Happy 88th Birthday, VA!

Eighty-eight years ago on July 21, 1930, President Herbert Hoover established the Veterans Administration, which was later elevated to cabinet-status in 1989 and renamed the Department of Veterans Affairs.  

Back when it was first created, there were only 54 hospitals and 4.7 million living veterans. Now the VA has grown to include 1,240 health care facilities, including 170 hospitals and 1,061 outpatient clinics, serving 9 million enrolled veterans every year. 

Since its inception, the VA has been a world-class organization and home to medical breakthroughs, inventions, and Nobel Prize laureates. VA’s tremendous research and partnerships with academic institutions have far-reaching impact and have transformed the world of medicine.  

This kind of success is due in no small part to dedicated VA employees – 1 in 3 are veterans themselves. Our union is proud to represent VA employees and help them serve our veterans better. 

Here are a few examples of VA’s inventions and successes:

1. The cardiac pacemaker 

In 1960, the first cardiac pacemaker, developed by a VA team, was successfully implanted.  

2. Liver transplants  

In 1962, while working at the Denver VA Medical Center and the University of Colorado Medical Center, Dr. Thomas Starzl performed the first long-term successful kidney transplant. Years later, while still on staff at the VA, he conducted the first human liver transplant. In 2011, Dr. Starzl received the Lasker-DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award for his career accomplishments.  

3. The Nicotine Patch  

In 1984, the nicotine patch was developed by VA researchers Dr. Jed Rose, Dr. Daniel Rose, and Dr. Murray Jarvik.  

4. First Foot-Ankle Prostheses   

The VA's Prosthetics and Sensory Aids Service is the largest and most comprehensive provider of prosthetic devices and sensory aids in the world.  

In 2007, a team of VA doctors and researchers collaborated with a team of researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Brown University to unveil the first powered ankle-foot prosthesis.

5. Non-addictive painkiller 

With colleagues at Tulane University, the VA developed a new drug that could be a safer, non-addictive alternative to morphine. 

6. Improved standing wheelchair 

The VA invented a wheelchair that allows users to move around while standing. The improved version of standing wheelchair makes it easier for paralyzed vets to complete daily tasks without asking for help and improve their sense of well-being. 

7. Compressed air wheelchair 

The VA in partnership with the University of Pittsburg invented a waterproof wheelchair that runs entirely on compressed air and takes only 10 minutes to recharge instead of eight hours. The device debuted at a Texas theme park for people with disabilities.

8. Electronic health record 

 Dr. Kenneth Kizer, under secretary for health in the VA from 1994 through 1999, led the largest electronic health record implementation in U.S. history, allowing the VA to provide higher quality and safer care for veterans.

9. VBA home loan program 

The VA Home Loan Guaranty Program is the only provision of the original GI Bill that is still in force and administered by what is now the Veterans Benefits Administration. Between the end of World War II and 1966, one-fifth of all single-family residences built were financed by the GI Bill for either World War II or Korean War Veterans. From 1944 through December 1993, VA guaranteed 13.9 million home loans valued at more than $433.1 billion. The home loan program makes homeownership attainable for veterans.

10. Three Nobel Prizes  

Dr. Ferid Murad, Dr. Andrew Schally, and Dr. Rosalyn Yalow from the VA have been recognized with three Nobel Prizes for medical discoveries relating to healthy blood vessels; brain hormone production; and blood research and detection, respectively 

For the entire list of VA medical breakthroughs and inventions, click here then click Expand All.

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