Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

Veteran homelessness in Southwest Pennsylvania is among the lowest in the nation, according to a new assessment by the Center for a New American Security and funded by the Heinz Endowments.


A new initiative will aim to reduce the number of jobless veterans in the region by coordinating existing job services for veterans with companies looking to hire.


According to a report released by the Pennsylvania Center for Workforce Information & Analysis last year, the unemployment rate among veterans in Allegheny County as of 2013 was 7.3 percent, which was about a third of a percent higher than the general population.

Veterans in the Pittsburgh area who are currently seeking employment can attend an exclusive job fair at Heinz Field Thursday.

James Lee / Flickr

There are roughly 1,300 homeless veterans in the state of Pennsylvania, according to a study released by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development earlier this year.

Jerry Beck, deputy adjutant general for veterans affairs in Pennsylvania, said the Wolf administration wants to reduce this number by 550 by the end of the year.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

When U.S. Air Force veteran Nadine Nowlin got into a major car accident in 2012, her entire life changed.

“I lost my job, my apartment, my car and more importantly my health and my self-esteem, my dignity and my pride, because here I am homeless,” she said.

Nowlin is one of the thirty female veterans to receive emergency housing through the Veterans Leadership Program of Western Pennsylvania’s Project Journey for Women over the last two years.

An event on Wednesday night at Veterans Place of Washington Boulevard will have assistors on hand to help veterans sign up for health insurance options available under the Affordable Care Act.

The event is co-hosted by Get Covered America.

If veterans earn less than 138 percent of the Federal Poverty Level — which is $16,243 for a single person or $33,465 for a family of four — they may be eligible to enroll in Health Choices, Pennsylvania’s Medicaid program, as well as keep their VA benefits.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

Once a futuristic pipe dream, video calls are now so commonplace they not only help family and friends feel more connected, but allow medical professionals reach patients that in the past either would not have been seen or would have had to travel hundreds of miles for treatment.

One of the largest users of telemedicine is the VA Pittsburgh Health System.

For the last several years, a nationwide effort to connect veterans with a multitude of services has been growing; in September Stand Down Pittsburgh is holding its 8th annual event.

“What Stand Down is is the community’s attempt to work with the homeless veteran population, in this case within Pittsburgh and Allegheny County, and really try to provide respite services as well as connections to potential services that veterans who are homeless or near homeless may not be aware of,” said Jesse Rodriguez, chief development and finance officer with the Veterans Leadership Program of Western Pennsylvania.

State Sen. John Sabatina (D-Philadelphia) is urging the Senate to take action before a program that provides a financial benefit to Gulf War veterans expires at the end of August.

State legislature isn’t scheduled to officially reconvene until Sept. 21. 

“[I’m] asking the Senate to come back prior to Aug. 31 and pass this no-brainer of a bill so that the veterans don’t have a lapse in benefits,” Sabatina said.

A Pennsylvania law in effect last month mandates that state-related or state-owned institutions of higher learning must offer in-state tuition to active-duty military, veterans and their dependents even if they don't reside in Pennsylvania.

The Community College of Allegheny County is hosting an open house for those directly affected by the change from 2 to 7 p.m. at all four of its campuses Thursday to showcase how the college can work with these families. 

CCAC North Library / flickr


  In 2013, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported on the expected influx of members of the military in classrooms under the GI Bill. Our guests experienced that transition first hand. Dwight Boddorf, Marine veteran and director of veterans services at the Community College of Allegheny County, joined fellow former Marine Theo Collins, executive producer of the documentary Project 22, in the studio to address how colleges and universities are accommodating veterans.

AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar

President Barack Obama on Tuesday called the Legionella-related deaths of six veterans at a Pittsburgh VA hospital a “tragedy.”

“Whenever there are any missteps, there is no excuse,” Obama told thousands of veterans at the annual Veterans of Foreign Wars convention at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in downtown Pittsburgh.

The next 15 years of continued technological advances and planned investment in American energy infrastructure will create some 1.5 million new energy jobs, according to U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, who was in Pittsburgh on Friday to launch a partnership aimed at filling some of those positions with local veterans.

CCAC North Library

Dwight Boddorf thought he was going to make a career out of the military. But when he was medically discharged after an encounter with an improvised explosive device in Iraq, he said he wanted to switch gears and move as far away from the military as possible.

He now works in education as the director of military and veterans services at the Community College of Allegheny County.

State Senators Matt Smith (D-Allegheny) and Randy Vulakovich (R–Allegheny) are calling on Pennsylvania business owners to help house homeless veterans.

The senators are reintroducing legislation to amend the Neighborhood Assistance Tax Credit Program (NAP), which provides a tax credit to businesses in exchange for monetary contributions to neighborhood-based housing and community improvement initiatives.

The tax credit is worth between 55 and 80 percent of the business’s contribution.

One of the challenges many veterans face when they re-integrate into civilian life is finding a job. Though many veterans operate heavy machinery, drive specialty vehicles or perform other specialized duties, additional training and testing is required before they can get a job outside the military. A bill introduced in the state House would change that.

A few dozen veterans gathered at the VA Pittsburgh Hospital in Oakland Friday to discuss any and all concerns they may have about the system.

“It’s a really wide variety of subjects that come up,” said VA Pittsburgh spokesman Mike Marcus, “anything from changes to benefits, healthcare – different pieces that come up around that – as well as questions that come up around some of the controversies that have plagued the VA over the last year or so.”

More than 60 percent of Allegheny County’s impoverished residents live in suburban neighborhoods, according to a 2013 report by the Brookings Institution, and veterans make up about 33 percent of Pittsburgh’s homeless population.

Those are just two of the reasons why the United Way of Allegheny County announced Wednesday that the nonprofit will expand several programs over the next three years to improve the quality of life for struggling families, women and veterans in the region.

Courtesy photo

Ryan Ahl enlisted in the Pennsylvania Army National Guard in 2002 and was eventually commissioned as a second lieutenant.

Ahl said his fondest memories from two deployments to Iraq were the days spent occupying observational posts and knowing he had the support of his fellow soldiers.

“You’re in a war zone and you’re with three of your closest buddies and anything could happen," he said. "And it normally did.”

Ahl said he feels part of something bigger than himself. He has gained a respect for freedom and understanding of other cultures through his service.

The Department of Veterans Affairs has fired the director of the Pittsburgh VA Healthcare System a month after the department says internal investigators determine she committed unspecified "conduct unbecoming a senior executive."

Purple Hearts: the Legacy of an Historic Medal

Nov 11, 2014
patries71 / Flickr

Purple Heart recipient Captain Zachariah Fike has been helping to return lost medals to the families of their rightful owners. Since 2012 this founder of Purple Hearts Reunited has devoted his spare time to researching and repairing the medals. He joins us to discuss his work and the history of the Purple Heart.

Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) said when it comes to honoring veterans, speeches and parades are nice, but effective government services are vital.

He’s calling on his fellow lawmakers to pass the 21st Century Veterans Benefits Delivery Act, introduced in March, which would modify guidelines concerning the fulfillment of disability claims.

According to Casey, the average wait time for a claim at the Pittsburgh Veterans Affairs Regional Office, or VARO, is 231 days. In Philadelphia, it’s 266 days, and the nationwide average is 240 days.

The Allegheny Conference on Community Development launched a job search website Monday designed to connect veterans with energy and manufacturing opportunities in the region.

The Service to Opportunity initiative, which is free for veterans and employers, allows vets to upload their resumes and helps connect them with career opportunities based on their individual skill set.

Courtesy photo

In 1999, Lisa and Sumner Bemis met at a bar during a Penguins hockey game. She was intrigued by his unusual name, “and the fact that he had a Camaro," recalled Lisa.

"I loved muscle cars, " she said, "so it worked.”

Less than three years later they were married. After the Sept. 11 terror attacks happened Sumner was deployed as part of the National Guard and was in Iraq from 2005-2006. When he returned, Lisa was overjoyed to have him back. But she said he was a different person.

A workshop held in the North Hills on Friday provided mental health training to clergy and social workers who work with veterans.

Lt. Colonel Michele Papakie has been in the Air Force for 28 years. She’s the Inspector General at the 171st Air Refueling Wing of the Pennsylvania Air National Guard.

She spoke to clergy and social workers about her deployments and what she has seen in her colleagues as well as her grandfather, father and son who have all served in the military.

Veteran Stories: Project 4-1-2 Kicks Off This Week

Oct 6, 2014
Courtesy photo

This week, in partnership with the Community Leadership Course for Veterans (CLCV), WESA begins airing Veterans’ Stories: Project 4-1-2. This is part of a community impact project created by Leadership Pittsburgh to expose post 9/11 veterans to networks and opportunities for service and enhancement of their leadership skills.

Joining us to discuss their role in this initiative are former U.S. Army Sergeant James Yauger, who works with VetAdvisor to help veterans transition to civilian life; and Lieutenant Ariana Pourmonir Mohnke, U.S. Coast Guard.

Project 22 Explores the Issue of Suicide Among Veterans

Oct 6, 2014
Theo Collins

According to the Veteran’s Administration, it is estimated 22 veterans commit suicide every day. This sobering fact served as the impetus for the documentary Project 22.

The film chronicles the journey of two combat-wounded veterans across America. They traveled the country to speak with veterans who had contemplated, or attempted suicide, as well as researchers and healthcare providers. Joining us to discuss the film is Theo Collins, a law student at Duquesne University, a Marine Corps veteran and an associate producer of the film.

Short Film 'Home Range' Follows a Veteran's Troubled Homecoming

Oct 6, 2014

Inspired by 1978’s “The Deer Hunter,” writer/director Natalia Kaniasty shot the short film “Home Range” in her hometown of Indiana, PA.

The narrative follows Bobby Novak, a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan who returns home to Western Pennsylvania while his best friend from childhood does not. Bobby must struggle to adjust to civilian life and re-assimilate into his community. Kaniasty joins us to discuss the process of crafting an emotional narrative in her own backyard. 

Created, Produced by Area Veterans, Series Spotlights Military Experience

A unique series of broadcast interviews created and produced by a group of Pittsburgh-area active-duty military personnel and veterans will air on 90.5 WESA every Tuesday starting October 7 through Veterans Day (November 11). Segments will air during Morning Edition and All Things Considered.

Marcus Charleston

In September of 1914, 250 veterans from across the U.S. and its territories gathered at the Schenley Hotel in Pittsburgh to form what would become the largest veterans’ advocacy group in the nation, the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW).

The hotel is now the William Pitt Union, but former military members and public officials are assembling there once again to mark the organization's centennial.

“The people can feel that the community supports veterans around here,” Matt Hannan, president of Pitt-Vets, said, “but they don’t understand the legacy of what the veterans have committed to the community and contributed and that that legacy continues.”