The VA is Leading the Way on Genetic Research


By Debbie Gregory.

Advances in genomics have triggered a revolution in discovery-based research to understand even the most complex biological systems. And with 500,000 samples collected from U.S. military Veterans, the Veterans Heath Administration now has the world’s largest genomic database. No other medical research facility has ever had such a massive data set in this field.

The voluntary project, called the Million Veteran Program, or MVP, started in 2011. The database will aid in gene-based research for conditions such as cancer, diabetes and PTSD.

The program aims to help doctors understand the genetic component of why some patients respond to treatment, why others don’t and whether some people are more prone to illnesses.

The MVP program has Veterans donate a blood sample and agree to answer follow-up surveys that track their military experiences, health, and lifestyle. VA Secretary Bob McDonald joined the program as the 441,196th Veteran to participate.

Now the VA is heading towards the goal of enrolling 1 million veterans over the program’s five- to seven-year span. The program is funded entirely by the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Research & Development

Research is already underway, and VA researchers are using it to study mental illness, heart and kidney disease. The hoped for outcome is developing new treatments and cures, as well as allowing for early detection and specialized treatment based on one’s genetic background.

You can find out more about the Million Veterans Program online at While your participation may not immediately benefit you,  research findings may lead to new ways of preventing and treating illnesses in Veterans and all Americans in the future.

Veterans who are users of the VA health care system at one of the enrolling sites are able to participate at this time. MVP is rolling-out at VA medical centers across the nation. Once a site is open for enrollment, Veterans who are users of the VA health care system at that site will receive an invitation by mail to volunteer in MVP. If you are a Veteran who receives health care at an enrolling site but have not received a mailing, you can schedule an appointment by calling toll-free 1-866-441-6075, or walk-in to your local MVP clinic to participate today. To learn more about what participation involves, click here or call the toll-free number.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Overhaul of VA Healthcare System Needed: Military Connection

 VA Healthcare

By Debbie Gregory.

In an attempt to get veterans the treatment they have earned, a September 1st report calls for a complete overhaul of the Veterans Affairs (VA) healthcare system.

The report, led by Mitre Corporation, included analysts from the Rand Corporation, McKinsey and Company, the Institute of Medicine, and Grant Thorton, Analysts concluded that the system is plagued by bureaucracy and leadership challenges. It also found that the quality of care can vary significantly, depending on where veterans receive treatment.

The report examined 12 segments of VA health care, including access to care, staffing, workflow, capabilities, business practices and more. It found that in addition to a leadership crisis, there are staffing shortages and a demoralized workforce.

Recommendations for improvement include cultivating a culture of service excellence among employees; holding employees accountable; instituting system-wide changes in administration, support and services; fostering respect through performance; and creating an office to oversee and implement change, with the fortitude to request funding to accomplish its goals.

The news wasn’t all bad; the report found that on many quality measures for outpatient care, the VA outperformed other health care systems. VA hospitals also performed equally or better than non-VA hospitals on some effective measures, such as inpatient mortality measures, but significantly worse on other measures like readmission standards.

The independent assessment comes as debate continues over whether VA should outsource or privatize veterans care.

Concerned Veterans For America (CVA) has called for a complete overhaul of the system, to include partially privatizing services. Under that plan, VA medical facilities would be reorganized under a nonprofit governmental organization and more veterans would be shifted to private health insurance programs.

VA Secretary Bob McDonald has denounced calls to increase privatization of services and says the VA mission to care for veterans is a “sacred trust” that the department will not relinquish.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.