Prompted by the Phoenix scandal three years ago, a team of journalism professors and students at the University of Arkansas took a hard look at the Veterans Health Care System of the Ozarks, and they're giving it a good grade.

But the semester-long investigation does highlight two devastating trends surrounding veterans' and their quality of life.

As part of an ongoing collaboration, students and professors in the Walter J. Lemke Department of Journalism have teamed up with Arkansas Public Media and partner radio station KUAF to publish a series of reports and broadcast the findings.

More Arkansas Veterans Face Suicide Risk, Homelessness

Dec 18, 2017
Erin McGuinness

Seated in the middle of a crowded room, David King, a homeless Army veteran, belted out lyrics to a gospel song.


“Oh God, you're not done with me yet,” he sang from the song “Redeemed” by Big Daddy Weave. “I am redeemed. You set me free.”


Between their bites of hot dogs and chocolate chip cookies, other homeless patrons at the Seven Hills (or 7hills) Homeless Center in Fayetteville shouted at him to be quiet, but King continued.

King, 54, is one of at least 195 homeless veterans in Fayetteville, where the number of homeless vets has grown 34 percent (from 146) in 2015, according to data provided by the Community and Family Institute at the University of Arkansas.

Jacqueline Froelich / ARKANSAS PUBLIC MEDIA

Vietnam veteran James Kaelin stands on a dirt road staring into an empty scrub forest once part of Fort Chaffee, a U.S. Army Training camp east of Fort Smith, Arkansas. 

“They won’t even admit to this being a test site to anybody,” Kaelin says. “But I have information showing the Army tested Agent Orange, Agent White and Agent Blue on seven different locations on Fort Chaffee in 1966 and 1967 without knowledge to the general public. It was top secret.”


On a blistering Monday afternoon in July, retired U.S. Army Staff Sgt. George Hollingsworth sat down with Hot Springs Village Voice managing editor Jeff Meek to talk about the Vietnam War.

"I hope this," Hollingsworth said, meaning Ken Burns' The Vietnam War, and perhaps his own small part here on this set, "could start a national dialogue again about America, not only its tendency to war, but its tendency to govern in a dishonest fashion."

Jacqueline Froelich / Arkansas Public Media

U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin in early June pronounced the American veterans health care system to be in “critical condition.”  One northwest Arkansas VA hospital, however, appears to be thriving, and that prompted U.S. Rep. Steve Womack (R-3rd District) to invite Shulkin to take a look.

After an early morning tour of the Veterans Health Care System of the Ozarks in Fayetteville Monday, Shulkin, at a press conference on the grounds, characterized the forested campus facility as extraordinary.  “It is a five-star facility. That means it is the very top of performance across the country in VA’s.”