For the Air Force, however, suicides more than doubled, from 7 to 19. Naval reserve suicides were up sharply year-to-year, from 0 in 2013 to 5 in the first quarter of this year.

Since the end of the first quarter, reported suicides in the Navy have increased compared to a year ago and, through the end of August, were almost at the same level as full-year 2013. Monthly reports from the Navy show 40 active duty suicides wile on active duty vs. 30 a year ago, with 9 reserve suicides compared to 2 through Aug. 2013.

Through July for the Marines, there were 29 suicides reported on monthly reports, the same number as a year ago at that time. Attempted suicides were down significantly — 127 vs. 176.

Military suicides Q1 2014 v. Q1 2013SOURCE: Aggregated from Department of Defense quarterly report.

The report for the first quarter of 2014 was the second released under a new system that aimed to consolidate separate monthly reports from each service branch .The first was released earlier this summer and covered calendar year 2013.

For years, the Army each month released suicide statistics that included potential, under investigation and confirmed suicides by active duty and reserves. Those reports stopped without notice after Nov. 2013 data was released, leaving Army data for 2013 incomplete until the new quarterly reports began this summer with the release of full-year 2013 statistics. And Friday’s first quarterly report for 2014 includes the first Army data of the year; the Marines and Navy still release monthly statistics, as noted above. The Air Force had not had readily available monthly statistics.

“When you report monthly, the numbers are very unstable. It takes several months for a death investigation to be completed, which leads to confusion and isn’t helpful,” Defense Suicide Prevention Office Director Jacqueline Garrick told the ArmyTimes in a story on Friday.

Monthly VA disability claims backlog snapshot — through July 2014

By SB Anderson

Status through July of the backlog in Veterans Benefits Administration disability application processing.

Compared to rapid progress for much of the past year, progress seems to have stalled a bit this summer.

Chart and table below detail changes month-to-month, week-to-week and year-over-year.

Data is taken from the VBA’s weekly “Monday Morning Workload Reports” that track claims processing progress. We think monthly tracking is a better barometer of actual progress because it flattens out some of the temporary ups and downs the weekly reports reflect.

Weekly updates on claim processing. Image updates over time with fresh data.


End June 528,790 261,907 49.50% 158.9
End July 524,225 261,116 49.80% 160.4
Change 4,565 791 0.30 1.50
YTD Change -112,049 -127,062 -11.20 -13.4
End July 2013 733,171 485,600 66.20% 235.5

View earlier progress  summaries.

Government requests for Twitter user information soar in first half of year

By SB Anderson

Government requests for Twitter user information shot up 46% in the first half of this year — and rose even higher in the U.S.

Agencies in the U.S. made 60% of all requests Twitter received from January through June, Twitter said in its latest Transparency Report, released this week. Compared to the last 6 months of 2013, U.S. requests were up 51%, at 1,257, involving just under 2,000 accounts. At least some information was released in 72% of the U.S. cases.

The U.S., as usual, made by far the most requests of any country. Japan and Saudi Arabia were a distant second and third, with about 15% of the number of requests made by the U.S. (See table below).

Search warrants, considered the most difficult method for U.S. law enforcement to get approval for, were involved for about 1 in 4 cases. Just over half were made via subpoenas, which do not require a judge’s consent.

In a blog post related to the report, Twitter said it continues to haggle with government officials about the ability to be more transparent with the number and types of requests that come in, particularly those related to national security. But there has not been much progress, Twitter said. “We are weighing our legal options to provide more transparency to our users.”

Chart below shows global requests made

Chart below shows detail of requests made by U.S. agencies
Twitter data requests-and-types

Countries with the most requests
Twitter requests by country

Earlier stories on transparency reports.

Military suicides down a bit in 2013, but up a bit so far in 2014

By SB Anderson

Military suicides fell about 8% in 2013, final numbers release by the Pentagon today show. Decreases were across the service branches among active duty components, but were up in most reserve components (see tables below).

Suicides among Army reservists increased the most — 5% — and the suicide rate among those reservists was up nearly 20%.

The decrease in 2013 followed a sharp spike in 2012, despite troop drawdowns and a drop in casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The final 2013 data was released in what the Pentagon said would now be a new quarterly report.

The first quarterly report for 2014 has yet to be released. A U.S. Army Freedom of Information Act officer, in response to a Medill FOIA request for the 2014 and December 2013 Army suicide data filed in the Spring, said in an e-mail earlier today that the report is “currently in the last stages of approval.”

However, the AP reported today based on top-level data it obtained from the Pentagon that total suicides across military branches are up slightly in the first half of 2014 compared to 2013. “Pentagon documents show there were 161 confirmed or suspected suicides as of July 14, compared to 154 during the same time frame in 2013,” the AP reported. “Officials say that more service members are seeking help through hotlines and other aid programs,” the AP also said.

Data that Medill records based on monthly releases by the Marines and Navy show active duty Navy suicides up by 40 percent in the first six months of this year (35 vs. 25) and a larger percentage increase for reservists (6 total vs. 2 in 2013).

Data from the Marines through June shows a slight increase (28 vs. 23) in confirmed or probable suicides, and a decrease in attempted suicides (103 vs. 135).

The U.S. Army used to release suicide statistics monthly, but stopped that practice after releasing November 2013 data, and has released nothing since. The Army said it was discontinuing monthly reports so it could be in sync with the new Pentagon quarterly reports. The Navy and Marines still release monthly data; Air Force have not been readily available on anything but an annual basis.

DOD military suicides 2013

SOURCE: Department of Defense

Suicide total and rate changes

SOURCE: NSJI calculations using DOD data

Employment improvement at last for most recent veterans at mid-point of 2014

By SB Anderson

After essentially stagnating during 2013, the unemployment rate among the group of veterans who have served since 9/11 declined significantly in the first half of this year, an analysis of data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows.

National Security Zone and On the Beat have aggregated veteran’s unemployment data back to 2006. That data is available for your use via this spreadsheet.

On average from January through June, the unemployment rate among so-called “Gulf War Era II” veterans was 7.8% — a 25% drop from the 9% rate for 2013. The unemployment rate during the second quarter of this year averaged 6.4% compared to 8% in the first quarter, indicating continued positive progress as the year unfolds.

By comparison, the rate for non-veterans in the first half of this year averaged 6.4%.

An average of 175,000 post-9/11 veterans was out of work each month for the first six months of this year.

The Gulf War II veteran jobless rate remains significantly higher than the veteran population as a whole — 27% above the average 5.7% rate for all veterans in the first six months. That is a tiny bit improved over last year, when the overall 9% rate for Gulf War II veterans was just over one-third higher.

Jobless rates Gulf and All Vets