By: Matthew Evans
The article discusses the key topics and concerns raised during a hearing on research at the Department of Veterans Affairs, including the prioritization of mental health, research in rural areas, the Million Veterans Program, the use of Artificial Intelligence, cooperation between government and private entities, funding, and commercialization of research efforts.
Foundation of Care: Examining Research at the Department of Veterans Affairs
The key focuses of the Examination of Research at the Department of Veterans Affairs were the prioritization of mental health among veterans, research on rural areas in the United States, the Million Veterans Program, the implementation of Artificial Intelligence, and cooperation between federal entities and private contractors. Additionally, concerns were raised regarding specific issues, such as non-clinical causes of veteran suicide, the ongoing pandemic, the implementation of cybersecurity and physical security measures for the Million Veterans Program, and the racial diversity of the Million Veterans Program.
The organizations that attended this hearing included the Department of Veterans Affairs and the National Alliance on Mental Illness. The key issues addressed by these organizations included the need for continued and increased funding for research, the lack of focus in research efforts, the promotion of large-scale research initiatives, the commercialization of research, and the implementation of research findings. The current areas of research focus for the Department of Veterans Affairs can be categorized into two areas: the health side and the strategic prioritization side. The health side focuses on areas such as oncology, opioid use, mental health, exposure to toxic substances, and suicide prevention. The strategic prioritization side aims to increase access to medical trials, enhance the impact of research in real-world settings, utilize data for the benefit of veterans, and promote equity, diversity, inclusion, and community involvement.
Additionally, topics related to funding, research grants, commercialization, and the efficient use of funds were key issues. Both the committee and the organizations emphasized the importance of optimizing the use of funds. Cooperation between federal, private, and research entities was also highlighted for several reasons. Firstly, sharing data between federal and private institutions, such as the NIH and Vanderbilt University, would help prevent duplication of research efforts, ultimately saving time and money. Secondly, due to the limited administrative and research infrastructure in rural America, there is limited knowledge about the high rates of rural veteran suicide. The committee encouraged increased research in rural areas and continued cooperation to achieve this goal. Additionally, non-clinical causes of suicide, such as financial insecurity, were promoted by the committee to be studied and addressed. Lastly, there was a focus on how the productivity of research was measured, which varied among organizations.
In addition to funding and research issues, several other topics were addressed. The issue of falling during the pandemic was discussed as a critique of the Department of Veterans Affairs' lack of attention to fall prevention. The use of Artificial Intelligence was also explored as a potential solution to address the shortage of employees, utilize data effectively, and ensure the security of information. Furthermore, regarding the Million Veterans Program, concerns were raised about the security of genetic information, the utilization of genetic information for preventive measures, the racial diversity of the program, and the promotion of participation in the program.
Overall, this hearing shed light on numerous issues surrounding current research efforts at the Department of Veterans Affairs. The most prominent topics included cooperation and commercialization, which were addressed by four members, mental health, addressed by three members, and funding, which was discussed by two members.
The views expressed in the articles in this publication are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the organizations for which they work, CWOAUSCG, the U.S. Coast Guard, the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security, or the U.S. government.