As a national military and veterans correspondent for McClatchy for the last two decades, Tara Copp has written about many aspects of the military, but over the last few years, she began to notice a disturbing trend: the rising cancer rates among veterans.
"I found that it has crossed every single kind of service member from your youngest infantry to senior officers in both special forces and conventional arms," Copp said. "So, we started to look for the data to get the numbers behind all of the concerns we were hearing."
The result was a report called Stricken, an in-depth look at veterans living with cancer and where they might have contracted the deadly disease in their line of work. Stricken includes video, photographs, charts and a peek behind their reporting. In addition, journalists produced several follow up reports. In October 2019, the report ran across all 30 McClatchy websites and in several Sunday print editions.
Copp worked with reporter Ben Wieder, data fellow Shirsho Dasgupta and a video team which included Reshma Kirpalani, Meta Viers and Patrick Gleason to complete the report.
To begin their work, data was pulled from the Veterans Health Administration records. Through Freedom of Information Act requests, McClatchy collected information from 2000 to 2018. The investigation found that in the studied time period, "the rate of cancer treatments for veterans at Department of Veterans Affairs health care centers increased 61 percent for urinary cancers--which include bladder, kidney and ureter cancers. The rate of blood cancer treatments--lymphoma, myeloma and leukemia--rose 18 percent in the same period. Liver and pancreatic cancer treatment rates increased 96 percent and prostate cancer treatment rates increased 23 percent." However, the VA disagrees with McClatchy's findings. Reporters originally reached out to the VA during the investigation process seeking help to understand...