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My St. Louis VA, Part 1: ‘Hoops & Cracks’

Laurie Ootey is pictured with her husband, Donald Ootey.  Donald Ootey died in 2015.
Monica Ramirez | St. Louis Public Radio
Laurie Ootey is pictured with her husband, Donald Ootey. Donald Ootey died in 2015.

The number of veterans seeking care from the VA has shot up in the last few years but across the country, the number of medical staff available to provide healthcare services has not.

A 2014 law, the Veterans Choice and Accountability Act, funneled $2.5 billion to VA medical centers for assistance in hiring more doctors, nurses and other medical staff. However, an investigation by NPR and local member stations conducted earlier this year found that wait times have not improved.

Tim Yandell, 53, served in the United States Army for eight years as a Morse Code Interceptor.
Credit Monica Ramirez | St. Louis Public Radio
Tim Yandell, 53, served in the United States Army for eight years as a Morse Code Interceptor.

In St. Louis, it wasn’t until fall 2016 that the VA St. Louis Health Care System got its first permanent director since June 2013. Before the 2016 appointment, the local VA health care system had eight interim directors.

On Wednesday’s St. Louis on the Air, we heard the first of a three part series about local veterans and their journeys to receive medical care.

Along with assistance from production engineer Aaron Doerr, the series is hosted by Monica Ramirez, a post-9/11 U.S. Army veteran and Mission Continues fellow.

Founded by Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens, The Mission Continues works to empower veterans who are adjusting to life at home. Ramirez, a former combat correspondent for the military, served a Mission Continues fellowship with St. Louis Public Radio.

Part 1

We take a journey with local veterans and their families as they make their way through the St. Louis VA system.

The first part, through sound-rich narration and storytelling, follows veterans and their families as they wade through what they say is a complicated benefits application process where some feel they’re required to jump through hurdles in order to get the care they need.


Veterans Crisis Line: Call 1-800-273-8255 or text 838255

Music heard in this piece:

  • Moon Maiden (Golden Curles)
  • Vikings In The Attic (Arms Of Tripoli)
  • Falling, Catching (Agnes Obel)
  • Start Shootin’ (Little People)
  • Philharmonics (Agnes Obell)
  • Aom (Mouse On The Keys)
  • The Day I Tried To Live (Soundgarden)
  • Sailing To Nowhere (Broken Bells)
  • Ellipsis (Adult Fur)

St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Mary EdwardsAlex Heuer and Lara Hamdan give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region.

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Aaron’s first glimpse into the world of audio production came during his high school band practices in the 90’s when they recorded themselves for reference and, later, for early social media websites - think Myspace and Napster. But as the oldest child with access to the family video camera it was actually in the late 80’s when Aaron first began playing with video production experimenting with perspective illusions, stop and start techniques and sound effects in homemade videos with siblings and friends. The fun he had as a kid got serious in college when a Practicum in Radio class at UMSL introduced him to the professional world of radio and audio production - right here at 90.7 KWMU.

Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org.