- About CIR
When we published our interactive map of the Department of Veterans Affairs’ backlog of disability benefits claims in August, our goal was to highlight the delays’ impact on veterans across the country. Updated with new data from the VA each week, the map also serves as an ongoing accountability tracker for the agency’s progress on the backlog, which it has pledged to eliminate by 2015.
Eight months after the map’s launch, the backlog has dropped slightly, but delays have worsened – and a wealth of journalists and media outlets have cited our data analysis on the issue. We have helped many of them localize the story for their communities: From newspapers to public radio stations and local nonprofit journalism shops, organizations around the U.S. have used our reporting and analysis to create powerful stories about the plight of their local veterans.
Today, we’re going a step further.
We’re excited to announce a new API (application programming interface) for the backlog-related data we’ve gathered, which is open and available for anyone to use. If you use this data in any way, you must credit the Center for Investigative Reporting in your product with a link back to our website at cironline.org. You can access the API through our page on GitHub. We would love to see developers and data analysts explore new ways to visualize and localize the information.
Here’s a list of the data available in the API:
Our new data dashboard, fueled by the API, offers an easy way to see, share and embed data from each of the individual regional offices. Find your nearest office to see a trend line of the disability claims backlog at that location. Each of these graphs can be quickly embedded on any website and will be updated each week with new data from the VA. See an example of the new, embeddable charts below.
Help us localize this story
Along with the API, we’re also launching a new initiative. We want to collect at least one veteran’s story from each of the 58 regional offices to feature on our map. And we’re already off to a strong start, thanks to the work of reporter Aaron Glantz and news organizations across the country. On our map, you’ll see some offices have a red border around them. Click those to explore veterans’ experiences reported by our partners. For offices that don’t have a red border, we need a veteran’s story for that area. That’s where you come in. Here are the ways to get involved:
If you’re a veteran willing to share your experience applying for disability benefits: Please take a few minutes to fill out this Public Insight Network form to tell reporters more.
If you’re a news organization interested in using our data and/or localizing the story: Get in touch. We’d love to feature a link to your story from the corresponding regional office data point on our map. We’ve also heard from dozens of veterans who have written to us about their experiences and could potentially put you in touch if you're looking for a source. We're working on a better way to connect journalists with local veteran sources, but you can email Cole Goins in the meantime to learn more: firstname.lastname@example.org.
One note about what we’re looking for in local stories: They don’t all have to be about the problems veterans are facing with their disability claims. We’re also looking for bright spots. How did VA benefits help a disabled veteran? Is your regional office improving; how? We’re hoping that a diversity of stories and experiences can help us highlight both problems and potential solutions.
Today is just the start of this new initiative, so expect more in the weeks to come. We’ll also be sharing our reporting and stories on veterans’ disability claims on Twitter with the hashtag #VAbacklog. Feel free to tweet us using that hashtag to share questions, comments or insights.