VA site reacts to war movie

Steven Spielberg's latest epic, the World War II movie "Saving Private Ryan," seems to have stirred up more than sales at the box office.

The Department of Veterans Affairs has set up a section on its World Wide Web site for those veterans who may suffer from flashbacks or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after viewing some of the graphic battles portrayed in the film. PTSD is a psychological disorder that follows intensely stressful events, such as combat, and causes depression, anxiety, flashbacks or nightmares.

The VA, aware that the intense battle scenes in the film are very realistic, created a Web site at to guide veterans and their families to resources on PTSD. VA officials have been deluged with PTSD-related calls— many from journalists— since "Saving Private Ryan" debuted last month. The VA has pulled together information that has been on its site for quite a while and packaged it with a clear tie-in to the movie: "Disturbed by what you saw in the film 'Saving Private Ryan' or know someone who is?" the site asks of visitors. "VA can help."

The resources VA officials have pooled on the site seem slight at first— a few lines of text and three modest links. But the links pack a lot of punch. One link takes a visitor to a map of the United States, where a visitor can click on a state to find the location of the nearest VA medical center or clinic. Further links offer information on each center such as possible special PTSD programs and phone numbers to make an appointment. The site also presents visitors with a toll-free number they can use as a starting point for finding help.

Another link on the VA's new PTSD page carries visitors to the Web site for the VA's National Center for PTSD, at, which has a series of fact sheets, articles and question-and-answer pieces on the disorder. The third link on the VA's PTSD Web site is a direct link to the Information for Veterans and their Families section of the National Center for PTSD's site. This site provides more detailed information on PTSD programs VA offers, from day-visit programs to in-patient programs.

The site also leads visitors to a database of literature on PTSD and other PTSD-related sites. The site was developed to provide useful information to students, researchers, journalists and librarians, not just veterans and their families.

EPA Offers Area Profiles

The Environmental Protection Agency launched a new Web site this month that will allow citizens to access environmental and public health information.

The Web site,, provides a one-stop gateway to up-to-date data, maps and reports about the quality of air, drinking water and surface water, and of hazardous waste dumps and toxic releases in the United States and other countries.

Click on Environmental Profiles and up pops a color-coded map of the United States. Users can simply click on the map or enter a ZIP code to find profiles of their communities or to get data for a specific place or topic. The profiles contain statistics that draw a picture of a community's environmental status, including air quality, drinking water and hazardous waste. For example, keying in the ZIP code for the Capitol, 20515, last week showed the air quality for the District of Columbia to range from good to moderate.

The air quality page also offers facts and trends: "Life is dependent on air. Each one of us breathes about 3,400 gallons of air every day.... During the last three decades the United States has made impressive strides in improving and protecting air quality. Although further improvements are needed, air quality has improved despite substantial economic expansion and population growth."

In addition to environmental profiles, the site provides an environmental atlas and a digital library of environmental quality. The atlas consists of maps that illustrate the local sources, quantities and kinds of pollutants that have been released in a community. The digital library offers a collection of maps and reports that trace local, national and international environmental conditions and that measure changes over time.

This Web site was created as part of the Clinton administration's right-to-know programs that aim to give Americans the information they need to protect their health and the environment, said Carol Browner, EPA administrator. "What we do today is give American people information about their communities," she said.

The Web site is part of the EPA's commitment to keeping the public informed. It allows the agency to make the vast amounts of information it has collected easily accessible. "This [information] has never been available before," Browner said. "We're bringing together all of the information we've compiled into one Web site."

Most of the data comes from EPA program offices and selected EPA databases. EPA also authors most of the documents, although the site does contain reports published by other organizations, such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

In the past, Americans had to go through a number of channels to find environmental information about their communities. Searches through EPA databases could takes hours or days to find information or even end fruitlessly, she said.

Browner created the Center for Environmental Information and Statistics in March to solve the problem, and CEIS is now the EPA's direct source of environmental data and information.

CEIS is exploring ways of making maps and reports available for people who do not have access to the Internet, such as faxes, telephone assistance or hard copy profiles, said Fred Hansen, the EPA's deputy administrator.


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