American-Statesman Investigative Team

The Austin American-Statesman has a core team dedicated to accountability and watchdog journalism. If you have a news tip or something to share with the team, please send us an email using this form. To reach the an individual on the team, use the contacts below: Debra Davis: Investigative Editor, 512-445-1718 Andrea Ball: Reporter, 512-912-2506 Eric Dexheimer: Reporter, 512-445-1774 Tony Plohetski: Reporter, 512-445-3605 Jeremy Schwartz: Reporter, 512-912-2942 Christian McDonald: Databases, 512-912-2958 Jay Janner: Photographer, 512-445-3685

Latest from American-Statesman Investigative Team

Treating injuries that cannot be seen
 Although U.S. military forces have left Iraq and are winding down in Afghanistan, the buildup in mental health services for soldiers who served there continues to surge. No wonder. Embedded in the hundreds of medical studies spawned by the wars are sobering statistics such as this: Six months after their return from those conflicts, 42 percent...

4:00 AM Tuesday, Oct. 02, 2012

Although U.S. military forces have left Iraq and are winding down in Afghanistan, the buildup in mental health services for soldiers who served there continues to surge. No wonder. Embedded in the hundreds of medical studies spawned by the wars are sobering statistics such as this: Six months after their return from those conflicts, 42 percent...
Veterans rebuild civilian selves
 As his departure from the U.S. Marines draws inexorably closer, Sgt. Juan Chavez, a Taylor native and veteran of three combat deployments, has two words to describe his re-entry into the civilian world. “Totally nerve-racking,” said Chavez, who joined the Marines in 2003 and survived tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. “It&rsquo...

4:00 AM Tuesday, Oct. 02, 2012

As his departure from the U.S. Marines draws inexorably closer, Sgt. Juan Chavez, a Taylor native and veteran of three combat deployments, has two words to describe his re-entry into the civilian world. “Totally nerve-racking,” said Chavez, who joined the Marines in 2003 and survived tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. “It&rsquo...
Suicide among veterans receiving less attention than active-duty deaths
 After coming home from Iraq, Ray Rivas’ life had become a grind of rehab and chronic pain from a brain injury. On that morning in July 2009, he told his wife he hadn’t slept the night before — the headaches that had plagued him since a mortar shell exploded near him three years earlier often robbed him of sleep. But Colleen...

4:00 AM Monday, Oct. 01, 2012

After coming home from Iraq, Ray Rivas’ life had become a grind of rehab and chronic pain from a brain injury. On that morning in July 2009, he told his wife he hadn’t slept the night before — the headaches that had plagued him since a mortar shell exploded near him three years earlier often robbed him of sleep. But Colleen...
After returning home, many veterans get into motor vehicle accidents
 Dawn had not yet broken that August day in 2008 when Eric Sessions took a spin on his beloved blue and silver Honda CBR 600 at the end of a long night of carousing with his friends at a bachelor party. He was going too fast on a curve he had made countless times before in his Bexar County subdivision near Canyon Lake when he lost control...

4:00 AM Monday, Oct. 01, 2012

Dawn had not yet broken that August day in 2008 when Eric Sessions took a spin on his beloved blue and silver Honda CBR 600 at the end of a long night of carousing with his friends at a bachelor party. He was going too fast on a curve he had made countless times before in his Bexar County subdivision near Canyon Lake when he lost control...
Which veterans are at highest risk for suicide?
 The stresses that can contribute to suicide — relationship problems, legal problems, mental illness, depression — are the same for military personnel and veterans as for the rest of the population, experts say. But the former have higher rates of post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury, both of which increase...

4:00 AM Monday, Oct. 01, 2012

The stresses that can contribute to suicide — relationship problems, legal problems, mental illness, depression — are the same for military personnel and veterans as for the rest of the population, experts say. But the former have higher rates of post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury, both of which increase...
Scores of recent Texas war veterans have died of overdoses, suicide and vehicle crashes, investigation finds
 They survived the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan. But they did not survive the homecoming.  A six-month American-Statesman investigation, which paints the most complete picture yet of what happened to Texas’ Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who died after leaving the military, reveals that an alarmingly high percentage died...

4:00 AM Sunday, Sep. 30, 2012

They survived the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan. But they did not survive the homecoming.  A six-month American-Statesman investigation, which paints the most complete picture yet of what happened to Texas’ Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who died after leaving the military, reveals that an alarmingly high percentage died...
Researchers look into possible causes of current 'epidemic' of suicide and PTSD

4:00 AM Sunday, Sep. 30, 2012

Because so little is known about how veterans die, comparing current mortality rates with past conflicts is a difficult task. Forty years after the Vietnam War, there is still disagreement among researchers over the fates of combat veterans of that conflict: Although some studies found no long-term spike in suicides, overdoses or motor vehicle...
Simple query prompted extensive investigation

4:00 AM Sunday, Sep. 30, 2012

 Investigative reporters Brenda Bell, Eric Dexheimer, Dave Harmon, Tony Plohetski and Jeremy Schwartz; database editor Christian McDonald; and visual reporters Jay Janner and Kelly West spent six months reporting and writing the stories in this series. Our “Uncounted Casualties” investigation began with a simple question...
Critics say pharmaceutical firms spurred the increase in prescriptions for narcotic painkillers
 Over the past dozen years, as the number of prescriptions for narcotic painkillers written by U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs doctors soared, pharmaceutical companies waged a behind-the-scenes campaign to get the VA to focus more on veterans’ pain, which would lead to more drug prescriptions.  The agency’s use of the...

4:00 AM Sunday, Sep. 30, 2012

Over the past dozen years, as the number of prescriptions for narcotic painkillers written by U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs doctors soared, pharmaceutical companies waged a behind-the-scenes campaign to get the VA to focus more on veterans’ pain, which would lead to more drug prescriptions.  The agency’s use of the...
After years of use, dangers of opioid drugs discovered

4:00 AM Sunday, Sep. 30, 2012

Two-thirds of the Texas Iraq and Afghanistan veterans the American-Statesman identified as dying of overdoses had powerful prescription painkillers in their systems, according to autopsies and medical examiner reports. It wasn’t clear if the pills directly responsible for the overdoses were prescribed by U.S. Department of Veterans...
Prescription drug abuse, overdoses haunt veterans seeking relief from physical, mental pain
 Lance Pilgrim attended college after graduating high school in this small Northeast Texas town an hour from the Arkansas and Louisiana borders. But drawn to heavy machinery by his father’s work as a mechanic at the local coal mine, he decided to follow a similar path in the military. In October 2000, he joined the Army. Assigned to...

4:00 AM Sunday, Sep. 30, 2012

Lance Pilgrim attended college after graduating high school in this small Northeast Texas town an hour from the Arkansas and Louisiana borders. But drawn to heavy machinery by his father’s work as a mechanic at the local coal mine, he decided to follow a similar path in the military. In October 2000, he joined the Army. Assigned to...