Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Veterans Affairs: Policies or Politics?

In this project I will research the Veteran Affairs system. I will report on what their established policies and procedures are and how the system operates and serves. Additionally, I will read first-person accounts on peoples’ experiences with the VA system in addition to interviews I plan to set up. These first-person accounts will be informative beyond the stated policies and procedures the VA system has established. I will determine whether the VA system is heavily policy based or if it is driven by politics. Using this information I will analyze what kind of care veterans are receiving. I want to prove the importance of quality care for our veterans, by incorporating multiple disciplines.  

I will be constructing a website in which people can learn about the VA system and learn about what I conclude from my research. Additionally, if I am permitted to record my interviews with the veterans, physicians, and/or relevant personnel, those videos will be on the website. The purpose of the website is to be interactive and informative, simultaneously.

Depending on my findings, I plan to reiterate or teach the importance of interdisciplinarity in the VA system. It is important that veterans are looked at as a whole and given every aspect of care they deserve.

The fields I plan to draw from include: psychology, sociology, economics, occupational therapy, and physical therapy. They all contribute significantly. Psychology is an extremely important field for the VA system. Many veterans suffer from mental illnesses such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, commonly referred to as PTSD. Additionally, sociology helps us see how veterans fit into society and how society engages with and impacts veterans. Economics is very important in helping us see how the VA system is funded and what drives the financial contributions to veterans’ benefits. Occupational therapy is a field that I feel is very important to have integrated in veterans’ lives. Occupational therapists help people who are ill, injured, or disabled in regaining their ability to complete daily activities. Whereas physical therapy is essential for some veterans, such as helping wounded warriors recover from injuries, both acute and chronic.

Below is my anticipated timeline for various tasks that I feel are necessary to be successful in completing my project.

Begin researching VA system policy and procedures
Schedule interviews with veterans (physicians/staff as well, if possible)
Search for first-person accounts of experiences with VA system; look for news articles; begin literature search; brainstorm general outline and structure of website
Continue literature search; read articles, take notes, and work on chart; begin constructing website
Conduct scheduled interviews if not already done prior to this week; look into administering an anonymous survey at a VA center
Start piecing paper together; work on website
Work on paper; work on website
Revise paper and website for final review
Submit draft of completed paper; continue to revise paper; start screencast; finish website
Project and presentation due


  1. This is an interesting topic to do research on! I like how you are not just doing a research paper to show what you have learned and discovered about the VA system. I like how you are making a website to inform the public since I am guessing many do not know much about the VA system. My favorite aspect of this project is the interview you plan on doing with veterans, physicians, etc. Having these interviews gives your project more depth. I would love to watch these interviews you conduct to see how VA system has been a part of their lives! I am looking forward to seeing your website and all your findings!

  2. I think creating a website is a great idea for this topic! By utilizing this form of technology, you are making information on such an important easily accessible to the public, perhaps even more so than if you were just to write a paper. As I was reading your post, I thought "Man, I wish she could record her interviews," and then I got to the part where you talked about recording the interviews! Yay! I think this would be a great addition to your website. Time permitting, would you be able to try your hand at creating something documentary-esque? I'm very interested to see what you find out through your research!

  3. Hi Carly! This is an interesting project...and very timely. I am wondering how you could convince someone interested in veterans' affairs that an interdisciplinary approach is better than traditional approaches? - Dr. O'Donnell

  4. I am excited for this project, because I think it truly has the potential to interest and assist people. I think right now it feels a tiny bit broad: the VA has so many aspects to it, and I think "researching the VA" is probably not a focused enough plan. You seem to be very interested in the mental health of vets returning home after deployment. Can you focus specifically on that (maybe that is your plan, though it's not totally clear here)? I am not sure that it will be as helpful to expose or assess the VA as much as it would be to find the problems and offer solutions to vets and to the government so that services can be improved. So try to narrow your focus a bit so you can really complete the project in a comprehensive way. A agree with the Heather that the video element has the potential to be very powerful, so I am glad you will be taking a multimedia approach. I also agree with Dr. O'Donnell that there is more work to be done here to figure out how IS lays the groundwork for a project like this, and I wish you had cited more of the theory in this prospectus; maybe think about which theoretical approaches can help guide you here as you work (complexity theory? perspective taking? etc). This looks like a great start!

  5. I believe this will be a great experience for you as well as the people who will be able to utilize your website.

  6. I believe this will be a great experience for you as well as the people who will be able to utilize your website.

  7. Well, I am extremely sad because I just finished writing an entire comment on the first 4 steps of the broad model and my project and clicked 'sign out' instead of 'publish.' So here goes round two...

    First off, thank you for your kind comments. All of your feedback was extremely helpful and encouraging.

    Secondly, the first four steps to the Broad Model are:

    1) Define the problem or state the research question.
    2) Justify using an interdisciplinary approach.
    3) Identify relevant disciplines.
    4) Conduct a literature search.

    Step One:

    The VA system as a whole is very complex, however, to research the VA system would not be complex enough. Although, to research the care, or lack of, being given to veterans is a complex topic, especially when talking about PTSD. Combat-related PTSD is an extremely complex issue and is researchable in an interdisciplinary sense.
    Researching the VA System as a whole, their policies and procedures mainly, will serve as background knowledge or a base knowledge to understand the topic I am researching. My aim is to research the kind of care veterans are receiving, and then make the argument that taking an interdisciplinary approach to helping PTSD veterans would be beneficial and effective. Ultimately, we need to give veterans the quality care they deserve and that they were promised.

    Step Two:

    In the book it was stated that step two is very similar to step one, however, (especially for undergraduate projects) it should be considered as a separate step (210).

    Veteran care, specifically for military personnel who suffer from PTSD, is a complex research problem, there are multiple disciplines involved, an individual discipline can not solve the issue, and the issue is unresolved.

    Step Three:

    Initially, I immediately think of psychology and biology as being the main disciplines that are relevant to the care for veterans with PTSD. However, as I have been researching, it is very important that there is a wide variety of disciplines that impact PTSD and that should be involved in the treatment of PTSD. Conducting an official literature search will further confirm or deny disciplines that I believe to be relevant.

    Step Four:

    Conducting a literature search will be very important and beneficial in the progress of my project. It will be important and useful to observe what discipline the literature is coming from. Additionally, I need to pay attention to the quality of the literature (232). It will be essential for me to possess the attitudes covered in a previous chapter, to eliminate bias and be aware of limitations. Lastly, it will be useful to make a chart or table to organize the information I find from different literature.

    These four steps are definitely important and helpful in successfully progressing with my project!