VA: The Human Cost of War

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Explore the history of the Department of Veterans Affairs, from the troubled beginnings of the Veterans Bureau of the 1920s to the modern VA system. Learn details of this vast, crucial American institution: its successes, failures and need for reforms.

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About the Film

This hour-long documentary film explores the history of the Department of Veterans Affairs, from the troubled beginnings of the Veterans Bureau of the 1920s, to the modern VA system. The film chronicles, in depth and often wrenching detail, the workings of this crucial but at times beleaguered American institution.

"VA: The Human Cost of War" explores what it does and how it functions, its vast size and critical importance, and its history and provenance — how and why it came into existence, how and why it has changed over time, how it has come to be broken in critical ways in recent generations and how it may be reformed going forward.

Told through a series of personal stories from veterans and intertwined with deep historical and political analysis from leading scholars and elected officials, the film illustrates the key ways in which the VA, and we as a society, fail our veterans, who, according to Department of Veterans Affairs research, continue to commit suicide at the harrowing rate of 20 veterans per day.

The program features interviews with key figures such as: Dr. David J. Shulkin, U.S. Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs; Beto O'Rourke, U.S. Representative, Texas’ 16th District, Member of the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs; Paul Rieckhoff, First Lieutenant U.S. Army, Ret., Founder & CEO of IAVA; Seth Moulton, Officer Marine Corps, Ret. U.S. Representative, Massachusetts’ 6th District; Linda J. Bilmes, Daniel Patrick Moynihan Senior Lecturer in Public Policy, Harvard University; and Jean and Howard Somers, the parents of Daniel Somers, a retired Army Intelligence Officer who served during Operation Iraqi Freedom and committed suicide on June 10, 2013.

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