VA national research program enrolls historic one millionth Veteran
November 15, 2023
Today, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced that the Million Veteran Program (MVP) welcomed the one millionth Veteran into the program, making it the first research program in the world to include extensive health and genetic data for this many participants.
Launched in 2011, MVP allows researchers to better understand Veteran health challenges and conduct groundbreaking, life-saving research. The program aims to improve the detection, prevention, and treatment of health conditions affecting Veterans and, ultimately, all Americans. To date, MVP data has been used in more than 350 peer-reviewed research publications about a wide range of health conditions – including cancer, diabetes, PTSD, suicide prevention, Alzheimer’s disease, cardiovascular diseases, kidney disease, and more.
“Thanks to the Veterans who signed up for this program, VA can better understand – and eventually treat – the health conditions that affect Veterans of all eras and backgrounds,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Denis McDonough. “This will help us improve health care and ultimately save lives, for Veterans and non-Veterans alike.”
“Our research is stronger when it includes all Veterans — and we’re not stopping now that we’ve enrolled one million participants,” said VA’s Under Secretary for Health Dr. Shereef Elnahal. “Because these Veterans chose to join our mission, VA now has the largest global database of genomic information that is connected to health information — a critical tool that will improve the health of Veterans for generations.”
“I look at [MVP] as a way to do my part and make sure the men and women that served alongside me, before me, and after me are all properly taken care of,” said Afghanistan Veteran and MVP participant Benjamin Flynn. “It is my hope that research projects like the Million Veteran Program will provide information and open up new possibilities for providing absolute top-of-the-line treatment for Veterans when they come back. I’m proud to be a member of MVP for the simple fact that I’m still helping – I’m still serving.”
“If there’s a way that whatever I can provide from a health perspective can benefit someone down the line – a future Veteran, or my children, or my children’s children – then I’m happy to be a part of that effort,” said Iraq War Veteran and MVP participant Zelpha Anderson. “I hope that [studying] my DNA will lead to more-precise medicine and more-precise care plans for people that are like me. So, as a Latina and a Black American, I think what I can provide to the program may have some benefit to future Veterans of color.”
Key facts about the Million Veteran Program:
It reflects the diversity of the Veteran population: More than 250,000 minority Veterans and 100,000 women Veterans have joined the program, and MVP includes more people of African ancestry than any research program in the world. This allows researchers to learn more about – and ultimately treat – populations that have historically been underrepresented in research.
It’s the world’s largest database on nutrition: When Veterans enroll in MVP, they are asked to complete a lifestyle survey that gives VA important information about what foods they eat and at what quantities – which helps researchers make important discoveries for Veterans and all Americans. For example, one recent MVP-driven study found that yogurt of any kind is good for heart health.
Veterans join MVP by voluntarily providing a blood sample, filling out surveys about their health and wellness, and granting researchers secure access to their health records. That data is secured, protected, and anonymized for patient privacy, then used to study the interactions between genes, lifestyle, military experiences, and exposures to learn more about how those factors impact health.
MVP is continuing to enroll Veterans, and any Veteran can enroll in MVP. Veterans can join MVP at 65+ VA facilities across the nation, online at www.mvp.va.gov, or by calling 866-441-6075 for more information.