Office of Research & Development

VA Research in Action

All VA research is intended to ultimately contribute to the health and well-being of Veterans. On this page, you will find examples of how VA research has been translated into everyday health care within the Veterans Health Administration or in medical care generally.

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Decade of Seminal Work 

Opioid overdose education and naloxone distribution
In 2014 and 2015, researchers evaluated the feasibility of VA’s distributing naloxone to Veterans at risk for an opioid overdose. Knowledge gained from this project was applied in a variety of ways, and VA now has the largest naloxone distribution program of any U.S. health care system.

2010s Substance use disorders

Improving care for Veterans in VA community living centers
What began as a pilot project at the Bedford (Massachusetts) VA has been rolled out nationally and impacted care for Veterans residing at VA community living centers across the country.

2010s Health care delivery

Bladder bundle program significantly reduces catheter-associated urinary tract infections
A "bladder bundle" set of practices developed by VA researchers has been adopted nationwide, in both VA and non-VA hospitals, as a way to reduce catheter-associated urinary tract infections.

2010s Infectious diseases

Spreading best practices in stroke care
VA providers implemented best practices in stroke care based on research from the Richard L. Roudebush VA Medical Center in Indianapolis.

2010s Cardiovascular disease

Precision Oncology Program
VA patients nationwide with a common form of lung cancer now routinely have their tumors genetically sequenced to help determine the best therapy, thanks to a program initiated by researchers and clinicians in VA’s New England region. The program is one of several efforts launched by VA in the area of precision oncology.

2010s Cancer

Virtual Hope Box smartphone app to prevent suicide
VA investigators teamed with Department of Defense colleagues to create a phone app, the Virtual Hope Box, that helps with suicide prevention.

2010s Suicide prevention

Individual Placement and Support to help Veterans find jobs
The Individual Placement and Support model was initially developed to help people with serious mental illness find employment. VA researchers have adapted and studied the approach to help Veterans with spinal cord injury and PTSD, and their work has led to wide implementation of IPS in the VA system.

2010s PTSD

Vision screening protocol after a traumatic brain injury
In 2011, VA Palo Alto Health Care System researchers reported that many Veterans with traumatic brain injuries also have "hidden eye injuries" that may go undetected without comprehensive eye examinations. Their work led to new guidelines for eye-care providers in VA and the Department of Defense, and the development of a clinical tool to be used for screenings or exams.

2010s Vision Loss

STRIDE program to keep hospitalized Veterans mobile
The STRIDE program was developed by VA researchers in Durham to help keep hospitalized Veterans mobile. This has been shown to improve post-hospital outcomes. The program is now being implemented at a number of other VA facilities.

2010s Health care delivery

Emergency Department Patient-Aligned Care Team (ED-PACT) Transfer Tool
Researchers at the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System developed a tool using VA’s electronic health record system to enable emergency care clinicians to send messages to Veterans’ primary care teams alerting them to the patients’ specific needs after their emergency visits. The tool is now being disseminated and is expected to curb repeat emergency visits and hospitalizations.

2010s Health care delivery

Physical environment checklist leads to sharp decline in inpatient suicides at VA facilities
In 2007, VA researchers and clinicians launched the Mental Health Environment of Care Checklist to reduce Veteran suicides in inpatient settings. A study published 10 years later found that the program led to a sharp decline in suicides at VA inpatient mental health units from 2000 to 2015.

2000s Suicide Prevention

Prolonged exposure therapy to treat PTSD
Thousands of VA mental health counselors have been trained in prolonged exposure therapy to treat PTSD, partly thanks to positive results from a large VA study of the treatment in female Veterans.

2000s PTSD

Progressive Tinnitus Management
Progressive Tinnitus Management, an audiology program adopted nationwide in both VA and Department of Defense clinics, was developed by VA’s National Center for Rehabilitative Auditory Research.

2000s Hearing loss

Stepped-care and collaborative-care models for chronic musculoskeletal pain
Stepped-care and collaborative-care models, validated in VA research trials, have become central to VA’s standard approach to treating chronic pain among Veterans.

2000s Pain

The LUKE/DEKA advanced prosthetic arm
VA researchers were integral in testing and optimizing the LUKE/DEKA advanced prosthetic arm, and Veterans are now receiving the device.

2000s Prosthetics

BiOM powered ankle-foot prosthesis
In 2007, researchers with VA, MIT, and Brown University introduced a "powered ankle-foot prosthesis," which uses tendon-like springs and an electric motor to move users forward. The device is now helping Veterans and active-duty service members.

2000s Prosthetics

SmartWheel enhances the well-being of wheelchair users
The SMARTWheel, developed by the Human Engineering Research Laboratories, was designed to help wheelchair users avoid repetitive stress injuries. It is in use at more than 175 clinics and labs nationwide.

1990s Prosthetics

Development of the nicotine patch for smoking cessation
VA researchers developed the nicotine patch in 1984. For decades, the device has been widely used to help smokers quit.

1980s Substance use disorders

An aspirin a day to prevent heart attack and stroke
A 1983 VA clinical trial found that a single aspirin tablet a day reduced the risk of death from heart attack by half among men with unstable angina. The study has been cited countless times in support of using aspirin in these patients, and the therapy has become standard medical practice.

1980s Cardiovascular disease

Foundation of modern endocrinology
Nobel-winning longtime VA scientist Dr. Andrew Schally established the foundation for many research areas, including neuroendocrinology and reproductive endocrinology. His work has led to new treatments for certain cancers and laid the groundwork for advances in reproductive medicine.

1970s Endocrinology

Gleason score for prostate cancer
In the 1960s, VA researcher Donald Gleason and colleagues developed a grading system to classify the stage and prognosis of prostate cancer. Today, the Gleason score is considered the most reliable measure of how likely a prostate tumor is to grow and spread.

1960s Cancer

Drug therapy for moderate high blood pressure
In the 1960s, VA undertook the first well-designed, placebo-controlled clinical trial to show whether medication can prevent deaths in those with moderate high blood pressure. The research led to a revolution in the care of people with hypertension.

1960s Cardiovascular disease

First successful liver transplant
Longtime VA transplant surgeon and research scientist Dr. Thomas Starzl was widely regarded as the “father of transplantation.” He is credited with the "first-ever series of repetitively successful human kidney transplantations” and the first successful liver transplant.

1960s Regenerative medicine

Radioimmunassay: Invaluable technique for measuring substances in the blood
Radioimmunoassay, widely used in medicine today to measure substances in the blood, was developed by VA researchers Dr. Rosalyn Yalow, who would go on to win a Nobel Prize for the work, and Dr. Solomon Berson.

1950s Diagnostics

The invention of the cardiac pacemaker
VA researchers developed and tested the first clinically successful cardiac pacemaker. The invention prevents potentially life-threatening complication from irregular heartbeats.

1950s Cardiovascular disease

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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.