3D Scans Help Preserve History, But Who Should Own Them?

A 360-degree camera is used to document the Khe Min Ga Zedi temple in Bagan, Myanmar.

Kieran Kesner for CyArk


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Kieran Kesner for CyArk

War, natural disasters and climate change are destroying some of the world’s most precious cultural sites. Google is trying to help preserve these archaeological wonders by allowing users access to 3D images of these treasures through its site.

But the project is raising questions about Google’s motivations and about who should own the digital copyrights. Some critics call it a form of “digital colonialism.”

When it comes to archaeological treasures, the losses have been mounting. ISIS blew up parts of the ancient city of Palmyra in Syria and an earthquake hit Bagan, an ancient city in Myanmar, damaging dozens of temples, in 2016. In the past, all archaeologists and historians had for restoration and research were photos, drawings, remnants and intuition.

But that’s changing. Before the earthquake at Bagan, many of the temples on the site were scanned. One of them, Ananda ok Kyaung, stands out for Chance Coughenour, a manager at Google Arts & Culture. “This is a temple that has incredible murals, floor to ceiling across the inter-passageways and the inter-chamber of the temple,” he says.

The colorful murals depicted Buddhist cosmology and key moments in the Buddha’s life. The temple was popular spot with tourists. Since the earthquake, it is no longer accessible. Now 3D scans of the murals are on Google’s Arts & Culture site.

The digital renditions allow viewers to virtually wonder the halls of the temple, look up close at paintings and turn the building over, to look up at its chambers. Bettany Hughes, a historian and broadcaster, leads the virtual tour.

Google Arts & Culture is a little different from the rest of Google. Google is still collecting data on users of the arts and culture website. But Google Arts & Culture works as a nonprofit inside the company. The unit works with museums and other nonprofits — including the Frick Collection and the Center for Jewish History — to put high-quality images online.

The images of the temples in Bagan are part of a collaboration with CyArk, a nonprofit that creates the 3D scanning of historic sites. CyArk scans include Mayan ruins like Chichen Itza or the Al Azem Palace in Syria — around 200 monuments in all.

A 3D scan of a Tikal temple in Guatemala. It is among approximately 200 monuments around the world that have been scanned by CyArk.

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CyArk

John Ristevski, CyArk’s CEO, says the nonprofit’s original mission was to create high-quality scans that could be used as a blueprint to rebuild sites. But the scans were on a private server where the public couldn’t access them.

“CyArk has had the will to open it up for a long time,” says Ristevski, “but we haven’t had the way or the means.”

His organization partnered with Google Arts & Culture, because it offered free cloud storage and the tools to create an accessible online experience.
Google’s Coughenour says the company doesn’t make money off this website, but it fits in with Google’s mission to make the world’s information available and useful.

Critics say the collaboration could be an attempt by a large corporation to wrap itself in the sheen of culture. Ethan Watrall, an archaeologist, professor at Michigan State University and a member of the Society for American Archaeology, says he’s not comfortable with the arrangement between CyArk and Google.

“Google is not a cultural institution. Google is not a museum,” he says.

Watrall says this project is just a way for Google to promote Google. “They want to make this material accessible so people will browse it and be filled with wonder by it,” he says. “But at its core, it’s all about advertisements and driving traffic.”

Watrall says these images belong on the site of a museum or educational institution, where there is serious scholarship and a very different mission. CyArk says it is open to other institutions that want to show off the scans. It says Google was the first to make an offer.

But there’s another issue for some archaeologists and art historians. CyArk owns the copyrights of the scans — not the countries where these sites are located. That means the countries need CyArk’s permission to use these images for commercial purposes.

Erin Thompson, a professor of art crime at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City, says it’s the latest example of a Western nation appropriating a foreign culture, a centuries-long battle.

Egypt has been fighting for years to get back a bust of Queen Nefertiti from Germany. It took decades for the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York to return items from King Tut’s Tomb. And Australia’s indigenous people have been fighting with the British Museum for the return of ancestral artifacts.

Thompson calls CyArk’s copyrighted scans “digital colonialism.”

“The real problem is that you have to trust whoever owns the copyright to do the right thing with those images,” she says. “And there’s no legal way for a country to protest the use of its cultural heritage sites.”

CyArk says it copyrights the scans so no one can use them in an inappropriate way. The company says it works closely with authorities during the process, even training local people to help.

But critics like Thompson are not persuaded. Governments can change. She would prefer the scans to be owned by the countries and people where these site are located.

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Reggie Lucas, Guitarist And Producer Of Madonna's Debut, Has Died

Reggie Lucas.

Julian Lucas

Reggie Lucas, who entered his 20s as a guitarist in Miles Davis‘ touring band and would later help shape the multi-platinum debut of Madonna, died in the early hours of May 19 at the age of 65. The cause was advanced heart failure, his daughter, Lisa Lucas, confirmed to NPR.

While a heart attack in 1991 would affect his health for the rest of his life, Lucas remained an active recording artist and family man; his second child, Julian was born in 1993. “He was never not busy,” Lisa Lucas says.

Born Feb. 25, 1953, in Queens, N.Y., Lucas began playing guitar in bands as a young teenager while attending shows throughout the vibrant and varied New York music scene of the ’60s, where folk, jazz, R&B, Latin and rock were beginning to commingle. Lucas would cite the influential jazz guitarist Pat Martino as a formative teacher and strong influence during his musical development.

After four years spent recording and touring with Miles Davis — beginning when he was just 19 — Lucas and fellow Davis bandmate James Mtume parlayed that experience into membership in Roberta Flack‘s band. That opportunity would culminate in Lucas and Mtume penning a hit for Flack and Donny Hathaway, which reached No. 2 on the Hot 100 singles chart in the spring of 1978.

Over the next several years, Lucas and Mtume would work with the singers Stephanie Mills (who portrayed Dorothy in the original Broadway run of The Wiz), Lou Rawls and Phyllis Hyman through his transition into a producer.

Reggie Lucas.

Courtesy of the Lucas family

Shortly after Mtume and Lucas amicably went their separate ways, a young Madonna was preparing to record her self-titled debut, which would go on to sell millions of copies and establish her as one of the 1980s’ most visible new pop stars. Lucas was assigned to lead the studio effort.

“When I came to the Madonna record, I came with two things,” Lucas told The Atlantic in 2013. “The first thing was I brought a lot of success and a solid background as a hit producer and songwriter within the R&B world, but it was also with the skill as a composer and rock and roll guitarist. Madonna was simply the first opportunity that I had to play around with other musical interests that I had.”

Though the record was a success, Lucas didn’t ever again return to the studio with Madonna; her second album, Like a Virgin, was produced by a longtime friend of his, the seminal disco guitarist Nile Rodgers. In the decades since, the two albums’ differences have coalesced into a whole-cloth representation of a particular era in pop, defined by low-resolution electronics with limited tensility but a deep well of grooves, thanks in part to both Lucas and Rodgers’ decades of experience. Over the weekend, Madonna noted Lucas’ passing in a brief social media post, referring to Lucas as an “important part of my musical past!”

In the years afterwards, Lucas established the Jersey City recording studio Quantum City and recorded an album with the trio Sunfire.

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NASA Launching New Satellites To Measure Earth's Lumpy Gravity

The Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment Follow-On (GRACE-FO) mission will measure tiny fluctuations in Earth’s gravitational field to show how water moves around the planet.

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There’s going to be a changing of the guard in space. On Tuesday, NASA is launching two new satellites, collectively called GRACE, to replace two that have been retired after 16 years in orbit.

GRACE stands for Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment. The satellites measure — with exquisite sensitivity — changes in the Earth’s gravitational field. They are one of the most important tools for understanding the effects of climate change, and they might also help predict earthquakes.

The satellites rely on the fact that Earth’s gravitational field is like bad gravy — it’s lumpy. It’s a bit stronger over places with lots of mass, like mountains or water or ice. And it’s weaker where there isn’t so much mass.

You wouldn’t notice the difference, but GRACE can. The two satellites fly in tandem, and variations in the gravity field beneath them pull them apart or together by less than the width of a human hair. That allows GRACE to create a gravity map.

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The map shows that the lumpiness varies from place to place, and from one month to the next. Felix Landerer, a geophysicist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, explains that a lot of the variation comes down to water. “As snow accumulates in the mountains,” he explains, “it melts in the spring, and into the summer, soil dries up. So that shift of water leaves an imprint on the gravity field, and that’s what we detect and what we’re after.”

Why are scientists chasing water?

A warming climate is moving water around in ways that matter. Take the Greenland ice sheet, which is up to two miles thick. But climate change has melted a lot of the ice, and the old GRACE satellites caught this when they flew overhead. “The gravity field has changed because mass has shifted underneath, mostly in the form of water,” Landerer says.

Over the past 15 years, GRACE has watched as 4,000 gigatons of Greenland ice melted. Landerer says that’s enough to inundate the lower 48 states some 19 inches deep.

Luckily, that melted ice-water is still in the ocean. But it’s not near Greenland. “Counterintuitively,” Landerer says, “if you were to stand on the Greenland coastline and the ice melted, you would actually see the sea level in the ocean around you go down.”

That’s right — go down.

That’s because the Greenland ice sheet is so massive that it exerts its own gravity field on the surrounding ocean. It pulls water toward itself, and when the ice sheet shrinks, or melts, the pull on the surrounding water diminishes. The weird result is that Greenland’s meltwater can actually raise the sea level in places thousands of miles away more than it’s raised nearby.

GRACE picks up on that, too.

It also detects movements in the Earth’s crust, which could help scientists predict earthquakes.

For example, when French scientists dug into some of GRACE’s old gravity measurements from late 2010, they found the data showed that gravity fields around huge slabs of underground rock near Japan had started changing in an unusual way. Several months later, the huge Tohoku earthquake and tsunami struck, killing about 16,000 people.

“The mass … redistributions that they were seeing were different than anything they had seen in the previous eight years,” says David Jacobson, a quake geologist who’s written about the findings.

So for eight years before Tohoku, nothing unusual. Then months before the quake, a strange shift in gravity. That got geologists looking in GRACE’s database to see if that same kind of gravity shift occurred prior to other quakes.

“If you’re potentially … able to see similar anomalies in other large earthquakes, you could potentially have maybe even months’ warning if there is likely to be a big earthquake,” Jacobson says.

Geologists say this is far from a proven quake predictor. The Tohoku gravity signal could be a one-time event. Similar gravitational changes might not always predict a big quake at all.

But no one will know without more data from GRACE.

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A Recovering Puerto Rico Stars In Hurray For The Riff Raff's 'Pa'lante' Video

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Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico in September 2017. Almost nine months later, some citizens remain without power or water, and a larger portion of the population still feels traumatized and abandoned.

Those less-than-effective relief efforts have inspired artists, musicians and organizers to raise awareness, funds and spirits to support victims of this natural disaster. Alynda Segarra, the Puerto Rican leader of Hurray for the Riff Raff, makes a point to represent the island and her lineage in her music, and shows support for the struggles Puerto Ricans are going through. Her song “Pa’lante,” which NPR Music ranked No. 5 in its Best Songs Of 2017 list, is a fierce ode to her people’s resilience. With samples from famous Nuyorican poet Pedro Pietri and the titular reference to the name of the Young Lord’s newspaper, justice and perseverance are at the center of the song’s message.

The new visual accompanying this song captures the current state of the island and its people: struggling, beautiful and trying to fill its voids. Puerto Rican director Kristian Mercado spoke with Alt.Latino on telling stories of working class Puerto Ricans post-Hurricane Maria. The following transcript was edited for clarity.

Jessica Diaz-Hurtado: The first time you heard, “Pa’lante”, what moved you to create this impactful and powerful visual?

Kristian Mercado: I got the song early in the morning and opened it, not knowing what the song was. I heard the song and was really moved by it, I even teared up a little bit. I’m Puerto Rican and [the phrase] “Pa’lante” is such a philosophical concept. No matter how bad things get, you can move forward. It’s this weird life philosophy that permeates day to day for a lot of Puerto Ricans. The poetry break when Alynda has Pedro Pietri’s poem, the “Puerto Rican Obituary” … it’s classic and one of my favorite poems. There was something about the song that I knew I had to work on it, no matter what.

You capture the beauty and the struggle that Puerto Rico is currently going through. Why do you think it’s important to share this reality?

I saw that with this song, it’s a great opportunity to showcase Puerto Ricans in some sort of light that cinematically hasn’t been seen before. As a Puerto Rican filmmaker, there aren’t a lot Puerto Rican stories that are told in a cinematic way. I felt compelled to show Puerto Ricans in honest and simple ways that emotionally connects with people. I’m into the feelings the working class goes through. I think the working class Puerto Rican is a story that hasn’t been told. I think the story has to deal with absence and empty spaces, the feeling of you want or need something. Sometimes what you want and what you need are not interconnected. They might be separate things. The characters try to fill these voids, and set the tone for the film.

Humans tend to focus on micro-experiences. If something catastrophic happens, they look at it from a statistical standpoint. If somethings gets too big, it kind be hard to relate to and be emotional about it. Puerto Rico is still going through a lot and I think is put to the side. I was approaching this in a way to not be blunt about the hurricane, which has affected a lot of us, and me personally. It was easier to tell the story of one family. I wasn’t overt about what they were going through, but at the end with the shots, you’re able to step back into the reality. Those shots were shot recently and can put a strong emphasis of where the situation is. Within that one story, there is a lot of people dealing with this circumstance. Feeling that pain and letting that be part of the story was important to me.

How was it for you on a personal level to go back to Puerto Rico and tell this story?

To give you some background, when the hurricane hit, it was a difficult time. I had a lot of family in Puerto Rico. I tried connecting with my family for 10 days. I was on an emergency walkie talkie system to connect to towns. I was trying to connect with Arroyo [on the southeast coast], where my family was at. The conditions were bad. Me and my mom got plane tickets for my family to get out, around October. It was unlivable at the time. Three days before they flew out, my grandfather passed away. It was interconnected to the hurricane because he suffered from sleep apnea. It resulted in him getting cardiac arrest. They couldn’t call an ambulance. It’s a crazy thing that happened if you don’t have access to electricity or communications and can affect so many facets of people’s lives. There was something really brutal about that. He was a veteran, too, so there’s this betrayal you feel about that. That really hurt me and my family; we are all feeling the trauma of that. That is where I was coming from. I myself felt that absence and I was trying to find something to pour myself into. I was depressed for three months, in a downward slope. So this project was a great thing to work on and to digest those emotions.

And that’s something that you touch upon in your film, using these intimate portraits to tell this larger story. Why specifically choose relationships to portray these intimate moments?

I was thinking a lot about family. When I listened to the song, I heard “Milagros” and “Manuel”, and that stuck out to me because I know so many Manuels and Milagros. I was trying to connect that to the idea of family. Also, my own experiences with complicated men and women in families who aren’t this perfect cookie-cutter thing. They are complicated and flawed living their lives. I think the working class aspect resonates with me. My grandfather was working class his whole life. He was a construction worker. I pulled from people I knew and created different characters. I come from a complicated family myself. My mom and father aren’t together, and there’s that feeling of absence and trying to figure out what that means and how that feels. I was just trying to be very vulnerable on what a family dynamic was and how there’s beauty and sadness to it. Also, to see people trying — and circumstances that keep pushing them down — is an important thing.

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Trump Hints At Plan To Create 'Space Force' As Sixth Military Branch

U.S. Marine Drum and Bugle Corps and Color Guard march past the space shuttle Enterprise at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center on April 19, 2012, in Chantilly, Va.

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A long time ago in a galaxy far far away, there was a world leader who signaled his desire to create a new branch of the military: the space force.

OK, it wasn’t a long time ago, and it was right here on Earth, in the Milky Way galaxy.

In an address to the West Point football team at the White House earlier this month, President Trump expressed an idea to add a “space force” military branch that would conduct warfighting missions beyond Earth’s atmosphere.

Trump previously floated the idea of a space corps in March in a speech to military members in California. The proposal, which has received congressional support in the past, is facing criticism from the Pentagon. The creation of such a force would mark the first new military branch since the Air Force was established in 1947.

“I was saying it the other day – ’cause we’re doing a tremendous amount of work in space – I said, maybe we need a new force. We’ll call it the space force,” Trump said in March. “And I was not really serious. And then I said, what a great idea. Maybe we’ll have to do that.”

In fact, the military has conducted operations in space for a long time, says Terry Virts, former commander of the International Space Station and a 30-year veteran of the U.S. Air Force.

For Virts, the debate is “not advocating for somehow militarizing space. That happened 50 years ago,” he tells Here & Now’s Peter O’Dowd. “Every nation on Earth that has a significant military has some space component to it. What I’m advocating for is really making it more efficient and a more effective way to organize the military.”

Most of the country’s military operations in space are handled by the U.S. Air Force Space Command, a division of the Air Force that employs about 36,000 people at more than 130 sites around the world. One of the Space Command’s main priorities is to operate GPS, weather and communication satellites, Virts says.

“A big part of what Space Command does is called space situational awareness,” he says. “They track objects in space and keep track of what other countries are doing in space. There’s a lot of what happens in space that directly affects combat operations in the Army or Air Force or Navy.”

For years, the Pentagon has opposed the idea of creating a space force because leaders argue it would make the Defense Department bureaucracy more complicated.

“The Pentagon is complicated enough,” Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson told reporters last June. “This will make it more complex, add more boxes to the organization chart and cost more money. If I had more money, I would put it into lethality, not bureaucracy.”

Last year, Reps. Mike Rogers, R-Ala., and Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., spearheaded an effort within the House Armed Services Committee to shift the Air Force Space Command’s duties into a separate service that still reports to the secretary of the Air Force. The measure was included in the House version of an annual defense bill, but the Senate version removed it.

“Russia and China are surpassing us in Space capabilities and we need to dedicate a separate force solely with a Space mission,” Rogers said in a statement. “The future of war will be fought in Space, and we must stay diligent ahead of other countries for our own national security.”

The Rogers-Cooper proposal to create a new space force wouldn’t have impacted NASA, and it was designed to safeguard the military’s budget for space, which the Air Force has used to cover cost-overruns for other department projects, the lawmakers argued.

The concept of a space force goes back to the Cold War. The idea gained renewed traction in 2000 when Donald Rumsfeld, who later became President George W. Bush’s defense secretary, proposed creating a space corps in a military-reform commission report. But any plans to establish a space force were derailed by the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Some critics of creating a space force argue the U.S. shouldn’t spread its military footprint any further, but Virts says space is already a significant part of the military and removing military satellites from space would have consequences.

“It would certainly really hurt our forces down here on the ground,” he says.”The debate that we’re having right now is not about increasing, somehow weaponizing further, space it’s about really the best way to organize our forces.”

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VA's Caregiver Program Still Dropping Veterans With Disabilities

George Wilmot gets lost easily, forgets things — like a pot on the stove — and sometimes falls down without warning. His wife Jenn hasn’t been able to work outside the home because taking care of George is a full-time job.

Eva Verbeeck for NPR


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Eva Verbeeck for NPR

In the early days of the Iraq war troops were riding around in Humvees with almost no armor on them. There was a scandal about it, and within a few years the trucks got up-armored with thick steel plates. Which solved one problem but created another.

“Some genius thought about up-armoring. Good! But they didn’t do anything with the brake systems,” says George Wilmot, who was riding an armored Humvee in 2009, leaving a hill-top base in Mosul.

“We took some small arms fire … my driver took us off a cliff,” says Wilmot.

Jenn Wilmot shows a picture of George after his accident. He was thrown free from the gunner’s turret as his Humvee tumbled off a cliff in Iraq. He survived, but with a brain injury, PTSD and a left arm that still looks sewn-on.

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Wilmot was thrown free from the gunner’s turret as the Humvee tumbled. He survived, but with a brain injury, PTSD and a left arm that still looks sewn-on. The VA rates him 100 percent disabled. George gets lost easily, forgets things — like a pot on the stove — and he falls down hard sometimes, without warning. His wife Jenn hasn’t been able to work outside the home becuase care of George is a full-time job.

After two years in the VA’s Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers Program, the Wilmots were dropped even though they say George’s condition hasn’t improved. Jenn Wilmot says the Charleston, S.C. VA encouraged her to re-apply, and then rejected her.

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“If he knows I’m going somewhere and I’m not going to be here, he’ll hang out in the bedroom because it’s a short distance right to the bathroom,” she says. “That’s not how you should live, though.”

The Department of Veterans Affairs’ Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers Program seemed a perfect fit for the Wilmots. It pays a stipend to family members or friends of a post-9/11 veteran – often a wife or mother – who provide care. But after two years on the program, the Wilmots were dropped even though they say George’s condition hasn’t improved.

NPR spoke with the Wilmots last year for a report that found some VAs across the country were dropping caregivers off the program while most other VAs were adding. After that report the VA reviewed the program and made several changes to improve and standardize it. But a year later, most of those VAs are still shedding caregivers. And many who were dropped before the improvements are say they can’t get back on, even though they say their veterans still badly need assistance.

The stipend ranges from a a few hundred to a couple thousand dollars a month depending on the severity of the disability and the market rate for caregivers.

Vets love the program not only for the stipend, but also for the recognition of the care their families provide. One study estimated the care to be worth billions of dollars.

The numbers looked arbitrary from city to city, which was bad luck for the Wilmots — they go to the Charleston, S.C., VA, which dropped 94 percent of its caregivers in three years.

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After the NPR report last year, VA briefly paused all revocations — that is, it stopped kicking people off the program — and carried out a strategic review. Meg Kabat, who directs the program, says the pause allowed the VA to better oversee and standardize it.

“We were able to issue a directive – it’s on the VA website so it’s there for caregivers, veterans, advocates, one policy that is followed by every medical center across the country,” says Kabat.

Continuing disappointment

After the pause, veteran families like the Wilmots thought the program would be fixed. Jenn Wilmot says the Charleston VA encouraged her to re-apply, and then rejected her.

Current VA statistics suggest the Wilmots aren’t alone — the Charleston, S.C. VA is still down 93 percent from 2014. There are only 13 approved caregivers on the program there. The South Texas VA had 342 in 2014. Last year they were down to 177. Now there are only 40. Northern Arizona kept cutting; so did Puget Sound. Fayetteville, N.C., had 570 caregivers in 2014; 350 have been cut, including Ashley Sitorius and her husband William.

Ashley Sitorius says she knew during William’s deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan that he could come home injured.

“I thought he’s serving our country, he’ll most definitely be taken care of,” says Ashley. She was kicked off the program in 2015.

“They just said he wasn’t clinically eligible anymore and he didn’t need a caregiver. And honestly, he’s gotten worse. I wish he was better,” she says.

Last year, after the program pause, Sitorius applied again and got rejected. She appealed to the regional office and got rejected again in March of this year.

VA works to set things right

The program’s director, Meg Kabat, says some VAs are still correcting the error of letting way too many people in at the beginning. And she says the demographics vary from state to state, and that the number of new disabled vets has dropped as the wars in Afghanistan and the Middle East have wound down.

“It’s not surprising to me that there’s a group of veterans who are participating in the program for a period of time and then are discharged,” says Kabat.

Once caregivers get in the program they start using a lot of other VA services, too. Many vets improve and graduate out — which is the goal, says Kabat.

But for some veterans that goal may be out of reach.

(Top) Britnee Kinard’s husband Hamilton has a brain injury and PTSD. She got kicked off the program by the Charleston VA in 2014. (Left) Hamilton’s daily medication. (Right) His uniform in the closet at their home in Richmond Hill, Va.

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Eva Verbeeck

Britnee Kinard takes care of her husband Hamilton. He has a brain injury and PTSD, among other things. She got kicked off the program by the Charleston VA in 2014. She sees her husband deteriorating. He needs help with bathing and toileting. She’s dreading the day when she’ll have to take away his car keys.

“I try my hardest not to pull his, quote, man-card,” says Kinard , “I want him to be as independent as possible. But the reality of it is, the more his health progresses, the less independent he is and I’m trying not to take it from him.”

The VA says it’s still standardizing the boards that evaluate applications, and last year audited hundreds of the cases of people removed.

Hamilton can’t use his legs somedays and needs help with bathing and toileting.

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Eva Verbeeck for NPR

But some of those caregivers have been on the phone with their senators — last month Republican Dean Heller of Nevada and Democrat Bob Casey of Pennsylvania sent a letter to the VA asking that all the caregivers kicked off before the program was revised last year get a second look.

“The veterans and their caregivers deserve to have their cases reviewed and use the same improved procedures,” says Casey. “Caregivers should not be treated differently because their case happened to come up for review a week before or a week after the time when the VA froze discharges.”

The VA’s Acting Secretary Robert Wilkie responded that the VA is working to improve the clinical appeals process so vets and their caregivers can get back in.

Sitting with her disabled husband George, Jenn Wilmot says her last appeal was exhausting.

“Does he need it?” she says. “Oh yeah, I know he does. But it’s just too tiring to fight.”

She might be up to it, Wilmot says, if she weren’t working full time taking care of her veteran.

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