Wanted: Half a Million More Veterans to Volunteer

Tuesday, August 16, 2016
VA’s Million Veteran Program reached an important milestone when an Army Veteran from Montgomery, Alabama, became the 500,000th Veteran to voluntarily enroll in the research database program – making the program the largest genomic database in the world.

“Their participation has the potential to save countless lives, now and for generations to come.”

Participants donate blood from which DNA is extracted. A baseline and periodic follow-up surveys track Veterans’ military experiences, health and lifestyles. Researchers believe the information contained in the database could hold the key to preventing and treating diseases.

“Our Veterans continue to demonstrate their selfless sacrifice, and the nation has yet another reason to owe them a debt of gratitude,” said VA Secretary Bob McDonald. “Many of our Veterans have saved lives on the battlefield and because of their participation in the Million Veteran Program (MVP), their participation has the potential to save countless lives – now and for generations to come."

Participation Confidential
As part of the program, participating Veterans grant researchers secure access to their electronic health records and agree to be contacted about participating in future research. Samples and data used are coded to protect participants’ identification and privacy.

Army Veteran Michael Owen Smith, from Montgomery, Alabama, was the 500,000th enrollee in the Million Veteran Program, here with Drs. Michael Gaziano and John Concato of the MVP program. PHOTO BY DERRICK MORIN, MVP, BOSTON 
Research using MVP data is already underway, studying a range of medical issues like mental illness and heart and kidney diseases. The program also has rich data on various health conditions that are common in Veterans. Approximately 62 percent of MVP enrollees report a current or past diagnosis of high blood pressure and about a third report tinnitus. Also, nearly a third or 32 percent of Veterans present with a history or current diagnosis of cancer.

“We believe MVP will accelerate our understanding of disease detection, progression, prevention and treatment by combining this rich clinical, environmental and genomic data,” said Dr. David J. Shulkin, VA Under Secretary for Health.“ VA has a deep history of innovation and research. MVP will allow the nation’s top researchers to perform the most cutting-edge science to treat some of the nation’s most troubling diseases.”

VA’s Million Veteran Program was launched in 2011 and is part of the White House Precision Medicine Initiative. 
National Volunteer Week
April 10-16, 2016
                The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) proudly joins the Nation in observing National Volunteer Week from April 10-16, 2016.  This year, VA Voluntary Service (VAVS) celebrates 70 years of service to America’s Veterans.
                From the beginnings of VAVS in 1946, VA volunteers have served alongside VA staff to provide quality care and compassionate service to all Veterans.  The initial group of eight national organizations that served as the original members of the VAVS National Advisory Committee at the inception of the program in April 1946 has today grown to 55 major Veteran, civic, service, and faith-based organizations.  At VA field facilities in 1946, there were some 123 local and national community groups whose members were serving in VAVS.  Today, more than 7,400 national and local community organizations and more than 75,000 active volunteers participate in VAVS to support and serve Veterans.
                Throughout the past 7 decades, generations of VA volunteers have given more than 782 million hours of service, and have truly set the standard for voluntary service to our Nation.  The generosity of our volunteers and supporting organizations extends well beyond sharing time and talents.  Last year alone, gifts and donations from these generous supporters totaled more than $105 million, which enables us to provide many additional services to Veterans and their families that otherwise would not be possible.
                VA deeply appreciates and values the generosity of both the time and resources volunteers so generously provide.  Their work touches and betters the lives of thousands of Veterans each and every day.  On behalf of the entire VA, I convey to each volunteer my personal Thank You, and extend the highest regard and respect for your extraordinary care and commitment.
Robert A. McDonald
2016 Iowa Department of Veterans Affairs Volunteer Recognition Day
The Iowa Department of Veterans Affairs will be hosting a Volunteer Recognition Day on Tuesday, April 12, 2016, at the Iowa Veterans Cemetery.  The ceremony will begin at 1:00 pm.  The cemetery is located at the Van Meter exit (Exit 113) on Interstate 80, about ten miles west of Des Moines.   The purpose of the event is to celebrate National Volunteer Week, which is the week of April 11th and to recognize the efforts of volunteer organizations and individuals who have dedicated their time and efforts to the Iowa Veterans Cemetery. 
Iowa Governor Terry E. Branstad and Bishop Richard E. Pates of the Diocese of Des Moines will be guest speakers. 
Iowa Department of Veterans Affairs Executive Director, Colonel Robert King (Ret), extends an invitation and encourages the public and media to help us recognize those who have extended themselves to create and maintain the hallowed grounds of the Iowa Veterans Cemetery by attending the Iowa Department of Veterans Affairs Volunteer Recognition Day.
King remarked, “Our volunteers are simply outstanding. They assist us with many projects that includes beautification of the grounds, ceremonies, and records administration.  We value their dedication towards providing for the state’s final resting place of many veterans and family members.  This ceremony is a salute to them and what they provide to their community and our veterans.”
Refreshments will follow the ceremony. 
For more information, please contact Meghan Larkins, Outreach Coordinator for the Iowa Department of Veterans Affairs, at [email protected] or 515.727.3442.