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Office of Research & Development

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Military Exposures Research Program (MERP)

The Military Exposures Research Program (MERP) is an Office of Research and Development (ORD) initiative that aims to:

  • Improve our understanding of the effects of military exposures on Veteran health. Military exposures refer to contact with toxic agents, singly or in combination, acquired through ingestion, respiratory, or skin contact routes during military service (Deployment, Occupation, or Garrison).
  • Advance the field of exposure assessment, which refers to qualitative and/or quantitative identification and measurement of toxic agent(s) to which a Veteran was exposed during military service. Exposure assessment may include the development of new methods and/or assays that will directly or indirectly identify and measure an exposure to a toxic agent using biological materials or surrogates. 

Through scientific advancement, MERP will contribute to national efforts that seek to inform Veteran care and policy.

Who does MERP help? – Millions of Veterans have encountered toxic agents. Lack of a nexus between exposure and health outcome(s) has been a barrier for Veterans to become eligible for VA care and disability benefits.

What is MERP? – Military Exposures Research Program (MERP) is an Actively Managed Portfolio (AMP) that was created to centralize management of and improve access to all VA Veteran exposure research.

How is MERP going to help? – MERP will generate high-quality evidence through military exposures research using Cores (see MERP information sheet), VA internal partnerships, and inter-agency coordination. MERP will utilize peer-reviewed research, ORD research enterprise resources, and PACT Act resources and collaboration opportunities.

MERP mission statement: The Military Exposures Research Program (MERP) aims to understand military occupational and environmental exposures to inform Veteran care and policy.

The Toxic Exposures Fund (TEF) for ORD has been allocated funds that are available for RFA’s, Career Development Awards (CDA’s), and administrative funding.


Rudolph Johnson, PhD
MERP Director

Shakeria Cohen, PhD
Scientific Program Manager

Selected Publications in the Field of Military Exposures

Particle Morphology and Elemental Analysis of Lung Tissue from Post-9/11 Military Personnel with Biopsy-Proven Lung Disease

Exposure to Gulf war illness-related chemicals exacerbates alcohol- induced liver damage in rodents - PubMed (

Susceptibility to radiation adverse effects in veterans with Gulf War illness and healthy civilians - PubMed (

Agent Orange Herbicidal Toxin-Initiation of Alzheimer-Type Neurodegeneration - PubMed (

Associations Between Self-Reported Burn Pit Exposure and Functional Status, 1990-2021 - PubMed (

Deployment to Military Bases With Open Burn Pits and Respiratory and Cardiovascular Disease

Other VA online resources

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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.