When a U.S. veteran files for disability after being injured in active service, the Department of Veterans Affairs aims to have the claims settled in 120 days. That’s four months after a veteran discovers PTSD or knee problems, and it still sounds pretty long. But truth be told, nearly 500,000 veterans have been waiting a year for their disability benefits to kick in.
It’s something I learned from The Wait We Carry, an interactive infographic by Periscopic, made for the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. Load the site, and you’ll be greeted with a relatively simple question—how long should someone wait for their country-promised benefits. You pick your response with a slider, and then you’re greeted by a massive data viz that will show you the very specific (probably much, much longer than expected) waiting periods between when a veteran files for disability and when that claim is actually fulfilled.
Like most of Periscopic’s work, it verges on information overload. You can actually scan through a bar chart of literally every single veteran who is part of the survey, discovering their extremely specific personal information, like their name, rank, benefits wait time, and injuries sustained during service. But there’s a method to the madness.
"By showing all of the data, you show all of the people. If we were to aggregate it or boil it down, it’s essentially throwing everyone into a pot together to make a stew—you get a mashed-up mixture, and can no longer see the individual ingredients," Periscopic co-founder Dino Citraro explains. "By showing each person first, we can establish a personal connection to them and see their individual problems."
Indeed, this human-centric approach to data is incredibly effective. Because each mouseover reveals the story of one real person, you’ll be left with your stomach churning at the countless remaining—well, I was going to call them "data points," but the entire message is that you can’t walk away calling them data points. They’re our veterans. And we’re treating them like crap.