Federal Health Care News



The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced that Dr. Lynda Davis, chief veterans experience officer, accepted the 2018 Blue Star Families — United Health Foundation Blue Star Award.

Davis, a U.S. Army veteran and veteran caregiver who leads the department’s efforts on improving the veterans experience as well as initiatives affecting veteran caregivers, accepted the award in recognition of VA’s leadership in supporting military and veteran caregivers through initiatives such as the veterans’ Family, Caregiver and Survivor Advisory Committee and Choose Home.

VA estimates there are more than 5.5 million military and veteran caregivers. In an effort to continually improve VA benefits and services by hearing from caregivers and their advocates directly, VA established the Veterans’ Family, Caregiver and Survivor Advisory Committee in 2017. 

Chaired by former U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole, a noted advocate for military caregivers, the committee will provide advice and recommendations to Secretary Shulkin on ways to improve the experience of veterans’ families, caregivers and survivors.

VA is working to improve VA care and benefits case management coordination with caregivers through initiatives such as Choose Home.

VA is identifying evidence-based best practices from military, veteran and faith-based organizations that maximize the effectiveness of all programs in support of family caregivers.

Additional information for Veteran caregivers can be found at https://www.caregiver.va.gov.


The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced the Office of Research and Development (ORD) of the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) extended its commitment to reduce future research on canines by initiating a rapid, in-depth internal review of existing canine research projects.

An external group will review these recommendations and provide VA with guiding principles for future canine research to assure benefits to veterans.

Animal research at VA is strictly controlled and monitored with accountability mechanisms in place that comply with the same regulations and standards that university programs, state, private and military organizations use. In the past 20 years, VA use of canines in research has been reduced significantly and continues to be reduced, as much as possible. It is important to note that of thousands of VA research projects, fewer than 15 currently involve canines.

VA has always required medical relevance and justification for canine use, and in late 2017, VA instituted a policy that no new canine research would begin without approval of both, the Chief Research and Development Officer and the VA Secretary. As a result, new canine studies have not been initiated, and two new studies were required to use alternative models instead of canines. VA is now reviewing existing studies using canines to determine whether the use of canines in these studies should be phased out in advance of their original end dates. 

In addition, when canines are the only viable models, VA is proactively contacting the principal investigators leading these studies, requesting they develop plans to establish alternative models. VA intends to fund development of canine alternatives, which will reduce the need for canine research within VA.



The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced it has launched a pilot telehealth program that will give rural veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) remote access to psychotherapy and related services.

VA’s Office of Rural Health, in partnership with VA's Quality Enhancement Research Initiativeis supporting the Telemedicine Outreach for PTSD (TOP) program to deliver therapy and other care through phone and interactive video contact. 

Dr. John Fortney, a research health scientist at the VA Puget Sound Health Care System in Seattle, Washington, is leading the project.

To date, more than 500 rural veterans who are not receiving specialty PTSD care have enrolled in the study. The participants may choose between the two main forms of evidence-based, trauma-focused psychotherapy used in VA: cognitive processing therapy and prolonged exposure therapy.

Veterans participating in the program receive frequent phone calls from a care manager who helps them access services provided by off-site psychiatrists and psychologists. The psychotherapy is delivered via interactive video from a VA medical center to a community-based outpatient clinic (CBOC) or to the veteran’s home. The telephone care manager also monitors the Veterans’ progress and helps them overcome barriers to care.

The program includes 12 CBOCs across the nation in Charleston, South Carolina; Iowa City, Iowa; Little Rock, Arkansas; Denver, Colorado; San Diego, California; and Seattle. The results, which will be available in 2020, will lay the groundwork for national implementation of the TOP program.

To learn more about VA research on PTSD, visit www.research.va.gov/topics/ptsd.cfm.


On March 7, 2018, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA) outlined a series of major improvements undertaken at the DC VA Medical Center (DCVAMC) in the 11 months since the VA’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) released an interim report critical of the Medical Center.

In April 2017, the Secretary immediately began replacing key members of the leadership team; bringing in Larry Connell as the acting medical center director. In addition to Connell, the facility has a new acting deputy director, acting assistant director; a new Nurse Executive and a new Chief of Logistics. 

Among the important actions taken and progress made at the DCVAMC:      

Eliminated all pending prosthetics consults greater than 30 days – from 9,000 to zero.

Established the Incident Command Center (ICC), providing for a robust oversight process that identified and promptly addressed new supply or equipment shortages and instituted a 24-hour hotline for ordering urgent and emergent medical supplies.

Awarded a contract to construct a 14,200-square foot space for the Sterile Processing Service; the $8.9 million project will be completed in March 2019. 

Transitioned inventory to the General Inventory Package and the periodic automatic replenishment levels are validated to ensure tock outages do not occur. 

Off-site, warehouse secured with restricted access to protect medical equipment and supplies.

36 Logistics, Sterile Processing Service vacancies have been filled and 7 positions remain under recruitment.

Secretary Shulkin also announced leadership changes at two VISN networks. Network 1 and 22 directors, Dr. Michael Mayo-Smith and Ms. Marie Weldon respectively, will retire in the coming weeks. In addition, VA’s Dr. Bryan Gamble will oversee a significant restructuring effort involving VISN’s 1, 5, and 22. Additional information will be available in the coming weeks.


The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Cohen Veterans Network, Inc., (CVN) announced a new partnership to increase veterans’ access to mental health resources to reduce veteran suicides.

The partnership will allow VA and CVN to work together to advance and improve veterans’ mental health and well-being and expand and promote community collaboration to increase veterans’ access to mental health resources. 

As part of the collaboration, VA and CVN will:

Work together on potential mental health education initiatives, consumer marketing and public health messaging

Discuss potential locations for Cohen Clinics in regions believed to have underserved Veterans in need of mental health care services

Collaborate to share publicly available, VA-developed educational resources for health care providers, such as military culture training and suicide prevention training with CVN staff and clinic employees.

For more information about VA mental health services, visit www.mentalhealth.va.gov. For information about the Cohen Veterans Network, please visit https://www.cohenveteransnetwork.org.

Veterans in crisis or having thoughts of suicide — and those who know a Veteran in crisis — should call the Veterans Crisis Line for confidential support 24 hours a day and 365 days a year. Call 800-273-8255 and press 1, chat online at VeteransCrisisLine.net/Chat, or text to 838255.



The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has modernized its leasing program to better align the agency’s major lease procurements with other federal agencies and the private sector, with an emphasis on increased competition, cost savings and speed to market.

VA will use a new set of bidding and contractual documents that simplifies and streamlines the lease-procurement process in order to encourage more competition and innovation from the market.

The bidding and contractual documents coincide with a move to the use of local codes and private sector healthcare facility best practices, in lieu of relying on standards unique to VA. VA will adopt the Interagency Security Committee standards for physical security, which allow for a customized, risk-based security approach that is right for each facility, instead of a one-size-fits-all approach. 

VA anticipates that this new approach will allow for greater competition from existing buildings, and represent a process that affords private-sector developers the ability to innovate solutions at the most competitive pricing possible. 

VA remains committed to providing high-quality care and an improved patient experience to our nation’s Veterans. VA invites offerors and interested parties to view its major lease procurements on the Federal Business Opportunities website at www.fbo.gov.


The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced that it has approved a medical research partnership with DeepMind to address the global issue of patient deterioration during hospital care, which accounts for 11 percent of in-hospital deaths around the world.

The partnership will focus on analyzing patterns from approximately 700,000 historical, de-personalized health records to develop machine learning algorithms that will accurately identify risk factors for patient deterioration and predict its onset. Initial work will be focused on identifying the most common signs of risk, like acute kidney injury, a problem that can lead to dialysis or death, but is preventable if detected early.

Eventually, similar approaches will be applied to other signs of patient deterioration, leading to improved care for many more patients, with fewer people developing serious infections and conditions — ultimately saving lives.

DeepMind is the world leader in artificial intelligence research. It has already partnered with leading hospitals in the United Kingdom to apply its innovative machine-learning algorithms to research projects looking at eye disease, head and neck cancer, and mammography. 


On Feb. 16, 2018, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced VA Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Executive Director Peter O’Rourke will serve as VA’s permanent chief of staff. He also will continue to serve as OAWP executive director until a successor is named.

Former Chief of Staff Vivieca Wright Simpson retired on following the release of a VA Inspector General report implicating her of falsifying records.

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