Expanding the Health Policy Mission of the Veterans Health Administration

Author: Steph Guerra


With 1,255 VA medical facilities serving over 9 million veterans each year, the VA—through its Veterans Health Administration—maintains the largest integrated healthcare system in the United States. The VA is a national leader in delivering quality health services and driving innovation in high-priority healthcare issues such as telehealth, precision medicine, suicide prevention, and opioid safety. Yet the VA remains an under-appreciated and underutilized health policy stakeholder, involved in minimal interactions with other federal health agencies and exerting limited influence on the private healthcare system. This is a mistake. The VA is a robust healthcare provider with innovative clinical and operational practices that should be firmly entrenched in the national health policy conversation.

As a remedy, we propose strategically coordinating and consolidating the healthcare innovation, demonstration, and implementation capacities of the VA and HHS in order to ensure care of the highest possible quality across urgent issues. Elevating the VA as a major healthcare policy stakeholder will demonstrate the value of government-run healthcare, promote best practices for building an effective and forward-thinking healthcare system, and advance the VA’s “fourth mission” of supporting national preparedness.

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About the Author

Steph Guerra is a biomedical scientist currently serving as an American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Science and Technology Policy Fellow at the Office of Research and Development of the Veterans Health Administration (VHA). Steph’s work at the VHA focuses on building research and clinical infrastructure to support veterans’ access to opioids management and precision oncology care. She received her Ph.D. from Harvard University and believes that innovative medical technologies should be accessible to everyone.