Whole Health is VA’s cutting-edge approach to care that supports Veteran health and well-being. Whole Health centers around what matters to you, not what is the matter with you. This means a VA patient’s health team will get to know them as a person before working with them to develop a personalized health plan based on their values, needs, and goals.

This approach to health care is much different than the traditional method of care delivery where a patient seeks out a provider to help with a medical concern and the provider addresses the individual issue and then sends the patient on his or her way.

“Historically, providers looked at an acute medical issue presented by a patient, treated the issue as they deemed clinically appropriate, and really did not take a look at all the other factors that could have contributed to a particular condition or even helped the patient thrive after treatment,” said Michelle Winslow, Whole Health Program Manager, VISN 8.

“With Whole Health, our providers are not only treating the immediate health concern, they are also working with Veterans to identify what is important to them outside of conventional treatment,” she said. “This includes things like personal development, meditation, movement, building relationships and exploring complimentary alternative therapies. By focusing on the bigger picture and putting Veterans in the driver’s seat, we are able to achieve better overall health outcomes.”


A big part of VISN 8’s Whole Health implementation is the hiring and training of specialized staff called Whole Health Coaches. More than 170 Whole Health Coaches have been hired and are now working in PACTs across the network. The coaches are Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) by profession and were required to undergo a 4-week training course. The training equipped the coaches with tools for positive change through meditation, biofeedback, movement, nutrition and other skills.

“Whole Health coaches in VISN 8 act as guides and support for Veterans and help them develop personalized health plans based on what matters most to them,” Winslow said. “They are not there to tell Veterans what they should be doing. They seek to support Veterans in achieving a standard of optimal health, physical and social well being based on Veterans’ goals, values, preferences, and lifestyle.”

Whole Health

Navy Veteran Sam Martino meets with his Whole Health coach Kelley Johnson at The Villages, Florida VA Outpatient Clinic. Martino credits Whole Health with saving his life. He meets with Johnson regularly as part of his ongoing engagement in the program. (VA Photo by Joseph McKee, North Florida/South Georgia Veterans Health System)

Improving the patient experience

According to Dr. Miguel Lapuz, VISN 8 Network Director, the roll out of Whole Health in VISN 8 has been modified to improve patient experience. Veterans involved in the Whole Health program at VISN 8 facilities report it to be life changing and are encouraging other Veterans to get involved.

“Before I was engaged in Whole Health, I was in a really dark place,” said Navy Veteran Sam Martino. “I wanted to end my life, my physical being was wearing me out. I’ve had a lot of surgeries, I couldn’t walk on my own anymore, and I really did not want to be here.”

Martino, who receives care at The Villages Outpatient Clinic operated by the North Florida/South Georgia Veterans Health System, said he was introduced to Whole Health by his psychologist, Dr. Susan Forbes.

“My emotional state before being in the Whole Health program to now is just a world of difference. I’m a different person. I’m not the same person who started in this program, and I thank god for that, I really do. Whole Health is just a lifesaver, and I wish everybody would try it.”

In the future

The future of VA Whole Health is promising as VISN 8 leaders are sharing their early successes of Whole Health implementation with Veterans Health Administration (VHA) leadership and with other networks across the country.

“Our goal with Whole Health is to create a model of implementation that is successful and can be duplicated across the VA,” Winslow said.

This story is part of the Secretary’s Priorities series, which was outlined to the House Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Military Constructions, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies on Feb. 26, 2019, by VA Secretary Wilkie. The Secretary’s Priorities are Customer Service, MISSION Act, Electronic Health Record, Transforming Business Systems, and Suicide Prevention. These stories are designed to give a closer look at the improvements VA is making in how we relate to, interact with, and ultimately serve our Veterans, their families, caregivers and survivors.

Share this story

Published on Feb. 23, 2020

Estimated reading time is 3.9 min.

Views to date: 222


  1. Ms Mickey D Wise March 4, 2020 at 10:32 pm

    I served my country for 24 years. I had hip replacement in Nashville VA in June 2019. I was the first one for surgery and had to be there at 0600. I had to stay in recovery for 12 hours because they had no rooms for women. They knew I was A female and this surgery was scheduled well in advance. No one seem to care that I had to wait 12 hour in recovery while the male patients got taken to there room in about a hour. They looked at my name and assumed I was a male. This happens all the time. Every time I go to the Dr they call for Mr Wise. This is unacceptable and they need rooms for females when we have to have surgery. No one at the Nashville VA seems to care.

  2. Rebecca A Richburg February 28, 2020 at 9:38 pm

    I want the Choice program through TriWest back, but I guess that isn’t going to happen. I am getting some help from the State (TX) and I will be saving a lot on my meds but to get them outside the VA I need a doctor from the outside to order them. In order to see one, I can’t afford it without going through the TriWest/Choice Program, so I guess I will have to keep paying what the VA charges (which is higher than what I am getting from the State). Otherwise I am glad and honored to be able to use my VA System in TX and I guess if I travel I could still use them.

  3. Edward Stefanyak February 27, 2020 at 2:46 pm

    What is taking so long my husband can’t hear ?? He has filled out the paperwork and had all the hearing tests needed !

  4. Lewis Miller February 27, 2020 at 11:06 am

    I am sure I will not get a response as usual. How does a veteran get treatment from doctors in the VA that has no clue what Reflux sympathetic dystrophy? I’m sick and tired of telling doctors what I need but no treatment? Does the VA even care?
    Dying in Texas before treatment

  5. Martin Vetere USN ET2 February 26, 2020 at 10:02 pm

    You deemed me ineligible for Veteran benefits due to my vast income. So why did you put me on your email list? Remove me.

    [Editor: There are dozens of VA non-health benefits that do not have an income qualification. If you want to know more about VA’s health care priority groups, go here: https://www.va.gov/health-care/eligibility/priority-groups/ ]

  6. fzmovies February 23, 2020 at 8:43 pm

    good development

Comments are closed.

More Stories

  • Innovation revolutionary: Entrepreneur in Residence Dr. Priya Joshi works to develop a more equitable process in treating and identifying Veterans with kidney disease, hypertension and diabetes.

  • Houston VA has performed more than 160 head and neck free flap reconstructive surgeries since the program was developed in 2017.

  • Chronic pain interferes with women Veterans’ daily lives. Talk to your VA provider about an individualized pain management plan.