Million Veteran Program Research Will Change The Way We Study Troops’ Health

Health & Fitness
VA Secretary Bob McDonald became enrollee number 441,196 to join the Million Veteran Program.
VA courtesy photo

A quick and easy blood donation can help pave the way to better healthcare for veterans — and also provide answers to complex medical questions — through a new gene study program conducted by the Department of Veterans Affairs.


The Million Veteran Program, which launched in 2011, is a national, voluntary research study by the Department of Veterans Affairs to research what kinds of roles genes play in overall health.  The program is a part of the White House Precision Medicine Initiative, and aims to help the VA better understand diseases (such as cancer and diabetes) that impact those who have served. According to Dr. John Concato, one of two principal investigators for the MVP, the project may be able to expedite the science of customizing disease prevention and treatment to individual patients and illnesses.

“Conducting research to improve health care is not new to VA. For example, the first antibiotic treatment for tuberculosis was developed and tested by VA in the late 1940s,” Concato wrote in a VA blog post. “That program has since completed more than 175 studies evaluating risk factors or treatments for heart disease, cancer, mental health, and many other disorders.”

This past January during his State of the Union address, President Barack Obama called for $215 million for the program, including $70 million for cancer research alone. He also discussed the background of the program during the White House Summit on Genetic Medicine in February.

“The VA has been gathering genomic data on a large number of men and women who have served their country, in order to serve them better in the VA system,” Obama said. “But this can be connected with researchers in a university setting who are focused on a specific disease, and they can use this big data to accelerate the research.”

To date, nearly 500,000 veterans and service members have contributed to the program, including the secretary of Veterans Affairs, Robert McDonald. “It’s time we got beyond reacting to disease when it happens — we need to prevent the disease before it occurs,” the secretary said at the Veterans of Foreign Wars 2016 national convention earlier this week.

There are nearly 60 sites across the country that are currently accepting enrollments in the Million Veteran Program — and study visits take approximately 20 minutes to complete. Enrollees need only provide a blood sample for genomic analyses, complete a questionnaire, and consent to have their medical records reviewed to participate.

Confidentiality and identity protection are of paramount importance to the program — donor identities are kept secure from researchers and samples are labeled with codes instead of names and other identifying information.

See more information about the Million Veteran Program here.

The Pentagon has identified the two soldiers were killed in combat in Afghanistan on Wednesday as members of U.S. Army Special Forces.

Master Sgt. Luis F. DeLeon-Figueroa, 31, and Master Sgt. Jose J. Gonzalez, 35, both died in Faryab Province from wounds sustained from small arms fire, the Pentagon said in a press release. The incident is under investigation.

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JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hinted on Thursday of possible Israeli involvement in attacks against Iranian-linked targets in Iraq.

A series of blasts in the past few weeks have hit weapon depots and bases belonging to paramilitary groups in Iraq, many of them backed by Israel's regional foe Iran. The groups blamed the United States and Israel for the blasts on Wednesday.

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White House/Shealah Craighead

President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Wednesday that will make it easier for permanently disabled veterans to have their student loan debt forgiven.

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Capt. Tranay Lashawn Tanner. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Editor's Note: This article by Oriana Pawlyk originally appeared on Military.com, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

Physical fitness tests were briefly suspended earlier this week and outdoor cardio testing will be curtailed for the remainder of the summer at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, after an airman died Saturday. She had completed her PT test on Friday.

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(DoD photo)

Navy Secretary Richard Spencer has expanded a review of the Judge Advocate General Corps to include the Marine Corps, a Navy spokesman said on Thursday.

"There is value in applying this review and its subsequent recommendations across the Department of the Navy," Cmdr. Jereal Dorsey told Task & Purpose. "The review's purpose is to confirm the uniformed legal community is structurally and organizationally sound and best supporting the good order and discipline our integrated naval force."

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