In a two-day national summit, the VA Center for Innovation and MyVA Partnerships teams brought together the public and private sector, Veterans, caregivers, clinicians and innovators to tackle the issues of brain health. The goal of Brain Trust: Pathways to InnoVAtion was to bring this diverse group of people into the same room, identify innovative ways to help Veterans living with mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and walk away with ways to implement the solutions.

The first day’s plenary session featured stories from key leaders in brain health. Speakers included U.S. Army Ranger Cory Remsburg, who suffered from severe TBI when a roadside bomb exploded near him in Afghanistan, New York Times best-selling author of “Concussion” Jeanne Marie Laskas, and 16-time Emmy Award-winning producer of ABC’s Monday Night Football Terry O’Neil. VA Secretary Bob McDonald joined three-time Olympic gold medalist swimmer Nancy Hogshead-Makar and former NFL player and Super Bowl champion Phil Villapiano in pledging to donate their brains to advance brain research ‎conducted by VA in partnership with the Concussion Legacy Foundation. The afternoon featured break out sessions where speakers provided lightning style TED-talks and concluded with an innovation showcase.

Everybody rolled up their sleeves on day two for the “implementathon,” based off popular events in the innovation community called hackathons. The working sessions both identified creative solutions to advance brain health and develop implementation plans to put them into practices.  More than 50 teams presented their two-minute pitches before breaking into teams to develop the ideas. “Some visionary ideas, some downright simple and some pragmatic ones,” tweeted conference attendee Glen Coppersmith.

By the end of the day, four teams took the top honors. In first place was TECi who pitched their voice-based assistant to help Veterans connect to the services they need. TECi is a “cognitive companion that understands the Veteran and assists them in progressing through recovery and rehabilitation.”

In second place was team Calibrating, who pitched a plan to upgrade scanning capabilities to make imaging more clean. Their key point: “You can’t treat a broken arm if you can’t see it, so you can’t resolve brain issues if you can’t see it.

Two teams tied for third place.  GrayMatter presented a diagnostic tool that helps monitor sleep.

Also in third place, a team from the Tampa VA Medical Center with their Smart Home innovation.

Congratulations to all of the teams who presented, participated and saw their ideas grow from a concept to a plan through the day.

Megan Moloney also contributed to this article.

Share this story

Published on Apr. 21, 2016

Estimated reading time is 2.5 min.

Views to date: 183


  1. Joley Schmidt April 28, 2016 at 7:51 pm

    My son, a Navy veteran, still suffers the affects of a severe TBI. I am not satisfied with the treatment he is currently receiving at the Albuquerque VA. It all started almost 9 years ago when he was on his second deployment to Afghanistan. Granted he has come a long way since then but still suffers several physical disabilities including seizures, a shunt in his brain, balance issues, diminished eyesight and speech and chronic fatigue, among many others. My problem is with the neurology doctors, they have either given him up as a lost cause due to brain damage and/or have no imagination on treatment besides drugs. As his caregiver I have asked them if there are other treatments, such as hyperbaric oxygen or other research and experimental treatments at other facilities. I asked if they could refer him to brain specialists at other facilities such as other VA or Military hospitals, or places like Mayo and they told me no, there is no mechanism to refer to those facilities. Unbelievable!

  2. john e duncan April 26, 2016 at 6:25 pm

    John E. Duncan Lincoln, Alabama 35096

  3. OKC Painter April 26, 2016 at 5:58 pm

    Great that they are coming up with solutions!

  4. Daniel C. Wright April 24, 2016 at 9:56 pm

    Thank you for this article. I find this innovation very encouraging. I am a Veteran attached to the Seattle VA. I have an mTBI that I suffered while in the Air Force. I have a strange seizure where right brain seems to just lock up like a computer. Then left body starts to sag, my speech is slurry, and I look like I am having a stroke. Neurology up in Seattle cannot quantify these occurrences, so they don’t see me any more. Instead, I am sent to psychiatry. And the only thing the Psychiatrist asks is if my pills are all current. It is very frustrating. This article gives me some hope.

    • Patrick jahnke April 25, 2016 at 9:07 pm

      They do it to me send one place then send to another clinic but the clinic how really should cc. Uu what pass uu on, to a clinic that can NOT. hELP uuui I was sent to a PT. She showed me flash cards how we need control pain issues waste of my time she never touch. Look , pain management. It bs too, had doc told hug a tree talk to a tree, one sorry I can’t cc uu u can’t control ur pain, pin needles, burning feeling from a burn 1981 7 yrs ago va gave meds resparked the pain in burn area on ankle, it kill me at times narcotics drug s help off set pain , but antidepressants make my left go numb, tingling, head to my toes mini stroke maybe happening. Big brother. Refuses to give out narcotics drug but va has new guide lines a the vet cc doc once a month to refill it, big brother tell doc. No narcotics drug to be give to vet, even proven antidepressants drug don’t work nerve damage from a burn 2nd 3rd degree burns tens unit it goes in burn area I can’t feel nothing it highest level. So what do I do suffer with leg pain 24/7 docs some clinic s refuse to cc me so I do cc Choice doctor he helps I cc him once a month va doc 1 time ever 6 months if they don’t move on get a new doc start all over again and can’t cc him her 6 months check up so is va helping vets thier going backwards in heathcare

    • Annette McNamara April 25, 2016 at 9:12 pm

      Daniel keep fighting for care that you deserve. Found this site,
      Hope it helps.
      National TBI Center check out N.C.

  5. john e, duncan April 24, 2016 at 1:57 pm

    I need the right help that I can’t get I tell my doctor the thurth / my feet/my headacks/ my eyes/my legs has cramps/ I have night Marie’s/my herring an they say notting wrong or not severs cont.I can’t read like I use to ani get mad about things I am stuffing in finic./my wife is almost out the door an my hate for some peoples is getting stronger an stronger day by day (help )I do not won’t to die an my life is going up hill everyday !!??!

  6. Patrick jahnke April 24, 2016 at 12:04 pm

    U know I went to cc TMI. In Madison. They can’t keep up with that and I’m trying get migraine headces I seen 1-2month ago they had no ideal how to get it!!!! It was a waste of my time to cc the student , 2 months ago I was told pain clinic refusing cc me, she what cc them , thier not going cc me!!!!!! I have burn nerve damage ankle due from a burn1981 , 8 yrs va Dr resparked the nerves with a little pill, it pins, and needles burning on burn area it’s nonstop pain!!!!!! Antidepressants drug dk not work, so is ur head ur butt too

  7. Nicholas Jay Olson April 24, 2016 at 12:15 am

    Someone correct me if I’m wrong but I just saw this last e-article on creative solutions for brain health issues and I never saw Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy was not mentioned once.

    The fact that such an article is posted and not even mention the hyperbarics is beyond me seeing as how last time I heard hyperbaric chamber treatment was one of the things they were trying to support and raise awareness for.

    I’m sure that this post will probably be deleted in a matter of minutes after it is been read by the page admin. Regardless of this I still believe anyone who is logging on should voice their opinions as well. I am living walking proof that hyperbaric chamber treatment works. I am certainly not the only one. I have personally met 12 veterans who’s lives have been dramatically improved from this treatment. How about instead of talking about what people want to hear that we start to talk about what people need to hear!!!

    • Richard Fluke April 26, 2016 at 1:27 pm

      I am with you on your views on HBOT, If you have any info you can share on HBOT resources ,it would be a good thing to share.I have worked with a PTS retreat,and guess a third of attendees have MTBI in addition to PTS.

  8. Michael P. Samp April 23, 2016 at 10:41 am

    I am a disabled veteran, I suffered a traumatic brain injury in 1986. At this time there was not a lot of inoformation on TBI’s. I also suffered a blood hemorrhage on the basal ganglia causing nerve damage to the left side of my body. My vision also went from 20/40 to 20/200. In hearing terms I lost half of my ability to see clearly. Had this injury been to my hearing i would have received a much higher disability rating. Doctors at the time (1986) said that my eye sight would not be rated because my vision can be corrected with glasses. HELLO! Hearing can be corrected with hearing aids. Why has my vision been treated different?? I have read a report from a VA doctor in California saying that about 40% of the people with a TBI will also exerience a reduction in their ability to see clearly. Why is this problem not being addressed the same as problems with hearing. I know that loud noices have been around the military for many many years and there is more information connecting hearing to service, but VISION also needs to be addressed correctly. If your organization has more information on the effects of a TBI on vision could you please contact me at thankyou

  9. Phyllis Zuckerman Marcus April 23, 2016 at 10:14 am

    All of this is well and good but what about Parkinsons-Dementia with Lewy Bodies. My husband is a Korean Veteran and is unable to cope with day-to-day experiences. He sleeps most of the time unless I take him to PT or our exercise routine at the local hospital gymn with a personal trainer. All of this is very expensive and I am getting so tired with just trying to keep him active and awake!

  10. John L. Haynes April 22, 2016 at 9:42 pm

    Why is the VA so slow in using HBOT to help our Veterans who are diagnosed with PTSD and Mild TBI? The positive results are staggering , after 40 treatments, most of our Veterans who receive the HBOT Treatments are greatly improved and have no further requirement for prescription Drugs and can start leading a normal life once again .Please check with Col. Washington Sanchez, Chairman of The Florida Veterans Foundation, At the State Capitol, Tallahassee, Fl. for further positive information on the positive results being obtained by the program in the State Of Florida.

  11. Ray Des Marais April 22, 2016 at 9:38 pm

    Dear Secretary Bob, Wish someone represented the basic issue of ‘sympathetic on’ and the need to get the PTSD patient into ‘para sympathetic on’ 2) There is a FL PT company headed by Ray Cralle who treated several veteran TBI patients w/ HBOT once /week for a year on a probono basis, where the brain (before and after) scans showed truly remarkable results. We have those images and would gladly share them with you and your teams
    My warmest regards,
    Ray Des Marais President & CEO The Advanced Trauma Therapy Foundation for Veterans

  12. Valentine McKay-Riddell PhD April 22, 2016 at 8:17 pm

    I am the Founder and Executive Director of Orenda Healing International. Our mission includes research and community service programs in alternative healing. If you are interested in ways to manage the many issues that face veterans (physically and mentally) please send email to, and visit our website, for an overview of the programs and research in which we are involved.

    My husband is also a disabled veteran (Vietnam) with severe PTSD and related physical symptoms. We may be able to share some of our success stories with other vets.

    Dr. Valentine McKay-Riddell

    • Annette McNamara April 25, 2016 at 9:04 pm

      Together we stand never alone. Veterans healing Vets. Listening is Key.
      Thank you for making a difference.Hope
      God Bless America.

  13. Daniel Longworth April 22, 2016 at 1:29 pm

    What do any of these “Brain Trust” civilians, that have NEVER been out of their “comfort zones,” KNOW about Combat, death, killing another human being, “face-to-face,” real-PTSD, or anything in the life of the war-hardened, combat-tested, on-edge, “kid”-into-“killer,” who transitions back into “the world,” from the jungle-into-civilian life, in HOURS!!??
    PLEASE! Spare me your amateur “theories!” Y-O-U don’t know S*IT!

    • Emily Murphy April 22, 2016 at 3:55 pm

      Your correct to a certain degree. No one can truly say, I know this, if they have not walked the path. But, collaboration is needed. Vets and families need all the support they can get. What I would like to see is a requirement that a combat veteran be on every team that presented their ideas, at least in an advisor role.
      My husband has been in treatment for two months in another state VA hospital and gets home tomorrow. PTSD and all the other host of problems facing us military family’s is to big to fight alone. The VA has a long way to come, lets work together to get it there.

  14. Siddiqah Henighan April 22, 2016 at 12:21 pm

    I knew Secretary Bob & TEAM would get to the ‘bottom-line’ to the pain and suffering of so many veterans. The brain is the executive officer of the MIND. I wrestle with PTSD inherited from military service, not a day go by when I don’t tell my brain to re-Mind the MIND….I am good enough, I am loving, and the most important one, MY EXPERIENCES ARE NOT ME!

    A Woman Veteran

Comments are closed.

More Stories

  • PTSD Bytes: Host Pearl McGee-Vincent discusses PTSD and relationships with Dr. Leslie Morland and Dr. Kayla Knopp, clinical and research psychologists.

  • Clinical simulation training has expanded rapidly and nearly any clinical scenario can be created and taught. Orlando VA trains of hundreds of professionals in their labs.

  • How often do you make things harder than they must or should be? This week's episode of #LiveWholeHealth is a progressive muscle relaxation to reduce stress and lighten your load.