The Research and Development Program at the Veterans Administration has been working to create health care innovations for our veterans and nation for more than 60 years. This year’s theme for National Research Week, which runs March 13-17, is “VA Research Inspires.”
The weeklong event is designed to bring attention to the achievements of VA researchers and the role they play in providing quality care for veterans and advancing medical science.
VA conducts biomedical, rehabilitation, clinical and health services research, as well as large, multi-center clinical trials, at more than 100 medical centers across the country. Research areas include prosthetics, wheelchair technology, traumatic brain injury and spinal cord injury, as well as a host of other areas that are revolutionizing health care for veterans.
“The VA has had a lot of success these past couple of years in understanding head trauma and finding different ways of diagnosing the individual,” said Lana McKenzie, associate executive director of medical services and health policy at Paralyzed Veterans of America, pointing to the development of a new device that can send signals from the brain to the rest of the body. “It’s exciting when you find something that can help someone who, for example, has lost their ability to speak because of head trauma, ALS or MS to develop their own brain signal.”
The VA has the largest single network of spinal cord injury care in the nation, treating more than 26,000 veterans. The VA Medical Center in Cleveland, Ohio, is developing an electrical walking system, hand grasp system and other devices that increase the independence of spinal cord injury patients. The VA’s Center for Neuroscience and Regeneration Research in Connecticut is developing new treatments for neuropathic pain by dissecting and researching molecules associated with spinal cord injury and Multiple Sclerosis.
“Today, many of our spinal cord veterans and civilians are living almost the same life expectancy as someone who did not have a spinal cord injury,” said Maureen Simonson, director of research and education at Paralyzed Veterans of America. “Our goal and our mission is to fund clinical basic science and research that will help persons with spinal cord injuries stay alive and get good care.”
Like the VA, Paralyzed Veterans of America offers more than $1 million in research grants in the fall, as well as more than $300,000 in education grants to train medical professionals about spinal cord injury care, Simonson said.
“We work hand-in-glove with the VA,” Simonson said. “We work together, though our research and funding are totally separate. But we’re both working towards the same thing – the best care for veterans with spinal cord injury and other diseases.”
Learn more about Paralyzed Veterans of America's Research & Education Dept.
Brittany Ballenstedt is a freelance journalist whose work has appeared in several publications, including Government Executive, National Journal, Technology Daily and NextGov.com.