Talk to the Veterans Crisis Line now
U.S. flag
An official website of the United States government

Office of Research & Development

print icon sign up for VA Research updates

Timeline of Accomplishments


Major study launches, new partnerships, and other initiatives

  • Extended funding for a collaborative network integrating multiple clinical measures to monitor complex TBI-related brain health and outcomes.
  • Developed three novel therapeutic trials to address advanced non-small cell lung cancer.
  • Established the Computer Vision and Machine Learning in Precision Oncology hub to apply artificial intelligence tools to foster research efforts.
  • Funded a Suicide Prevention Clinical Resource Center, part of the Suicide Prevention Research Impact Network (SPRINT), to develop precision-medicine approaches to suicide prevention.
  • Launched 10 Suicide Prevention Evaluations (QUERI), including the Veterans Crisis Line, Clinical Resource Hub referrals, and the impact of whole health on suicide risk.
  • Partnered with the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute to obtain TOPMed sequence data, completed imputation of MVP genotype data, and provisioned data to all approved MVP researchers.
  • Began a longitudinal study to evaluate the effects of noise and other exposures on auditory functioning in post-9/11 Veterans.
  • Developed 30 products to help deliver evidence-based treatments for pain and opioid use disorder for the Implementation Initiative for Opioid and Pain Treatment center.
  • Released comprehensive data analyses on post-COVID conditions that found increased risks of cardiovascular disease, renal disease, diabetes, and new neurologic or mental health diagnoses.
  • Produced 3D-printed metal prosthetic fingers in smaller sizes more appropriate for women. The fingers were licensed to an industry partner (Point Designs).
  • Improved opioid use disorder access to treatment by creating a central hub with spoke locations specialized in buprenorphine prescriptions.

Key findings

  • Showed obstructive sleep apnea explained the link between chronic anger, PTSD, and pain interference in a group of Veterans and Service members. (January 2023)
  • Demonstrated Blue Water Navy Veterans experienced different health outcomes related to environmental exposures compared to Vietnam Veterans or non-Veterans. (January 2023)
  • Found diabetes mellitus, peripheral vascular disease, and nonsurgical management were independent predictors of lower-limb fracture-related amputation in Veterans with traumatic spinal cord injury. (February 2023)
  • Identified risk factors associated with fracture malunion among fracture-related and spinal cord injury/disorder-related factors. (March 2023)
  • Found almost one in ten Veterans experienced PTSD-related distress at the end of their life. (April 2023)
  • Demonstrated the amino acid L-Arginine can protect against scarring, inflammation, and death in kidney cells. (April 2023)
  • Demonstrated Veterans who deployed to Southwest Asia had greater breathing problems during exercise. (May 2023)
  • Found the PACT Act provided an opportunity to improve care for Veterans with environmental exposures and institutional betrayal. (May 2023)
  • Learned Veterans with food insecurity had nearly four times higher rates of suicidal ideation than those without. (May 2023)
  • Learned Veterans hospitalized for COVID-19 in VA hospitals were less likely to die than those treated in community hospitals. (May 2023)
  • Created a machine learning model that can predict pancreatic cancer as much as five years in advance. (May 2023)
  • Found rates of suicidal thoughts in Veterans decreased after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. (June 2023)
  • Demonstrated a slightly increased risk of bladder cancer among male Vietnam Veterans exposed to Agent Orange. (June 2023)
  • Found Non-Hispanic American Indian/Alaska Native and non-Hispanic White Veterans were more likely to receive opioid prescriptions than other groups. (June 2023)
  • Showed prazosin can prevent posttraumatic headaches and decrease the impact of headaches on quality of life. (June 2023)
  • Created an artificial intelligence algorithm to improve suicide risk prediction from clinical notes within Veterans’ electronic health records. (June 2023)
  • Demonstrated Service members with a TBI had significantly higher rates of new-onset mental health conditions, including suicide risk. (July 2023)
  • Demonstrated TBI directly increased suicide risk and indirectly raised risk by increasing the likelihood of mental health conditions. (July 2023)
  • Showed that for every 1-point increase in measures of tinnitus severity, Veterans had an 8% increase in the odds of reporting impaired work functioning. (July 2023)
  • Learned genetic risk factors for insomnia may also increase risk of alcohol use disorder. (July 2023)
  • Showed Black or White Veterans with a genetic predictor for diabetes had greater odds of being diagnosed with dementia. (July 2023)
  • Found suicide risk was greater in western U.S. counties than in eastern counties. (July 2023)
  • Collaborated with firearm retailers to create an out-of-home firearm storage program that reduced Veteran suicide rates during periods of emotional crisis. (July 2023)
  • Learned cognitive processing therapy for PTSD may also lower the risk of coronary heart disease. (July 2023)
  • Showed prior infection with the herpes simplex virus partly protects against the herpes zoster virus (shingles). (July 2023)
  • Showed aromatherapy may help ease pain in cancer patients near the end of their lives. (August 2023)
  • Found Veterans in addiction treatment saw improvements in suicidal ideation after completing the VA Brief Intervention and Contact Program. (August 2023)
  • Developed a natural language processing model to identify eviction status in electronic health records. (August 2023)
  • Demonstrated VA-delivered colorectal cancer screenings decreased nine months after implementation of the MISSION Act. (September 2023)
  • Showed a peer-supported mobile health program can improve Veterans’ stress levels and support personal health goals. (September 2023)
  • Learned rural Veterans with HIV and alcohol use disorder received fewer video telehealth services than their urban counterparts. (September 2023)
  • Demonstrated 34% of pregnant Veterans with mental health disorders continued using antidepressants through their pregnancy. (September 2023)
  • Found virtual mental health visits increased from 8.7% to 26.6% in Veterans aged 60 or older with alcohol use disorder who received electronic tablets. (September 2023)
  • Demonstrated only 11.6% of Veterans began PTSD treatment within the first year of diagnosis in a VA facility during the period 2017–2019. (September 2023)
  • Discovered smallpox vaccines were between 72% to 75% effective at preventing mpox. (September 2023)
  • Found Women Veterans said their mobility devices limited function or made it difficult to access services like public transportation. (September 2023)
  • Developed a computer algorithm to predict atrial fibrillation potentially a month before it occurs. (October 2023)
  • Found financial assistance to Veterans facing housing instability improved health outcomes like all-cause mortality and suicidal ideation. (October 2023)
  • Identified 12 gene variants that increased the risk of suicide attempt. (October 2023)
  • Discovered a gene mutation that lowers the risk of chronic kidney disease and kidney failure in Black patients. (October 2023)
  • Found homeless Veterans were more likely to possess a dangerous combination of benzodiazepine and opioid prescriptions. (October 2023)
  • Learned medication to treat opioid use disorder could lead to moderate weight gain. (October 2023)
  • Learned most Veterans who completed prolonged exposure or cognitive processing therapy for PTSD continued to use VA mental health services. (November 2023)
  • Found Veterans with tinnitus may have ear synapse loss equivalent to 20 years of aging. (November 2023)
  • Learned Service members and Veterans with TBI were three to four times more likely to report recurring dizziness, regardless of the cause of injury. (November 2023)
  • Found Black Veterans were 19% more likely to have late-stage pancreatic cancer and were 25% less likely to undergo surgery than White Veterans. (November 2023)
  • Identified a potential link between genetic liability for cannabis use disorder and lung cancer. (November 2023)
  • Found multiple genetic loci that affected risk for cannabis use disorder, depending on race. (November 2023)
  • Identified expectations of future engagement with employment among people with spinal cord injury. (November 2023)
  • Found mandated urine cultures for Veterans with spinal cord injury were often followed by antibiotic prescriptions, potentially leading to overprescribing. (November 2023)
  • Demonstrated COVID-19 conferred a higher risk of death and long-term health outcomes than the flu. (December 2023)
  • Learned excess mortality increased during the COVID-19 pandemic even after accounting for direct COVID-related deaths. (December 2023)


Major study launches, new partnerships, and other initiatives

  • In coordination with the DOD, implemented a series of ICD-10 codes for primary blast injury of brain that were not classified elsewhere.
  • Initiated two new multisite precision oncology trials in the Prostate Cancer Analysis for Therapy Choice (PATCH) program supported by ORD and industry partners.
  • Expanded the POPCaP network to 13 sites across the VA Research enterprise. Hired and onboarded POPCaP and PATCH program managers to facilitate network standardization and collaboration and to support the development and initiation of new clinical trials.
  • Launched the Lung Precision Oncology Program (LPOP) in 17 VISNs, which brings together nearly 76 VA medical centers to conduct lung cancer screening and lead precision clinical trials, as part of a larger lung cancer precision oncology plan.
  • Initiated a contract with National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) for an independent study on the effect of opioid and benzodiazepine prescribing on all-cause mortality in Veterans.
  • Launched a study on the association between suicide risk and living at high altitude. The study will leverage existing VA data for approximately 14 million Veterans, along with a variety of social and geospatial information.
  • Launched two pilot sites for the MVP precision mental health study MVP-MIND, which aims to enroll 50,000 Veterans with mental health and substance use disorders over five years. MVP-MIND will leverage the infrastructure, policy, and standardized processes established for MVP.
  • Funded a large multi-site clinical trial to investigate the feasibility and efficacy of stellate ganglion block as a treatment for PTSD in Veterans, which began enrolling in summer 2022.
  • Established the ORD COVID-19 Biorepository / VA Science and Health Initiative to Combat Infectious and Emerging Life-threatening Diseases (VA SHIELD) to help advance scientific understanding of infectious and other diseases; support clinical research; and further diagnostic, therapeutic, and preventative strategies for immediate deployment in VA clinics.
  • Coordinated enterprise-wide research on variant sequencing. This project, known as VA SeqCURE (Sequencing Collaborations United for Research and Epidemiology) supports a network of VA research laboratories established to conduct variant sequencing to monitor the evolution of the SARS-CoV-2 genome. This effort is critical due to concerns that emerging variants may escape immunity generated by COVID-19 vaccines or prior infection.
  • Established the COVID-19 Disrupted Care National Project (DCNP). The DCNP includes a coordinating center to support a community of VA investigators and partners who are conducting research related to disrupted care due to COVID-19 and exploring excess non-COVID mortality during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Created the COVID-19 Observational Research Collaboratory (CORC). The CORC is a multi-site center that coordinates ongoing research related to long-term COVID outcomes and facilitates new studies by promoting common data and methods. The Center has examined electronic health record data and begun to conduct surveys with thousands of patients from 6 to 36 months post-infection to assess the effect of COVID-19 on clinical diagnoses, health care utilization, costs, symptoms, and other patient-reported outcomes.
  • Partnered with the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute to obtain their TOPMed (Trans-omics for Precision Medicine) sequence data, completed imputation of MVP genotype data, and provisioned data to all approved MVP researchers.
  • Funded a supplement to increase the number of women Veterans in an existing DOD-funded project, “Needs, Preferences, and Functional Abilities of Veterans and Service Members with Upper Limb Amputation.” The project’s findings confirm that women with upper-limb amputation are less likely than men to use prostheses, highlighting a need to develop prostheses for women that are cosmetically acceptable, yet lightweight and functional.
  • Developed a novel prosthetic ankle/foot attachment system that can be quickly adapted for use with different footwear, such as high heels, with assistance from the VA TTP. The investigators signed a licensing agreement in January 2021 with an industry partner (UNYQ), with production and distribution beginning in 2022.

Key findings

  • Found that the addition of lithium to usual VA mental health care did not reduce the incidence of repeated suicide-related events in Veterans with major depression or bipolar disorders. (Jan. 2022)
  • Tested the effectiveness of a radioactive drug to identify prostate cancer spread. (Jan. 2022)
  • Identified a genetic risk locus for suicide attempt that has been implicated in risk-taking behavior, smoking, and insomnia through a large genome-wide association study. (Feb. 2022)
  • Found evidence of racial disparities in outcomes for Veterans treated for PTSD in residential settings. (Feb. 2022)
  • Reported on the U.S. opioid crisis and cautioned that the risks/benefits of opioids should be considered when writing drug regulations, prescribing, and opioid stewardship. (Feb. 2022)
  • Recommended multidisciplinary approaches to pain management that decrease over- reliance on opioids. (Feb. 2022)
  • Found that people with COVID-19 have a serious risk of developing a mental health disorder, including anxiety, depression, and substance use. (Feb. 2022)
  • Learned that Gulf War Veterans referred to a VA tertiary evaluation center report a high burden of chronic symptoms. (Feb. 2022)
  • Learned that after the first 30 days of infection, individuals with COVID-19 are at an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. (March 2022)
  • Learned that mental health dysfunction in Veterans persists years after war’s end from an analysis using data from the Vietnam Era Health Retrospective Observational Study (VE- HEROeS). (March 2022)
  • Discovered that select proteins called neoantigens can activate the immune system to help destroy cancer. (March 2022)
  • Found that Veterans with posttraumatic headaches and severe tinnitus experienced greater PTSD severity than those with mild or moderate tinnitus. (March 2022)
  • Identified a dose-response relationship between TBI severity and headache outcomes in Veterans evaluated at a VA polytrauma clinic. (April 2022)
  • Learned that suicide rates in American Indian and Alaska Native Veterans who used VA healthcare more than doubled from 2004 to 2018. (April 2022)
  • Found genetic links between COVID-19 severity and certain serious medical conditions, such as venous embolism, thrombosis, type 2 diabetes, and ischemic heart disease. (April 2022)
  • Learned that Veterans of African ancestry with specific gene variants were at heightened risk of acute kidney injury from COVID-19. (April 2022)
  • Learned that people with COVID-19 exhibited an increased risk and excess burden of incident diabetes. (May 2022)
  • Demonstrated that a new type of psychotherapy shows promise in easing headache symptoms in Veterans with mild traumatic brain injuries. (June 2022)
  • Outlined much-needed guidance for treating cancer patients who experience a problematic pattern of opioid use. (June 2022)
  • Showed that headache disability improved with cognitive behavioral therapy for headaches in post-9/11 combat Veterans. (June 2022)
  • Learned that Veterans with a PTSD subtype had more chronic PTSD over time and disrupted brain connectivity compared with other forms of PTSD. (June 2022)
  • Found that less than a third of Veterans with a probable mental health or substance use disorder reported current engagement with mental health care. (June 2022)
  • Identified genetic factors that increase the risk of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. (June 2022)
  • Found that height may affect the risk of several common health conditions, including that greater height is linked to lower risk of coronary heart disease and higher risk of peripheral neuropathy and circulatory disorders. (June 2022)
  • Found that toxic exposure during military service may be linked to infertility. (July 2022)
  • Demonstrated that tinnitus, poor low-frequency hearing, and perceived severity of tinnitus may be associated with poorer functional status among service members and Veterans. (July 2022)
  • Found that pharmacogenomic testing reduced prescription of medications with predicted drug-gene interactions for patients with major depressive disorder, via PRIME Care clinical trial. (July 2022)
  • Examined the feasibility and efficacy of home-based transcranial stimulation with prolonged exposure, an evidence-based treatment for PTSD. (July 2022)
  • Found an association between cannabis use and suicide risk in Gulf War Veterans. (Aug. 2022)
  • Developed a prediction model to estimate the probability of death from COVID-19. The model, called PDeathDx, uses diagnostic codes from medical records. (Aug. 2022)
  • Discovered that the genes involved in coronary heart disease risk are nearly the same for everyone, regardless of racial or ethnic background. (Aug. 2022)
  • Showed that sickle cell trait is linked to an increased risk of death from COVID-19. (Aug. 2022)
  • Learned that Veterans with mild and moderate-to-severe TBI had higher risk of future death over the short term for nine out 10 leading causes of death in the United States. (Sept. 2022)
  • Showed that Black Veterans with mental health disorders may require more intensive treatment for chronic pain in a study on the effectiveness of a walking intervention. (Sept. 2022)
  • Found that Women Veterans with lower-limb amputations felt invisible, lacked connection with peers, and desired prosthetic devices that met social and biological needs. (Sept. 2022)
  • Showed that Black Veterans with lung cancer receive comparable care with equivalent, if not superior, treatment outcomes as white Veterans. (Oct. 2022)
  • Identified previously unknown genetic traits linked to opioid use disorder. (Oct. 2022)
  • Found that post-9/11 Veterans with a history of TBI were more likely to develop cardiovascular disease compared to controls. (Nov. 2022)
  • Found that increased primary care use prior to cancer diagnosis was associated with significant decreases in metastatic disease at diagnosis and cancer-related death. (Nov. 2022)
  • Determined that perceived threat during deployment is linked to firearm ownership in Women Veterans. (Nov. 2022)
  • Found that Veterans with a personality disorder diagnosis have an increased risk of suicide, which was elevated in Cluster B diagnoses. (Nov. 2022)
  • Discovered that COVID-19 reinfection increases the risk of death and health problems. (Nov. 2022)
  • Determined that the antiviral medication Paxlovid lowers the risk of developing Long COVID. (Nov. 2022)
  • Found that the Opioid Safety Initiative has led to better opioid management in VA. (Dec. 2022)
  • Learned that genetic risk factors for dementia differ between people of African and European ancestries. (Dec. 2022)
  • Surveyed female upper-limb amputees to incorporate issues of concern to the Orthotics and Prosthetics User survey. Several themes were identified in the areas of comfort, appearance, and utility. (Dec. 2022)


Dr. Candace Floyd, a specialist in TBI and spinal cord injury research at the Salt Lake City VA, is the lead investigator for the Interagency Resource Coordinating Center for Preclinical TBI Research. (Photo by Jeff Grandon)

Major study launches, new partnerships, and other initiatives

  • Started a coalition to encourage patients in U.S. hospitals to practice consistent oral hygiene as a simple measure to aid in the prevention of hospital-acquired pneumonia. (March 2021)
  • Completed a research agreement with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to expand research on infectious diseases and related topics. (June 2021)
  • Transitioned all VA research sites nationwide, along with the Central Institutional Review Board, to a platform that will standardize regulatory review across the entire research enterprise. (June 2021)
  • Initiated a national study to examine causes of increased mortality during the pandemic, to examine contributions of patient factors, health system factors, and COVID-19 infection. (June 2021)
  • Trained the first class of inventors in partnership with the new VA Translational Research Education and Mentoring Center at the Cleveland VA Medical Center. (June 2021)
  • Began the VA STARPORT trial to examine an innovative treatment approach for men whose prostate cancer has spread to distant areas of the body despite initial treatment with surgery or radiation. (July 2021)
  • Launched the Lung Precision Oncology Program, bringing together nearly 76 VA medical centers to conduct lung cancer screening and lead precision clinical trials as part of a larger lung cancer precision oncology plan. (July 2021)
  • Initiated a national study examining the long-term outcomes of over 250,000 Veterans who have recovered from COVID-19 infection to identify risk factors for “long COVID,” the natural history of post-COVID conditions, and effects on cognitive function, mental health, and functional status. The effort is known as the Collaboratory on Observational Research in COVID (CORC). (July 2021)
  • Awarded VA’s first diversity, equity, and inclusion funding supplements to support mentored research experiences for early-career investigators from underrepresented backgrounds. (July 2021)
  • Joined the Decentralized Trials and Research Alliance, a nonprofit organization aimed at increasing access to clinical trials through telemedicine, home delivery of study medications, and other methods. (Sept. 2021)
  • Implemented a new artificial-intelligence strategy to ensure trustworthy use of this technology for Veteran care. (Sept. 2021)
  • Established a center to coordinate pre-clinical federal lab research on traumatic brain injuries, in coordination with the Department of Defense and the National Institutes of Health. (November 2021)
  • Began a new advanced fellowship program in health services research and development, with an orientation to the learning health system, at the Richard L. Roudebush VA Medical Center in Indianapolis. (November 2021)

Key findings

  • Identified 18 specific locations on the human genome where variations can increase a person’s susceptibility to PTSD. (Jan. 2021)
  • Learned that cognitive and functional impairments are common among homeless adults. (Jan. 2021)
  • Confirmed that a history of cigarette smoking increases the risk of death for Veterans with COVID-19. (Feb. 2021)
  • Found that height loss in elderly men is associated with a higher risk of hip fracture. (Feb. 2021)
  • Determined that men and women have different needs when recovering from a suicide attempts. (Feb. 2021)
  • Showed that a delay between abnormal stool-based screening and a subsequent colonoscopy is associated with an increased risk of a cancer diagnosis and death from colorectal cancer. (Feb. 2021)
  • Showed that inflammation in the brain is linked to greater risk of Alzheimer’s disease. (March 2021)
  • Established that a test with a wrist-worn sensor can easily assess frailty and mobility in surgery patients. (April 2021)
  • Found that people who have had COVID-19 have a higher risk of dying than others in the six months after their diagnosis, well beyond the acute phase of the illness. (April 2021)
  • Showed that cognitive behavioral therapy can improve mood and insomnia in people with dementia. (April 2021)
  • Learned that drugs called CDK4 and CDK6 may improve therapy effectiveness for recurrent breast cancer. (April 2021)
  • Discovered that sound sleep can play a critical role in healing traumatic brain injury. (April 2021)
  • Identified a new drug that could prevent Alzheimer’s disease by modulating, rather than inhibiting, a key enzyme involved in forming amyloid plaques. (April 2021)
  • Uncovered 19 genes that may lead to depression by altering brain protein levels, and pinpointed 25 such proteins that may be targets for new depression treatments. (April 2021)
  • Revealed many new gene variants that increase people’s risk for depression, using genetic data on more than 300,000 participants in MVP. (May 2021)
  • Determined that Veterans receiving buprenorphine for opioid use disorder have a lower risk of suicide or overdosing from drugs than those not receiving the therapy. (May 2021)
  • Developed a non-invasive optical technique to help detect Alzheimer’s disease. The technique measures how light is scattered and absorbed while passing through matter to identify structural changes in the brain. (June 2021)
  • Linked diabetes to worse outcomes from COVID-19 infection. (June 2021)
  • Found that women Veterans with PTSD are more than twice as likely as male Veterans with the disorder to suffer from ischemic heart disease, and 44% more likely to have heart disease than women Veterans who did not have PTSD. (June 2021)
  • Determined that lesbian, gay, and bisexual Vietnam-era Veterans develop PTSD and have poorer mental health more often than their heterosexual counterparts. (June 2021)
  • Learned that a shorter course of antibiotics than the current standard can effectively treat urinary tract infections in men. (July 2021)
  • Found that the Unified Treatment Model, an emotion-based psychotherapy, is a promising way to treat women with PTSD or eating disorders. (July 2021)
  • Determined that brain images of cognitively normal adults in their mid-50s can help predict the progression of mild cognitive impairment more than a decade later. (July 2021)
  • Linked severe obesity with an increased risk of death from COVID-19. (Aug. 2021)
  • Uncovered that PTSD and mild traumatic brain injury cause significant alteration to neural connections in the brain. (Aug. 2021)
  • Learned that the COVID-19 pandemic has not increased suicidal behavior among Veterans. (Aug. 2021)
  • Revealed that treating vitamin D deficiencies could lower the risks of heart attack and death. (Aug. 2021)
  • Found that treatment using the blood from a person who has recovered from COVID-19 (convalescent plasma) did not reduce mortality in patients with non-severe COVID-19. (Sept. 2021)
  • Discovered that a combination of toxins found in exposure to Gulf War chemicals can cause problems with cell function that may lead to symptoms of Gulf War illness. (Sept. 2021)
  • Revealed that the use of e-cigarettes may increase inflammation in the body and weaken its immune response. (October 2021)
  • Identified several biological factors related to suicide risk among Veterans in a genome-wide association study. (October 2021)
  • Showed that transcranial magnetic stimulation, which uses magnetic fields to affect electrical signals in the brain, can reduce depression and PTSD symptoms in Veterans. (October 2021)
  • Learned that a blended model of an Internet-based self-guided approach combined with biweekly video-delivered coaching sessions can provide reductions in PTSD, depression, emotion management, and interpersonal problems among rural Veterans. (October 2021)
  • Discovered that a combination of telehealth coaching and web-based skill training can significantly improve clinical outcomes and social functioning for Veterans who have experienced military sexual trauma. (October 2021)
  • Documented a link between statin use and diabetes progression, and suggested patients be carefully observed when they start on statins. (October 2021)
  • Identified that antibodies from the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine declined significantly in nursing home residents six months after vaccination, highlighting the need for vaccine boosters, especially in older populations. (December 2021)
  • Showed that adding lithium to medication regimens does not help prevent suicide-related events in patients with mood disorders. (November 2021)
  • Learned that fears about adverse effects and worries about the newness of vaccines were the primary reasons Veterans reported for not getting vaccinated against COVID-19. (November 2021)
  • Found that disparities in PTSD treatment between rural and urban VA patients have improved in the last decade to the point at which medication prescribing rates are now largely equal. (November 2021)
  • Determined that while vaccine protection against COVID wanes over time, protection against death after infection remains high. (November 2021)
  • Linked solar activity to higher blood pressure in older men. (November 2021)
  • Determined that establishing group cohesion is an important part of suicide prevention group therapy. (December 2021)
    Showed that diabetic patients receiving VA care had better blood pressure and cholesterol management than those receiving non-VA care, but similar outcomes. (December 2021)
  • Found that patients who have surgery at VA facilities have a lower risk of death than those receiving non-VA surgery. (December 2021)
  • Learned that both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna Covid-19 vaccines were highly effective in preventing COVID-19 outcomes such as documented infection, hospitalization, and death, but that the Moderna vaccine offered an increased level of protection. The research focused on the Alpha variant of COVID. (December 2021)
  • Established that two smaller doses of blood pressure medication may lead to slightly larger reductions in blood pressure than one larger dose, but that both smaller and larger doses reduced blood pressure. Also, learned that taking just one medication was a regimen patients were more likely to continue. (December 2021)
  • Identified significant risk factors for suicide in Veterans including loneliness, low ability to appreciate positive aspects in life, thoughts of self-harm, and new traumas. (December 2021)
  • Found that disruptions due to the COVID-19 pandemic have led to substantial reductions in new cancers being diagnosed at VA facilities. (December 2021)


Dr. Prasad Padala simulates repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation for mapping the brain of a research assistant at the Central Arkansas VA, Ashlyn Jendro. She's holding her thumb up to indicate the twitching caused by the pulses. (Photo by Jeff Bowen)

Major study launches, new partnerships, and other initiatives

  • Launched a study to reduce the use of proton pump inhibitors, used to treat acid-related stomach disorders such as ulcers, heartburn, and acid reflux. Their long-term use can possibly lead to pneumonia, heart attack, and an increased risk of death. (Feb. 2020)
  • Teamed with the Parkinson’s Foundation to improve the health, well-being, and quality of life of Veterans living with Parkinson’s disease. (May 2020)
  • Began a national four-year study on the impact of COVID-19 on Veterans, studying data and biospecimens like throat swabs and blood to learn more about risk factors, progression, and immunity. (May 2020)
  • Invented, with the University of Michigan, a device allowing two patients with different needs to safely use the same ventilator. The device is similar to regulators found on air tanks used for scuba diving. (June 2020)
  • Partnered with the GO2 Foundation for Lung Cancer to increase awareness about lung screening options and improve outcomes for Veterans with lung cancer. (June 2020)
  • Announced the Insights Partnership with the Departments of Energy and Health and Human Services to coordinate and share health data, research, and expertise to aid in the fight against COVID-19. (July 2020)
  • Designed a new wheelchair that reduces bacterial hand contamination, can keep wheelchair users’ hands cleaner, and improves shoulder ergonomics. (July 2020)
  • Joined with the Department of Defense on the Study to Assess Risk and Resilience in Servicemembers (STARRS), to generate actionable recommendations to reduce suicides among members of the military. (July 2020)
  • Started a clinical trial to study the use of convalescent plasma for treating seriously ill COVID-19 patients as part of VA’s larger effort to give Veterans faster access to potential treatments and to test the effectiveness of the treatments. (Aug. 2020)
  • Began a study to determine whether cigarette use blocks the creation of new blood vessels in response to therapeutic stem cells, special human cells that can develop into many different cell types and serve as a repair system for the body. (Sept. 2020)
  • Began a four-year study on accelerated cellular aging in the brain related to traumatic stress. (Oct. 2020)
  • Created the National Women’s Oncology System of Excellence to provide women Veteran oncology patients with cutting edge care and access to clinical trials. (Oct. 2020)
  • Partnered with the American Kidney Fund to help Veterans diagnosed with kidney disease to live healthier lives. (Nov. 2020)
  • Launched a partnership with Duke University and Baylor College of Medicine to advance and improve breast cancer health outcomes for women Veterans. (Nov. 2020)
  • Announced a partnership with the Prostate Cancer Foundation to expand the role of advanced-practice registered nurses in the genetic services workforce and in the delivery of precision oncology patient care. (Nov. 2020)

Key findings

  • Found new evidence on the underlying biological causes of anxiety, using Million Veteran Program data (Jan. 2020)
  • Showed that health concerns are the most important readjustment challenge Veterans face in the first year after they leave military service. (Jan. 2020)
  • Revealed that in VA, an equal access health care system, African American men did not have more advanced prostate cancer at the time of diagnosis or die earlier than white men, unlike trends seen in the greater U.S. population. (Jan. 2020)
  • Uncovered a mechanism by which some lung cancer cells resist the chemotherapy drug cisplatin. Cisplatin-resistant cells had higher activity of an enzyme called IDO1 and higher levels of reactive oxygen species. IDO1 inhibitors may be a suitable treatment in patients whose lung cancer resists cisplatin. (Jan. 2020)
  • Determined that increasing opioid prescription doses for patients with chronic pain does not seem to reduce their pain. (Jan. 2020)
  • Established that patients with higher body weight are more likely to experience pain, in a study of nearly 2 million Veterans with musculoskeletal disorders. The relationship between body weight and pain was especially pronounced in patients with osteoarthritis. (March 2020)
  • Found that, in a mouse model, the use of stem cells can accelerate diabetic wound healing. (March 2020)
  • Learned that elevated symptoms of PTSD and moral injury can lead to pregnancy complications in women Veterans. Both PTSD and moral injury were predictors of adverse pregnancy outcomes such as preterm birth and gestational diabetes, while PTSD symptoms also predicted postpartum depression, anxiety, and a self-described difficult pregnancy. (April 2020)
  • Confirmed, based on a study that included data on more than 150,000 Veterans, that the risk of coronary artery disease rises based on the rate of fried food consumption—the largest study to date on the link between fried foods and heart disease. (April 2020)
  • Demonstrated that PTSD hinders the function of the brain’s immune system. (May 2020)
  • Recorded, for the first time, how short-term memories get stored in the brain as long-term memories while people sleep, by planting tiny electrodes inside two volunteers’ brains to create a brain-computer interface. (May 2020)
  • Linked meditation to lower cardiovascular risk in a study of more than 61,000 Veterans, 10% of whom participated in some form of meditation. People who meditated had lower rates of high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, and coronary artery disease, compared with those who did not meditate. (June 2020)
  • Determined that migraine headaches have a shared genetic basis with multiple other conditions, and found that blood pressure directly contributes to migraine, suggesting that high blood pressure may partially cause migraine. (June 2020)
  • Identified hundreds of genetic variants never before linked to type 2 diabetes, including some that vary by ethnicity, and also found variants tied to conditions related to the condition like coronary heart disease and chronic kidney disease. (June 2020)
  • Found that exposure to blast may lead to abnormal blood flow in the brain and damage to blood vessels, which may be related to poorer brain function after traumatic brain injury. (June 2020)
  • Learned that taking statins is linked to lower risk of death in people 75 and older, in a study of more than 300,000 Veterans using VA health care. (July 2020)
  • Established a new standard for assessing pulmonary hypertension (high blood pressure in the lung arteries). The new standard will help identify patients at risk of death who previously had been considered normal. (July 2020)
  • Found a new area on the human genome linked to protection from liver damage, which will help researchers better identify patients more likely to develop alcoholic cirrhosis and better understand how alcohol might injure the liver. (Aug. 2020)
  • Learned that repetitive mild brain trauma causes a moderate loss of connection between nerve cells in an area of the brain critical for memory and cognitive performance, and detected a major improvement in cell connectivity by using two compounds (TBHQ and pioglitazone) that have been shown to improve the health of brain cells. (July 2020)
  • Found that race and ethnicity are associated with a greater risk of testing positive for COVID-19, but not with death within a 30-day period after hospital discharge (Sept. 2020)
  • Discovered a gene that could make the development of alcoholic cirrhosis less likely and assist in developing targeted therapies to help individuals. (Sept. 2020)
  • Determined that different emotions may drive male and female Veterans to attempt suicide. One example of the trends seen in the study: Women may tend to feel as if they are not worth anything, whereas men may feel like the world has let them down. (Sept. 2020)
  • Linked cannabis use to psychiatric problems in Veterans, including PTSD and mood, anxiety, and substance use disorders. (Sept. 2020)
  • Found that repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation provided to patients with Alzheimer’s disease improved their state of apathy, the most common behavioral problem in people with the illness. (Oct. 2020)
  • Learned that exercise can alleviate sleep problems caused by nicotine withdrawal in cigarette smokers. (Oct. 2020)
  • Determined that immune checkpoint inhibitors (drugs that block specific proteins) can improve cancer patients’ survival. (Oct. 2020)
  • Tested a protocol for older Veterans who underwent major surgery that resulted in shorter hospital stays and lower rates of delirium after surgery. (Oct. 2020)
  • Determined that an elevated immune response is associated with more severe COVID-19 and death. (Nov. 2020)
  • Found that the risk of heart attack is significantly higher in Veterans with PTSD or traumatic brain injury. (Nov. 2020)
  • Learned that frailty in older Veterans is associated with a higher risk of death following surgery of all types, including low and moderate stress procedures. (Nov. 2020)
  • Discovered that people with a common variant of the apoliproprotein (APOE) gene had an increased risk of memory problems after close-range exposure to blasts. (Nov. 2020)
  • Determined that the use of VA homeless services by Veterans significantly lowered their rate of death, including from suicide. (Nov. 2020)
  • Learned that a new heart medication called omecantiv mecarbil reduces the risk of heart failure-related events in patients whose left ventricle does not contract normally. (Nov. 2020)
  • Demonstrated a major clinical benefit from the combined treatment of an antiviral drug (remdesivir) and an anti-inflammatory drug (baricitinib) for adults with COVID-19. (Dec. 2020)
  • Learned that the virus that causes COVID-19 can enter the brain of mice and possibly humans as well. (Dec. 2020)
  • Determined that COVID-19 was far more harmful and deadly than the seasonal flu in a study of more than 3,600 Veterans hospitalized with the illness. (Dec. 2020)
  • Found that in the first months after COVID-19 hospital stays, Veterans face a high risk of ongoing health problems, trips back to the hospital, and death. (Dec. 2020)
  • Learned that African American and Hispanic populations have higher rates of COVID-19 infection and death compared to other groups. (Dec. 2020)
  • Linked insomnia during alcohol withdrawal to a chemical process called histone acetylation, which allows a protein to regulate gene expression. Giving mice a chemical compound related to the process reduced their insomnia symptoms. (Dec. 2020)
  • Found that the number of concussions a person sustains does not affect the ability of patients to respond to treatment for traumatic brain injury. (Dec. 2020)


Army Veteran Joe Montanari suffered a traumatic brain injury while serving in Iraq. In addition to working as the military coordinator for the CENC and LIMBIC grants, he also participates in the studies. (Photo courtesy of Virginia Commonwealth University)

Major study launches, new partnerships, and other initiatives

  • Announced a partnership with the nonprofit TechLink to help expand the reach and impact of VA research and inventions. The goal is to attract more interest from private companies that will further develop technologies and make them widely available. (Feb. 2019)
  • Launched a study to see whether cannabidiol, or CBD—a compound derived from cannabis plants—can help ease PTSD. The $1.3 million VA-funded study will enroll 136 Veterans, from all service eras. (March 2019)
  • Joined the President’s PREVENTS initiative to prevent Veteran suicides, in part through the development and implementation of a national research strategy. (March 2019)
  • Re-dedicated an existing center for airborne hazards research to expand its focus on burn pits and other airborne pollution in combat zones. The new Airborne Hazards and Burn Pits Center of Excellence is based at VA’s War-Related Illness and Injury Study Center, or WRIISC, in East Orange, New Jersey. (May 2019)
  • Appointed a director of artificial intelligence, the first ever in VA, to widen the role of AI in VA care and research. (July 2019)
  • Joined with the Department of Defense to fund up to $50 million in new research on the long-term effects on Veterans and service members of mild traumatic brain injuries, or concussions. The funding will support a consortium, known as LIMBIC, that will include researchers and resources from more than 20 organizations, spanning VA, DoD, the National Institutes of Health, universities, and nonprofits.(Sept. 2019)
  • Launched the National Artificial Intelligence Institute to advance the health and well-being of Veterans. (Dec. 2019)

Key findings

  • Developed a new way to identify second-line antibiotics that may be effective in killing germs already resistant to a first-line antibiotic, potentially helping overcome antibiotic resistance. (Jan. 2019)
  • Based on Million Veteran Program data, identified more than 200 gene variants that could contribute to high blood pressure. The study also identified over 200 drugs currently used to treat other diseases that could potentially be repurposed to treat high blood pressure. (Jan. 2019)
  • Together with other researchers in the large SPRINT trial funded by the National Institutes of Health, found that people with hypertension who received intensive treatment to lower their blood pressure were less likely than those on standard treatment to develop minor memory and thinking problems that often progress to dementia. (Feb. 2019)
  • Demonstrated, in a study involving nearly 5,600 Veterans, that collaborative care models for mental health could reduce hospitalization rates and, for complex patients, improve health status. (March 2019)
  • Reported that one in four women Veterans reported inappropriate or unwanted comments or behavior by male Veterans on VA grounds. (March 2019)
  • Found that Veterans whose loved ones encouraged them to face distress were twice as likely to remain in PTSD treatment, compared with peers who did not have such encouragement, even after accounting for factors such as the Veterans’ own attitudes, their relationship with their therapists, and symptom severity. (March 2019)
  • Documented that Veterans with a history of homelessness were 8.8 times more likely to have attempted suicide than Veterans with no history of homelessness. (April 2019)
  • Showed that Veterans with recent experiences of homelessness who received primary care through a specialized medical home model were more likely than similar Veterans receiving standard primary care in the same facilities to report positive experiences with access, communication, and other aspects of care. (April 2019)
  • Found that how well-connected a particular brain network is, and how successfully memories are formed, may determine which PTSD patients benefit from behavioral therapy. (April 2019)
  • Found that Veterans who received prescription opioids from both VA and Medicare were at much higher risk for an overdose death than those who received prescriptions from only one system. (April 2019)
  • Confirmed the value of prolonged exposure therapy for Veterans coping with both PTSD and alcohol Some experts had worried that exposure therapy could worsen drinking in this population. (April 2019)
  • Demonstrated that a brief cognitive behavioral therapy in primary care reduced suicidal ideation in Veterans with chronic medical illness. (May 2019)
  • Discovered a link between high LDL cholesterol and early-onset Alzheimer's The results could help doctors understand how the disease develops and what the possible causes are, including genetic variation. (May 2019)
  • Linked the long-term use of proton pump inhibitors—drugs popular for treating heartburn and acid reflux— to fatal cases of cardiovascular disease, chronic kidney disease, and upper gastrointestinal cancer. (May 2019)
  • Showed that “implementation of precision oncology into clinical practice is feasible across the diverse VHA system, including rural community sites.” The VA National Precision Oncology Program study genetically analyzed more than 3,700 tumor specimens, the majority of which had “actionable mutations” that could be matched with approved targeted therapies or experimental ones in clinical trials. (May 2019)
  • Patented a new biomarker that indicates if a patient with the relapsing-remitting form of multiple sclerosis is in relapse. (May 2019)
  • Showed that VA patients with diabetes have similar health outcomes regardless of whether their primary provider is a physician, nurse practitioner, or physician assistant. (June 2019)
  • Published 15-year follow-up results from the VA Diabetes Trial, showing that patients who in earlier years had received intensive therapy to lower blood sugar did not maintain a protective edge against heart attacks or strokes. (June 2019)
  • Demonstrated that elevated blood glucose levels detected in routine outpatient tests, though well below diagnostic thresholds, predicted diabetes diagnoses within five years. (July 2019)
  • Showed that dispensing a yearlong supply of birth control pills up front could be more effective than other dispensing strategies at preventing unwanted pregnancies and controlling costs. (July 2019)
  • Using Million Veteran Program data from 31,300 Veterans, identified 19 genetic markers, almost all of them previously unreported, for peripheral artery disease. (July 2019)
  • Based on Million Veteran Program data, identified multiple locations in the human genome related to the risk of re-experiencing traumatic memories, the most distinctive symptom of PTSD. (July 2019)
  • Found a significant drop in antibiotic use at VA community living centers treating older Veterans with urinary tract infections—a positive sign in efforts to curb antibiotic overuse. (July 2019)
  • Confirmed, through a literature review, that biofeedback can reduce headache pain, improve both urinary and fecal incontinence, and aid in stroke recovery. (Aug. 2019)
  • Reported that early palliative care is associated with better survival in patients with advanced lung cancer. (Sept. 2019
  • Contributed to the development of an experimental blood test that accurately screens for (Sept. 2019)
  • Published promising results from a small pilot study that found deep brain stimulation may be a safe, effective treatment for severe tinnitus that doesn’t respond to other treatments. (Sept. 2019)
  • Found that that non-drug therapies given to service members with chronic pain may reduce the risk of long-term adverse outcomes, such as alcohol and drug disorder and self-induced injuries, including suicide attempts. (Oct. 2019)
  • Demonstrated in a lab study that e-cigarettes weaken the body’s ability to fight off infection. (Oct. 2019)
  • Identified new genetic risk factors for PTSD in an international study that included several VA researchers. (Oct. 2019)
  • Identified several regions on the genome related to schizophrenia (Oct. 2019)
  • Showed that despite leading to improved survival and significant weight loss, bariatric surgery may not lead to lower health care costs. (Oct. 2019)
  • Launched online enrollment for the Million Veteran Program, making it easier for Veterans nationwide to join VA’s landmark genomic research program, which had enrolled more than 800,000 Veterans as of late 2019. (Oct. 2019)
  • Found that a history of military sexual trauma is common in older women Veterans, and that women who experienced MST were more likely to report multiple health conditions, especially mental health issues.(Nov. 2019)
  • Showed that frail surgery patients may be at higher risk than previously thought, and developed strategies to increase preoperative frailty screening in VA. (Nov. 2019)


Study shows how binge drinking and stress affects male, female mice differently

Major study launches, new partnerships, and other initiatives

  • Initiated a wide-reaching partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to study infection control and the proper use of antimicrobial drugs. (Jan. 2018)
  • Launched a telehealth program to serve Veterans living in rural areas who have PTSD. (Jan. 2018)
  • Partnered with the nonprofit organization PINK Concussions to encourage women to donate their brains to the VA National PTSD Brain Bank and thereby support PTSD and brain-injury research. (Jan. 2018)
  • Created a partnership with the National Cancer Institute to boost Veteran access to clinical trials. (June 2018)
  • Announced plans to merge VA data into the Millennium Cohort Study, which has tracked the health of more than 200,000 service members. (July 2018)
  • Reported on the formation of the Gulf War Era Cohort and Biorepository, to support research on Gulf War Veterans’ health problems. (July 2018)
  • Announced the creation of the Elizabeth Dole Center of Excellence, under the auspices of VA Health Services Research and Development, to conduct research to benefit Veterans’ caregivers. (Sept. 2018)

Key findings

  • Determined that heart procedures performed at non-VA versus VA hospitals entailed shorter travel distances for Veterans; similar or higher rates of death; and lower or higher costs, depending on the procedure. (Jan. 2018)
  • Developed a tool to predict flares in patients with inflammatory bowel disease. (Jan. 2018)
  • Reported that Veterans who had been hospitalized with ischemic heart disease were more likely to participate in cardiac rehab when home-based programs were available. (Jan. 2018)
  • Demonstrated that the use of a medicated skin cream could greatly lower the need for surgical treatment among Veterans with squamous cell carcinoma. (Jan. 2018)
  • Contributed to a study showing that a shortened course of prolonged exposure therapy could be just as effective as the longer, standard version of the psychotherapy to treat PTSD in active-duty military. (Jan. 2018)
  • Determined that cancer patients treated in VA are less likely to receive excessive end-of-life interventions than those treated through Medicare. (Jan. 2018)
  • Found that preterm births were more common in the six months after deployment for women soldiers and Veterans. (Jan. 2018)
  • Reported that a “balanced high-fat diet” could reduce cardiovascular risk in obese women. (Jan. 2018)
  • Showed that medication alerts for providers in VA’s electronic health record system can lower co-prescribing of opioids and benzodiazepines in high-risk patients. (Feb. 2018)
  • Found that repetitive head injuries could lead to chronic traumatic encephalopathy even when no concussions had been diagnosed. (Feb. 2018)
  • Found in a large multisite clinical trial that the drug prazosin, used widely in VA to help ease nightmares from PTSD, did no better overall than placebo pills, although the researchers pointed to subgroups of Veterans they believe do benefit from the treatment. (Feb. 2018)
  • In studies in mice, produced results suggesting that chronic use of e-cigarettes may cause organ damage. (Feb. 2018)
  • Showed in lab studies that curcumin—the natural antioxidant found in turmeric—may have the potential to improve memory and mood in Gulf War illness. (Feb. 2018)
  • Developed a new scale to measure moral injury in Veterans and service members with PTSD. (Feb. 2018)
  • Discovered that a variant of the APOE gene that has long been associated with Alzheimer’s risk may be linked to worse psychiatric symptoms in people who have had a traumatic brain injury. (Feb. 2018)
  • Found in a multisite study that a program called Individual Placement and Support was more effective than older methods of vocational rehabilitation at helping Veterans with PTSD find sustainable competitive employment. (Feb. 2018)
  • Showed that many patients who will later be diagnosed with diabetes show signs of chronic kidney disease (CKD) even before their diabetes diagnosis. (Feb. 2018)
  • Used neural stem cell grafts to repair spinal cord injury in monkeys. The results were a step toward translating earlier results in rodents closer to human clinical trials. (Feb. 2018)
  • Reported that HIV patients on a single-tablet daily regimen had better treatment retention and viral suppression than patients taking multiple pills. (Feb. 2018)
  • Determined that VA had successfully implemented interferon-free treatment, based on newer drug regiments that are safer and more effective, for Veteran populations with hepatitis C who had previously been underserved, such as minority Veterans and those co-infected with HIV. (March 2018)
  • In one of the most rigorous trials on the topic to date, found that opioids did no better than non-opioid medications at bringing relief and boosting function for patients with common forms of chronic pain. (March 2018)
  • Found that gender-tailored alcohol screening could improve detection rates for unhealthy alcohol use among women Veterans. (March 2018)
  • Reported that written exposure therapy may be as effective as cognitive processing therapy for reducing PTSD symptoms, even though it involves a shorter treatment period. (March 2018)
  • Found that even a mild head injury can increase the risk for Parkinson’s disease. The study was based on the records of more than 325,000 VA patients. (April 2018)
  • Confirmed the lifesaving value of colonoscopy in a study of some 25,000 VA patients. The procedure was associated with a 61 percent reduction in death from colorectal cancer. (April 2018)
  • Found that longer gaps between doctor visits than are usually recommended—up to nine months, versus the standard six months—do not worsen the viral load for patients with HIV. (April 2018)
  • In partnership with the Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, demonstrated a link between the widespread Epstein-Barr virus and several autoimmune disorders, such as lupus, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and inflammatory bowel disease. (April 2018)
  • Found that involvement in research was linked to increased satisfaction and decreased intent to leave the organization among VA physicians. (April 2018)
  • In a large multisite trial, showed that two kinds of stents often used in patients who have heart bypass surgery are equally effective in preventing heart attacks, cardiac death, and repeat procedures to the arteries of the heart. (May 2018)
  • Demonstrated the ability of positive thinking to improve arthritis pain in Veterans. (May 2018)
  • Showed the value of mantram therapy—a form of meditation in which the person repeats a word or phrase with spiritual meaning to him or her—to reduce PTSD symptoms and insomnia in Veterans. (June 2018)
  • Documented a trend in VA toward less aggressive treatment of low-risk prostate cancer. (June 2018)
  • Showed that pain intensity following discontinuation of long-term opioid therapy does not, on average, worsen for patients. (June 2018)
  • Documented that a medical-records flag for suicide risk increased VA health-care visits among Veterans with substance use disorders. (June 2018)
  • Found, in a study of nearly 70,000 VA patients with kidney disease, that those who initiated dialysis at VA facilities had lower mortality than those who used non-VA dialysis centers. (June 2018)
  • Showed the value of a simple emergency room intervention to help reduce suicide risk. (July 2018)
  • Found that LGBT women Veterans were more likely than non-LGBT women Veterans to report missing needed health care due to concerns about interacting with other Veterans. (July 2018)
  • Found in surveys that homeless Veterans reported more positive experiences in VA facilities with homeless-tailored primary care teams. (July 2018)
  • Discovered that a protein called B18R reverses memory problems in mice with HIV. The agent shows potential for human application. (July 2018)
  • In lab experiments, showed that a regimen of low-dose aspirin could reduce brain plaques associated with Alzheimer’s disease and thereby protect memory. (July 2018)
  • Released data from the SPRINT MIND study—a nationwide joint effort partnership between NIH, VA, and other health systems—showing that aggressively lowering blood pressure reduces the risk of mild cognitive impairment and dementia. (July 2018)
  • In the largest global study of blood pressure to date, based partly on Million Veteran Program data, identified more than 500 new gene regions that influence blood pressure. (Sept. 2018)
  • Found that an online diabetes prevention program could be as effective as an in-person program for weight loss. (Sept. 2018)
  • Found that “battlefield acupuncture,” a therapy in which tiny needles are inserted at points in the outer ear, was effective at reducing pain in either individual or group treatment settings. (Oct. 2018)
  • Using data from the Million Veteran Program, identified three genetic mutations that govern cholesterol levels. (Oct. 2018)
  • Identified white-matter abnormalities in the brain that may help explain the chronic headaches associated with traumatic brain injury. (Oct. 2018)
  • Found that long-term use of benzodiazepines in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and PTSD may lead to increased suicide risk. (Oct. 2018)
  • Reported that post-9-11 Veterans with a history of repeated traumatic brain injuries—versus none—are at much greater risk for considering suicide. (Nov. 2018)
  • Led a study that determined that consuming alcoholic beverages daily—even at low levels that meet U.S. guidelines for safe drinking—may be detrimental to health. (Nov. 2018)
  • Showed in a mouse study that low-dose aspirin may have the potential to slow the progression of multiple sclerosis and ease symptoms. (Nov. 2018)
  • In a large VA Cooperative Studies Program trial, found that endoscopic vein harvesting, when performed by surgeons with sufficient experience and expertise, is just as safe as open vein harvesting—which requires larger incisions in the leg— for patients undergoing heart bypass surgery. (Nov. 2018)
  • Reported that a combination treatment called SMART-CPT led to improvements in PTSD symptoms and cognitive functioning for patients with PTSD and traumatic brain injury. (Dec. 2018)
  • Found that VA patients with diabetes fared equally well whether their primary care was led by a physician, nurse practitioner, or physician assistant. (Dec. 2018)
  • With funding from the Department of Defense, found positive results from transcendental meditation in a study involving more than 200 Veterans with PTSD. (Dec. 2018)

Technology advances

  • Reported that study participants using the advanced DEKA prosthetic arm—now sold as the LUKE arm—had less perceived disability and more engagement of the prosthesis in everyday tasks, compared with conventional prosthetic arms. (Jan. 2018)
  • Documented long-term usefulness of lower-limb neuroprostheses—implanted devices that stimulate nerves to cause paralyzed muscles to contract, thus allowing people with spinal cord injuries to stand and step. (Feb. 2018)
  • Reported on new methods to restore movement sensation in those with upper-limb amputations, using small, powerful robots to vibrate specific muscles in the residual limb. (March 2018)
  • Reported results from a clinical trial at VA’s Cleveland FES Center in which new methods were used to restore complete respiratory muscle function in people with spinal cord injury. (March 2018)
  • Published research on new approaches to functional MRI scanning that promise to improve the ability to accurately diagnose traumatic brain injury and posttraumatic stress disorder; to understand how the two conditions interact; and to identify specific brain regions that could potentially be targeted for treatment. (March 2018)
  • Showed that pulsed xenon ultraviolet devices disinfect more effectively than manual cleaning in hospital rooms. (April 2018)
  • Found in animal models that photodynamic therapy—in which a medication activated by light and heat is injected into the body—may be an effective treatment for bladder cancer. (April 2018)
  • In a clinical trial, demonstrated that the mobile health app PTT Advisor, designed by the Centers for Disease and Prevention, improved physicians’ diagnostic decision-making. (June 2018)
  • In the first report on home use of such technology, documented improvements in psychosocial well-being and other parameters for amputees using new advanced sensory-enabled prostheses, developed by VA and Case Western Reserve University researchers. (June 2018)
  • Reported that the Wadsworth Brain Computer Interface (BCI) system was useful in preserving communication for patients with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), even in advanced stages of the disease, but that many patients were not able to use the technology as their disease progressed. (June 2018)
  • Announced, with private partners, advances in the further development and testing of a portable sensing system that can quickly assess the clotting ability of a person’s blood. (July 2018)
  • Showed that electronic triggers designed to search for key data could reduce delays in follow-up care for patients with suspected colon or prostate cancer. (Aug. 2018)
  • As part of the BrainGate collaboration, enabled people with paralysis to use their thoughts to control an unmodified commercial tablet computer. Participants controlled a Bluetooth mouse and performed tasks like web browsing and texting. (Nov. 2018)
  • Developed a device that uses electrical stimulation to affect the vestibular system and thereby improve balance; the device was successfully tested in Veterans with Gulf War illness. (Nov. 2018)
  • Successfully tested in mice a gene therapy, based on the urocortin 3 gene, that promises to treat congestive heart failure. (Nov. 2018)
  • Implanted bioengineered spinal discs into goats, in a demonstration of a potential new therapy to treat spinal pain. (Nov. 2018)
  • In a rat model of epilepsy, showed that transplanting neurons derived from stem cells could stop seizures. (Dec. 2018)


Testing of the MEBot involves a large mechanical platform that tilts and lurches in various directions.

Major study launches, new partnerships, and other initiatives

  • Issued recommendations to address the need for more pharmaceutical treatments for PTSD, and launched the PTSD Psychopharmacology Initiative to address the problem. (March 2017)
  • Launched the PRecision Medicine in MEntal Health Care (PRIME) study to examine the value of genetic testing in determining which drugs are best for individual Veterans with depression. (June 2017)
  • Partnered with other federal agencies to fund $81 million in new research on non-drug treatment of pain for military personnel and Veterans. (Sept. 2017)
  • Published a journal supplement devoted to promoting health equity in the VA system. (Sept. 2017)
  • Completed enrollment of 50,000 Veterans in the CONFIRM study on colorectal cancer—the largest single clinical trial in VA history. (Nov. 2017)

Key findings

  • Published results from a series of trials on the effects of testosterone treatment in older men—among the most comprehensive studies to date on the topic—that showed, among other findings, that the treatment did not significantly improve memory or other cognitive functions. (Feb. 2017)
  • Published a review and meta-analysis on the benefits and harms of intensive blood pressure treatment in older adults that confirmed that treatment to at least current guidelines—below150/90 mm Hg—“substantially improves outcomes” for this population. (March 2017)
  • Published results from a large study on suicide risk and substance use disorders that found that current SUDs “signal increased suicide risk, especially among women, and may be important markers to consider in suicide risk assessment strategies.” (March 2017)
  • Linked trauma with eating disorders in female Veterans. (May 2017)
  • Reported on the potential benefits of peer mentors for homeless Veterans. (June 2017)
  • Reported results from a large study suggesting “excess risk of death” among users of proton pump inhibitors—drugs used widely to treat heartburn.(June 2017)
  • Published results from a comparison of two programs aimed at helping Veterans with prediabetes achieve a healthy weight, indicating that adding features from one—the VA Diabetes Prevention Program—into the other—VA’s standard weight-loss program, MOVE!— may help extend the reach of the latter in the VA population. (July 2017)
  • Found that yoga can help back pain and reduce reliance on opioids. (July 2017)
  • Published findings from a large study comparing treatments for depression, showing that in a mainly male population with major depressive disorder who were unresponsive to antidepressant treatment, the addition of the drug aripiprazole (sold as Abilify) resulted in a statistically significant but only modest increase in the odds of remission during 12 weeks of treatment, compared with switching to use of the drug bupropion (Wellbutrin or Zyban) alone. (July 2017)
  • Documented increased use of hospice care in VA, the result of a major initiative. (July 2017)
  • Reported follow-up results from a long-term comparison of two treatment options for prostate cancer, showing that surgery was not associated with significantly lower all-cause or prostate-cancer mortality, compared with observation. (July 2017)
  • Published findings from a major VA trial comparing two methods of heart bypass surgery, showing that off-pump surgery led to lower survival rates than on-pump surgery. (Aug. 2017)
  • Found, after adjusting for differences in age and sex, that risk for suicide was 22 percent higher among Veterans, compared with non-Veteran adults in the U.S.
  • Documented reductions in brain volume in Veterans affected by Gulf War illness. (Sept. 2017)
  • Reported the “first direct biological evidence” of DNA damage in Veterans with Gulf War illness. (Sept. 2017)
  • Identified a protein that may serve as a marker of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a neurodegenerative condition linked to repeated brain injuries. (Sept. 2017)
  • Discovered genetic markers for the progressive (more severe) form of multiple sclerosis. (Sept. 2017)
  • Showed that Veterans’ mental health and housing improved when they accessed free legal services in a VA facility. (Dec. 2017)

Technology advances

  • Won “Best New Concept” award in the Blackwood Design Awards for the MEBot robotic wheelchair. (Jan. 2017)
    • Continued to report findings from ongoing research on the LUKE arm (formerly called the DEKA arm). VA researchers contributed to the development of the advanced prosthetic arm, which VA began prescribing for Veterans in 2017. (Jan. 2017)
  • Contributed to advances in a brain-computer technology that now allow fast, accurate typing by people with paralysis. (Feb. 2017)
  • Demonstrated, with collaborators, the mechanism by which electroacupuncture works to relieve pain. (April 2017)
  • Invented a waterproof wheelchair that runs entirely on compressed air. The device debuted at a Texas theme park for people with disabilities. (April 2017)
  • Enabled a patient with tetraplegia to reach and grasp, through the combination of functional electrical stimulation and a brain-computer interface. (May 2017)


Notable gains
  • Announced a partnership with IBM to use the company's supercomputer Watson to help VA doctors tailor cancer care.
  • Entered into an agreement with the Department of Defense and the National Cancer Institute for routine screening of certain tumors for gene and protein information, to help individualize cancer treatment.
  • Announced a collaboration with the Department of Energy to use DoE's powerful supercomputers to help analyze Million Veteran Program data.
  • Began a major study, funded by the Department of Defense, on the needs of upper-limb amputees in the Veteran and active-duty population.
  • Enrolled the 38,566th participant in a VA Cooperative Studies trial on colonoscopy screening ("CONFIRM"), on the way to a total enrollment goal of 50,000, making CONFIRM the largest ever single VA clinical trial.
  • Launched an innovative "point of care" study, comparing two diuretic medications, that represents a new and potentially more cost-effective way of doing clinical trials.
  • With Yale colleagues, successfully tested in two patients a genetically tailored treatment for a severe chronic pain syndrome known as inherited erythromelalgia.
  • As part of international team, devised a way to deliver stem cells to heal diabetic ulcers. The method has yet to be tested in humans.
  • Found strong evidence of a link between high blood pressure and past exposure to herbicides in Vietnam-era Veterans.
  • Determined that a physical-environment checklist used in VA psychiatry units led to a sharp decline in inpatient suicides.
  • Confirmed, through a large database study, the effectiveness of new drugs for hepatitis C.
  • Launched a trial of pulsed low-intensity ultrasound to treat osteoarthritis of the knee.
  • Developed nontoxic nanoparticles based on ginger that could potentially help heal inflammatory bowel disease.
  • Found, in mice, that an infusion of stem cells could help prevent glaucoma. The approach is undergoing further study.
  • Developed a tentative panel of blood biomarkers that was able to verify a diagnosis of Gulf War illness with 90 percent accuracy.
  • Pinpointed genetic variants that appear to play a role in increasing the risk of Gulf War illness.
  • Found that "chronic multisymptom illness," usually associated mainly with Gulf War Veterans, may also be common in Veterans of the recent Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
  • Identified an uptick in lung disease between 2003 and 2011 in VA patients who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
  • Developed a light-emitting nanoparticle that promises to help in the diagnosis and treatment of bladder cancer.
  • Successfully tested a telehealth version of VA's MOVE! weight-loss program.
  • Developed , with colleagues at Tulane University, a new drug that could be a safer, non-addictive alternative to morphine.
  • Showed that PTSD may decrease the ability of blood vessels to dilate, raising the risk of heart attack and stroke.
  • In animal experiments, showed how stem cells could be used to regenerate damaged spinal cord tissue. Ongoing research aims to translate the approach to humans.
  • Documented a link between military sexual trauma and the risk of homelessness.
  • In a 10-year study of nearly 3,400 Veterans, found a strong link between misuse of opioid painkillers and eventual heroin use.
  • Showed how young adults' problem drinking may have long-lasting health effects.
  • With Defense funding and in partnership with non-VA sites, launched a test of stem cells as a possible treatment for a common form of heart failure.
  • Established that Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans with epilepsy have a substantially higher death rate than their peers without epilepsy.
  • Found significantly higher rates of physical and mental health conditions in transgender Veterans, based on the records of more than 5,000 transgender Veterans and a comparison group of 15,000.
  • Showed that the cerebellum, a structure in the brain, is particularly vulnerable to damage from blast exposures.
  • Successfully used gene transfer to boost cardiac function in patients with heart failure.
  • In an extensive analysis of existing data, confirmed the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet.
  • Documented the long-term effectiveness of bariatric surgery for weight loss.
  • Created technology - surgically implanted neurostimulators - that allowed a man paralyzed by spinal cord injury to pedal his way to a gold medal at the first international Cyborg Olympics.
  • Announced a partnership with the Prostate Cancer Foundation to expand clinical research.
  • Demonstrated significant progress in restoring a natural sense of touch for those who use prosthetic hands.
  • Published a study showing the potential of videoconference as a way to deliver exposure therapy for PTSD.
  • Expanded the Precision Oncology Program nationwide, to all VA facilities, to help personalize cancer treatment based on genetic results.
  • Launched the Vietnam Era Health Retrospective Observational (VE-HEROeS) study to learn more about the long-term health effects of Vietnam service.
  • Began a study to explore the role of precision medicine - namely, genetic testing - to improve the prescribing of antidepressants.
  • Published results of the second follow-up survey of Gulf War Veterans taking part in a longitudinal health study.
  • Established a musculoskeletal diagnosis cohort to advance research and treatment for more than 5 million patients with musculoskeletal disorders receiving care from VA.
  • Found that frailty screening was associated with better post-surgery survival.
  • Documented consistent improvements in VA surgical care over the past 15 years.
  • Confirmed that chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) a progressive degenerative disease of the brain resulting from repeated head trauma is distinct from Alzheimer's and other degenerative brain disorders and can be diagnosed definitively on the basis of unique patterns of protein accumulation in neurons and other brain cells, albeit only upon post-mortem examination.


  • Invented a wheelchair that allows users to crank up the push rims to a standing position, providing them with increased functionality and independence.
  • Published preliminary results from a study of auditory sensory stimulation as an aid to recovery from severe traumatic brain injury.
  • Successfully tested, in an animal model, a method whereby skin cells could potentially be converted into insulin-producing cells to treat diabetes.
  • Reported 10-year results from the Veterans Affairs Diabetes Trial, which showed that tight blood sugar control could help reduce cardiovascular risk, although no survival advantage was found in the study.
  • Developed, with NIH colleagues, a predictive model that can identify Veterans at high risk of suicide based on indicators in their electronic medical records.
  • Reported results from a rigorous clinical trial of mindfulness-based stress reduction for PTSD.
  • Found that for some smokers, lung cancer screening could be perceived as a substitute for quitting smoking.
  • Documented higher rates of PTSD in women Vietnam Veterans than had previously been found.
  • As part of the SPRINT group, published results for a major trial showing that lower blood pressure targets could have cardiovascular and survival benefits from some patients.
  • For the first time in the U.S., launched a feasibility trial of osseointegrated prosthetic implants, which allow an artificial leg system to be anchored directly to the residual bone.
  • Provided evidence to support VA's decision to make the ReWalk robotic exoskeleton available to Veterans with spinal cord injury who could benefit from the device.
  • Found, in a long-term study of more than 1,100 women, that memory problems that are too mild to show up on standard tests could in fact be an early warning sign of thinking problems decades later.
  • Reported encouraging results from a small study of transcranial magnetic stimulation to treat tinnitus.
  • Awarded major contracts from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), through its Hand Proprioception and Touch Interfaces (HAPTIX) program, to help develop natural touch sensation for prosthetics users.
  • Determined that HIV patients who received antiretroviral therapy within a year of being infected were half as likely to develop AIDS, compared to those who waited longer.
  • Found in a VA-Department of Defense randomized clinical trial that hyperbaric oxygen did not provide therapeutic benefits for symptoms of TBI or PTSD, in line with previous similar findings.
  • Demonstrated the benefits of telemedicine-based collaborative care for PTSD.
  • Launched a study of light therapy to improve brain function in Veterans with Gulf War illness.
  • Found that a pulsed xenon light system can disinfect a hospital room as effectively as manual methods.
  • Contributed to new national guidelines for inflammatory bowel disease.
  • Found, in lab studies, that aspirin could block the growth of breast and other cancers.
  • Launched new studies on chronic disease, based on data from the Million Veteran Program.
  • Found, in a database study of more than 83,000 Veterans, that testosterone replacement therapy was associated with cardiovascular benefits.
  • Joined with the Henry M. Jackson Foundation for the Advancement of Military Medicine on the Veterans Metrics Initiative, which will follow 7,500 recent service members to learn which programs are most helpful to them.
  • Reported promising early results from a trial of deep brain stimulation to treat refractory PTSD.
  • Showed the benefits of expressive writing for returning Veterans.


  • Reported on new prosthetics technology to help restore the sense of touch for those who have lost an upper limb and use an artificial hand.
  • Showed how a virtual-reality computer application could boost the job-interview skills of Veterans with PTSD.
  • Published extensive study findings on the implementation of VA's new model of primary care, Patient Aligned Care Teams.
  • Published the first report from a new DoD-funded trial, led by a VA investigator and involving Vietnam Veterans, on the effects of traumatic brain injury and posttraumatic stress disorder on Alzheimer's disease risk.
  • Announced funding of a new multisite clinical trial (VA Cooperative Study 592) on the safety and efficacy of implantable cardiac defibrillators.
  • Launched phase 2 of the Women Veterans Cohort Study, looking at data on more than 900,000 Veterans to better understand women's health needs, health care use, and outcomes.
  • Introduced "Concussion Coach," a mobile phone app for Veterans and others who have suffered a mild or moderate traumatic brain injury.
  • Joined with NIH in funding 13 new research projects aimed at developing nondrug approaches to manage pain and related conditions such as PTSD, drug abuse, and sleep difficulty.
  • Won a Service to America medal (Drs. Bauman and Spungen) for innovative work on spinal cord injury.
  • Continued to publish research findings on the advanced DEKA prosthetic arm, which won FDA approval in May 2014.
  • Found, in a large VA cooperative study, that vitamin E can significantly delay functional decline among those with mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease.
  • Launched a VA cooperative study on lithium and suicide prevention.
  • Showed that a test that looks for blood and DNA mutations in stool is highly accurate for detecting colorectal cancer. The test was approved by the FDA in August 2014.
  • Found that food insecurity affects more than 1 in 4 Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans.
  • Determined, in a study of more than 16,000 births, that PTSD increases the risk of preterm birth.
  • Reported on an experimental drug that appears to exert multiple actions against Alzheimer's disease.
  • Found that Veterans diagnosed with traumatic brain injury may be at greater risk for dementia later in life.
  • Showed in lab experiments that an experimental gel, injected directly into the heart in the days and weeks following a heart attack, may be able to stave off heart failure.
  • Demonstrated the value of text messages as an aid to patients' adherence to critical medicine regimens.
  • Played a key role in helping to shape new national guidelines for the use of statin drugs for patients with high cholesterol.
  • Showed that Skype is an effective way to deliver psychotherapy to homebound older adults with depression.
  • Contributed to international research that identified important new genetic differences among people with schizophrenia.
  • Launched the largest-ever clinical trial comparing psychotherapies to treat posttraumatic stress disorder.


  • Announced the formation of new research consortia, funded jointly by VA and the Department of Defense, to study PTSD and traumatic brain injury.
  • Collaborated with researchers in Europe and Israel to develop and test a new type of "artificial pancreas" that could lead to major improvements in care for diabetes, and that promises to impact cell therapy for a variety of other health conditions.
  • Funded new types of centers of excellence—Collaborative Research to Enhance Transformation and Excellence (CREATE) and Centers of Innovation (COINs)—that promise to speed the translation of research results into clinical practice in VA.
  • Played a key role in University of Pittsburgh-led research on a brain-computer system that enabled a woman with total paralysis to control a robotic arm using only her thoughts.
  • Published findings from the first rigorous, large-scale comparison of different methods to wean patients with breathing difficulties from ventilators.
  • Reported that infections acquired in the hospital are less likely to occur when acute-care patients are bathed daily with a simple, inexpensive antiseptic.
  • Began collaboration with the Department of Defense on a $6.5 million study to learn whether Vietnam Veterans with traumatic brain injury or PTSD are at higher risk for Alzheimer's disease as they age.
  • Reported positive results from one of the largest studies to date on the use of videoconferencing to deliver evidence-based psychotherapy for Veterans with PTSD.
  • Found that many Veterans suffering from blast concussions may have hormone deficiencies that mimic some of the symptoms of PTSD and depression, underscoring the value of hormone-based treatments for traumatic brain injury.
  • Published new data indicating that Veterans exposed to Agent Orange are not only at higher risk for prostate cancer, but also more likely to have aggressive forms of the disease—information that could help guide screening and treatment.
  • Disseminated information to gastroenterologists on innovative research-based methods to improve the cancer-detection rate of colonoscopy.
  • Contributed to new clinical guidelines for cholesterol management.


  • Published results from a major study of abdominal aortic aneurysms that provided valuable guidance on surgical treatment options.
  • Reported results from a large prostate cancer trial that shed important light on the relative benefits and risks of surgery and radiation.
  • Lasker Award given to Dr. Thomas Starzl for pioneering techniques used in liver transplantation.
  • Dedicated the Center for Neurorestoration and Neurotechnology at the Providence VA Medical Center.
  • Enrolled the 100,000th Veteran participant in the Million Veteran Program, a major research effort aimed at better understanding the role of genes in health.
  • Celebrated the 50th anniversary in VA Research of Nobel-winning scientist Dr. Andrew V. Schally.
  • Showed in animal studies how a therapy combining stem cells and growth factors may help heal spinal cord injury.
  • Found that "observation" is as effective as surgery to treat early-stage prostate cancer.
  • Reported that patients with Parkinson's disease who undergo deep brain stimulation can expect stable improvements in movement-related symptoms for at least three years.
  • Reported on major advances in the BrainGate brain-computer interface system, enabling patients with paralysis to operate a robotic arm using only their thoughts.
  • Found that African American Veterans with diabetes could benefit clinically from a peer mentor program.
  • Documented the effectiveness of a supported-employment model known as "individualized placement and support" in helping Veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder get back to work.


  • Launched the Million Veteran Program, which will establish one of the world's largest databases of health and genetic information, for use in future research aimed at preventing and treating illness among Veterans and all Americans.
  • Brought into clinical use a bionic prosthetic ankle developed by a researcher affiliated with VA's Center for Restorative and Regenerative Medicine.
  • Developed an artificial lung prototype that mimics the structure of a natural lung and is described as a "significant step toward creating the first truly portable and implantable artificial lung systems."
  • Contributed to an international study validating a new preventive drug regimen for tuberculosis.
  • Published findings showing a 60 percent or greater decrease in MRSA infections from a VA-wide infection-control initiative.
  • Demonstrated the effectiveness of an insulin-based treatment, using a special nasal delivery system, that may help ward off Alzheimer's disease.
  • Contributed to an international genetic study that identified potential new drug targets for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
  • Showed that copper surfaces in hospital rooms could kill germs and prevent hospital-acquired infections.
  • Published an article describing a VA study that is one of the first examples of "point of care" research, an innovative way of conducting large clinical trials.
  • Made progress toward using "natural language processing" to expand the role of electronic medical records in improving medical care.
  • Launched collaboration with the University of Maryland to explore the potential role of IBM's "Watson" computer system as an aid to medical decision-making.
  • Published new guidebook for researchers to facilitate joint studies between VA and the Department of Defense. (A 2013 update can be found here.)
  • Expanded funding for studying complementary and alternative medicine to treat PTSD and other conditions.
  • Expanded the REACH (Resources for Enhancing Alzheimer's Caregiver Health in VA) program to support caregivers of Veterans with Alzheimer's disease throughout the nation. In the program, based on earlier research by VA and university investigators, caregivers are provided individual and group counseling, a caregiver guide, education on safety and patient behavior management, and training for their individual health and well-being.
  • Identified a potential blood marker for cognitive decline, through a study of nearly 1,000 older volunteers.
  • Published study results showing that the tiny, biocompatible brain implant that is part of the BrainGate neural control system remains viable and continues to effectively record brain signals for at least 2.7 years. The technology promises to help those with paralysis achieve more independence, and is also being studied as a prosthetic control system.


  • Collaborated with the Department of Defense and National Institutes of Health on publishing "common data elements" to speed progress on research focused on traumatic brain injury and posttraumatic stress disorder.
  • Combined efforts with the Department of Defense to form the Military Suicide Research Consortium to study ways to prevent suicide among active-duty service members, Veterans, and reservists and to build on existing suicide research in VA, DoD, and the civilian sector.
  • Began work on a computerized vision system to bridge limits of handheld GPS devices for blind users and offer additional mobility and independence for Veterans with vision loss.
  • Determined that Veterans with mental health conditions, especially PTSD, have more physical ailments, and that older veterans with chronic PTSD had a higher risk for dementia than their peers without the disorder.
  • Found evidence that prior head injury may double the risk of developing amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease.
  • Determined that robots can be used to provide repetitive, high-intensity therapy for stroke patients, building on earlier findings that patients can recover function through therapy even years after a stroke.
  • Found that the immune system is likely to have a role in the development of Parkinson's disease.
  • Demonstrated a prototype of an artificial lens that could potentially restore natural focusing ability in eyes with cataracts and can be placed in the eye through a technique that is less invasive than current cataract surgery.
  • Identified a potential biomarker for PTSD through the use of a super-fast scanner that captures cross talk between groups of neurons in the brain.
  • Found that smoking cessation treatment that is made part of mental health care for Veterans with PTSD improves quit rates in those Veterans.


  • Showed that the traditional "on pump" method of heart bypass surgery yields better outcomes after one year than “off pump” surgery, which does not use a heart-lung machine.
  • Reported that deep brain simulation, though potentially riskier than drug therapy, may hold significant benefits for those with Parkinson's disease who no longer respond well to medication alone.
  • Launched four-year study of long-term health and social outcomes of OEF/OIF Veterans with serious burn injuries. Researchers found that non-burn injuries were associated with worse functioning at the time of hospital discharge, compared with burn injured Veterans.
  • Began first-of-its kind study at VA medical centers to optimize the design of an advanced prosthetic arm, made by DEKA Research and Development through funding from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.
  • Commissioned studies by the Genetics and Public Policy Center at Johns Hopkins University that determined that most Veterans who have received health care through VA would support and participate in genomics research.
  • Launched the "Consortium for Healthcare Informatics Research" and a related project, "Veterans' Informatics, Information, and Computing Infrastructure," to maximize the clinical and research value of VA's state-of-the art electronic medical records.
  • Initiated the largest health study ever of Vietnam-era women Veterans, with 10,000 women now (in 2017) taking part.
  • Launched one of the largest studies to date on the genetics of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, to involve 38,000 Veterans at more than 20 VA sites.
  • Held symposium in Washington, D.C., highlighting VA's 30-year track record in comparative effectiveness research.
  • Published the results of the landmark seven-year VA Diabetes Trial, which found that intensive control of blood glucose in type 2 diabetes does little to cut the risk of heart disease, compared with standard treatment. (A 2015 update on the trial can be found here.)


  • Published results of one of the first randomized clinical trials comparing different treatment approaches for those with traumatic brain injury.
  • Sponsored an international conference on traumatic brain injury (TBI) and expanded VA research in this area, including studies looking at TBI in association with posttraumatic stress disorder, hearing and vision loss, chronic pain, and other conditions.
  • Demonstrated in a large multisite clinical trial that more intensive treatment for acute kidney injury—for example, dialysis six times instead of three times per week—may not produce any added benefit.
  • Published a major review article on genomic medicine that found that on the whole, health professionals and the public are unprepared to make effective use of genomics to prevent, diagnose or treat common chronic illnesses such as diabetes or heart disease. The findings are helping to guide further VA research in this area.
  • Launched a nationwide expansion of an Alzheimer's-caregiver program that was recognized by the Recognition of Excellence in Aging Research program of the U.S. Senate's Special Committee on Aging.
  • Showed that flat lesions in the colon—considered until recently to be rare in the United States and generally ignored during colonoscopies—are more common than previously thought. Moreover, they are far more likely to be cancerous than polyps, the small raised knobs of tissue that often contain or signal cancer and are the main target for detection and removal during colonoscopies.
  • Confirmed, in a treadmill study involving nearly 16,000 Veterans, the link between cardiovascular fitness and longer life. The study was the first of its kind to include a large number of African Americans, who are at higher risk for hypertension and other conditions that could conceivably offset the benefits of exercise.
  • Enacted a new policy mandating the use of Cooperative Research and Development Agreements to facilitate and expand collaborations between VA researchers and private pharmaceutical and biomedical companies. The goal is to speed the development and implementation of effective new medical treatments for Veterans.


  • Unveiled the first powered ankle-foot prosthesis, developed in collaboration with researchers at MIT and Brown University.
  • Found that prazosin, an inexpensive generic drug already used by millions of Americans for high blood pressure and prostate problems, could improve sleep and lessen trauma nightmares in Veterans with PTSD.
  • Established a Pharmacogenomics Analysis Laboratory at the Little Rock VA to conduct diagnostic or treatment-related genetic tests for individual VA patients and to serve as a genetic research lab for VA's Cooperative Studies Program.
  • Published the results of a major clinical trial, conducted with Canadian researchers, that found that balloon angioplasty and stenting did little to improve outcomes for patients with stable coronary artery disease who also received optimal drug therapy and underwent lifestyle changes.
  • Demonstrated the benefits of prolonged-exposure therapy as a treatment for PTSD in a clinical trial that included 284 women.


  • Published the results of a major study on dietary supplements for arthritis, in collaboration with the National Institutes of Health.
  • Launched a Genomic Medicine initiative to advance knowledge of how genes affect health and to promote personalized medicine for Veterans.
  • Reported major advances in the development of a brain-computer interface that will enable patients with spinal cord injury and other immobilizing conditions to function more independently.
  • Launched a multisite trial to test robotic therapy for stroke rehabilitation. The trial demonstrated the feasibility of conducting multicenter clinical trials to rigorously test new rehabilitative devices before their introduction to clinical practice.
  • Published findings from a trial on cognitive processing therapy for PTSD. The research set the stage for a nationwide initiative to have VA therapists trained in the approach.


  • Showed the effectiveness of a new vaccine for shingles, a painful skin and nerve infection that affects older adults.
  • Announced major funding initiatives for research on neurotrauma, chronic pain and other health problems prevalent in combat-wounded Veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.


  • Showed that the antioxidant lutein could not only help prevent macular degeneration, but also reverse symptoms.
  • Established a major center, in partnership with Brown University and MIT, to develop state-of-the-art prosthetics for Veteran amputees.
  • Took on leadership of a five-year, $60-million study nationwide study—funded by the National Institute on Aging and other partners—to identify brain changes linked to Alzheimer's disease. The study, the Alzheimer's Disease Neuroimaging Initiative, is now in its third phase, working to identify who may be at risk for the disease.


  • Created a national registry of Veterans with Lou Gehrig's disease (ALS) to track the health status of Veterans with the disease and help recruit research participants.
  • Showed that a costly new schizophrenia drug may be no more effective than older, less expensive treatments.


  • Published, together with National Institutes of Health colleagues, the main results from the landmark ALLHAT study, the largest hypertension study ever, which found that conventional diuretics were better than newer medicines for treating high blood pressure.
  • Produced key clinical findings on ghrelin, a recently discovered "hunger hormone."
  • Found that patients with osteoarthritis of the knee who underwent mock arthroscopic surgery were as likely to report pain relief as those who received the real operation, challenging the usefulness of a common medical procedure on which Americans spend billions of dollars each year.


  • Began the first clinical trial under the Tri-National Research Initiative, with researchers from VA collaborating with colleagues from Canada and the United Kingdom to determine the optimal antiretroviral therapy for HIV.
  • Initiated a landmark clinical trial to assess the effectiveness of deep brain stimulation for Parkinson's disease (PD). In 2009, the team published its results, which were that in patients with advanced PD, deep brain stimulation was more effective than best medical therapy in improving on time without troubling dyskinesias, motor function, and quality of life at six months, but was associated with an increase associated with an increased risk of serious adverse events.


  • Showed that colonoscopy is superior to the more widely used sigmoidoscopy as a primary screening mechanism for colon cancer.
  • Reported results on the first large clinical trials of hearing aids, begun in 1996, documenting that the devices can help the hearing-impaired in both quiet and noisy environments.


  • Launched the first treatment trials for Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses, focusing on antibiotics and exercise.
  • Established, through a large clinical trial using the drug gemfibrozil, that raising HDL ("good") cholesterol and lowering triglycerides could prevent heart attacks and coronary deaths.
  • Identified a gene that causes a rare form of dementia, providing a potential target for treatment of Alzheimer's disease.


  • Nobel Prize awarded to researcher Dr. Ferid Murad (who had been at Palo Alto VA 1981-1986) for his discoveries relating to nitric oxide, a body chemical that helps maintain healthy blood vessels.
  • Found that less expensive, conservative treatment of a common type of heart attack is superior to the standard heart catheterization and balloon angioplasty.
  • Demonstrated that administering erythropoetin under the skin is as effective and less expensive than intravenous administration for treatment of severe anemia in hemodialysis patients.
  • Started the Quality Enhancement Research Initiative to help translate research results into clinical practice for conditions prevalent among Veterans.
  • Established first centers of excellence (now resource centers) for hepatitis C research and care.


  • Identified a gene associated with a major risk for schizophrenia.


  • Identified the gene that causes Werner syndrome, a disease marked by premature aging.
  • Developed clinical practice guidelines on cholesterol screening for the American College of Physicians.
  • Found that an implantable insulin pump offers better blood sugar control, weight control, and quality of life for adult-onset diabetes than multiple daily injections.


Conducted the National Surgical Quality Improvement Program, which is instrumental in identifying ways to improve surgical care.


  • Contributed to the development of the first standards prepared by the Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America (RESNA) for wheelchair prescriptions.


  • Discovered a peptide in venom from the Gila monster, a type of lizard, that would eventually serve as the basis for a widely used diabetes drug.
  • Contributed to the development of the first standards for wheelchair prescriptions.
  • Demonstrated that early treatment with corticosteroids reduces damage from spinal cord injury.


Published the first paper on SmartWheel, a device designed to help researchers better understand the effects of wheelchair propulsion on the human body. It has become widely used in the field of wheelchair technology.


Developed the nicotine patch and other therapies to help smokers quit.


  • Developed and tested a new device that has led to improved wheelchair designs by enhancing assessments of upper extremity pain in manual wheelchair users.
  • Demonstrated that one aspirin tablet a day reduced by half the rate of death and nonfatal heart attacks in patients with unstable angina.


Nobel Prize awarded to VA researchers Dr. Andrew Schally, for his research on peptide hormone production in the brain; and Dr. Rosalyn Yalow, for her development of radioimmunoassay to detect and measure various substances in the blood.


Lasker Award given to Dr. Rosalyn Yalow for developing the diagnostic technique of radioimmunoassay.


  • Lasker Award given to Dr. Andrew Schally for his studies on peptide hormone production in the brain.


Lasker Award given to Dr. Ludwig Gross for discovering leukemia- and cancer-causing viruses.


Lasker Award given to Dr. Edward Freis for developing drug therapy for moderate hypertension.


Published the results of a landmark VA Cooperative Study on hypertension, showing that drug treatment was effective in controlling blood pressure and reducing the incidence of major cardiovascular events.


Expanded understanding of how brain hormones interact with the endocrine system.


Performed the first successful liver transplant with the patient living more than a year after surgery; the procedure relied on new techniques for suppressing the body's natural attempt to reject transplanted tissue.


Pioneered  the radiocephalic fistula for hemodialysis, which remains the vascular access of choice for dialysis patients. The surgical technique was developed by a team at the Bronx VA.


Contributed substantially, through the work of Dr. Oscar Auerbach and other VA researchers, to a landmark government report on “Smoking and Health.”


Lasker Award given to Dr. Michael E. DeBakey for originating new techniques in cardiovascular surgery.


Pioneered the concepts that led to development of computerized axial tomography (CAT scan).


Implanted the first clinically successful implantable cardiac pacemaker. This procedure would eventually help many patients prevent potentially life-threatening complications from irregular heartbeats. The device had been developed in the late 1950s at the Buffalo VA Hospital.


Conducted groundbreaking work with radioisotopes that led to the development of modern radioimmunoassay diagnostic techniques.


Introduced VA’s first mobility and orientation rehabilitation-training program for blind Veterans.


Developed and tested effective therapies for tuberculosis following World War II. Multi-center clinical trials led to development of the Cooperative Studies Program, which has since produced effective treatments for diseases and conditions including schizophrenia, diabetes, depression, heart disease and stroke.


Established the standard for developing better-fitting, lighter artificial limbs through studies of human locomotion, enhanced surgical techniques and modernized design and manufacturing methods.


Established a research lab at the Northport (N.Y.) VA medical center to conduct clinical and biomedical research in neuropsychiatric disorders; contribute to the nationwide standardization of diagnostic and treatment methods; and teach the latest concepts and methods in neurology, psychiatry, and neuropathology to VA doctors.


Published a series of articles in the New England Journal of Medicine about heart disease among Veterans.


  • Published data comparing outcomes at VA clinics with those at other hospitals. The VA facilities compared favorably.
  • Established the Tumor Research Laboratory at the Hines (Ill.) VA-the first research lab to receive funds from VA Central Office specifically for research.


Reported findings from early VA studies looking at treatments for malaria, the long-term health effects of chemical warfare, and hospitalization and mortality among Veterans with mental illness.


  • Conducted the first hospital-based medical studies to be formally considered part of VA's newly established research program.
  • Began publishing the U.S. Veterans' Bureau Medical Bulletin, designed, in part, to "promote research along practical lines."

Questions about the R&D website? Email the Web Team

Any health information on this website is strictly for informational purposes and is not intended as medical advice. It should not be used to diagnose or treat any condition.