MK 354 Spring 2010

April 26, 2010

Social media to the rescue

Filed under: blog #10 — kathrynflynn @ 7:53 am

Justin Herman is a retired first lieutenant and public affairs officer in the U.S. Air Force. He, like every person who is honorably discharged, was promised a stipend to pay for his continuing education from the Department of Veteran’s Affairs, or the VA, as part of the recently past G.I. Bill. Therefore, when he returned to his hometown of Seacoast after his final tour, he promptly enrolled in classes at the University of New Hampshire, under the impression that he would be receiving his benefits directly deposited into his bank account. However, after the first few weeks of the semester, Herman realized that his stipend was not coming.

He attempted to contact someone at the VA to inquire about the missing funds, afraid that any payment delay would result in termination of his studies.  “Herman repeatedly called the Department of Veteran’s Affairs, but could only reach a recording instructing him to call back another time” (Kanner). He quickly realized that the VA hotline for dealing with such issues was unstaffed. Shortly after, Herman realized that the money that he thought would be deposited directly into his account was actually being sent in check-form to his parent’s address. Then, upon complaint, the attempt to fix this problem resulted in his stipend being directly deposited into a bank account… just not Herman’s.

Desperately in need of the money, and getting nowhere trying to contact the VA directly, Herman made a bold move. “On April 5, Herman decided to begin posting about each of his VA conversations to his followers on Twitter, also posting them to the Veteran’s Affairs Twitter page…Before long, dozens of veterans and families from all over the country were re-tweeting his messages and tweeting about their own similar problems, creating thousands upon thousands of imprints. Herman vowed not to stop tweeting about the situation until his questions were answered” (Kanner).

Did it work? Absolutely! The power of his Twitter conversation was enough for him not only to receive a phone call back, but an invitation to Washington D.C. to discuss his grievances with the U.S. Senate staff, and of course his promised educational stipend. And on top of all of that, he gave veterans in similar positions a voice; he gave them a method of communication that is slowly but surely allowing all the hundreds of thousands of ailing veterans to be taken care of, and receive what they are owed. It is phenomenal that today we have tools, like social media sites that can so directly influence the world around us.

The other, equally, if not more, phenomenal part of the story is how negligent the VA is when it comes to adequately caring for veterans. It is constantly preaching about all the good things it is doing, and while I recognize that no organization can be perfect, I want this post to be my contribution to the social media ‘attack’ on the VA.  Realistically however, this is not intended to do anything more than continue the current conversation.

Kenner, Matt. “Seacoast soldier turns to Twitter trying to get G.I. benefits.” The Wire. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Apr. 2010. <http://www.wirenh.com/News/News_-_general/Seacoast_soldier_turns_to_Twitt

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