Today we are highlighting two new technologies being tested in hopes of improving treatments for Veterans with heart problems or traumatic brain injury, both funded by the VA Innovation Initiative, or VAi2.  These projects are the first to be awarded under the 2010 Industry Innovation Competition – but we’ll have more awards to announce soon.

Secretary Shinseki created VAi2 earlier this year as part of the broad transformation underway at VA. Our mission is to provide a transparent process for VA to identify and evaluate new ideas and new technologies in a structured way.  When it comes to addressing our toughest challenges, we know that we don’t have all the answers. We get ideas both from our fellow employees (and believe me, with about 300,000 VA employees there are a lot of good ideas) and from outside VA – from industry, academia, and others.  We’re particularly eager to use VAi2 to engage with new areas of industry that would not necessarily think of VA as a partner.

We’ll blog another time about the projects that have been launched through our employee competitions; today we’d like to talk about our most recent external competition.  The 2010 Industry Innovation Competition invited industry and academia to apply their expertise and propose their best ideas to address six key challenges:

Next-generation telehealth

Improving polytrauma care

Preventing adverse drug events

New models of dialysis care

Enabling Veteran entrepreneurship through a business accelerator

Deploying innovative housing solutions to reduce Veteran homelessness

The competition was open for 120 days, from June through September 2010. We received roughly 300 proposals from companies small and large, academic institutions, and new entrepreneurs.  The selection process relied on a thorough and objective review by subject matter experts from VA, the Small Business Administration, Department of Defense, Department of Labor, and industry. We’ve been working hard with the more than two dozen selected proposals to turn them into pilot projects within VA that run from one to two years in duration with concrete milestones along the way.

Last week, Federal CTO Aneesh Chopra, announced these awards at an HHS event highlighting innovation in health care.  The two awards announced were to two small firms, mVisum of Camden, NJ, and MedRed of Washington, DC and totaled nearly $7 million.

The project with mVisum, Inc. funds a pilot at the Washington D.C. VA Medical Center that permits health care providers to securely review, share and respond to cardiologic data on portable devices, increasing clinicians’ ability to respond quickly to patients suffering heart attacks.

The work with MedRed, LLC funds a project at the McGuire VA Medical Center’s Polytrauma Clinic in Richmond, Va., that tests a software tool to deploy decision support and standardized data gathering from brain injury treatments.  The strategy is to allow sharing of rapidly evolving treatment guidelines at VA polytrauma centers and Department of Defense medical facilities, as well as patient progress and outcomes.
So what’s next for VAi2?  Three things:

1. The hands-on work of implementing the innovations selected this year

2. The 2011 Industry Innovation Competition

3. The next Employee Innovation Competition


We’ll continue to work with the innovators from the 2010 competition to get projects rolling and we’ll monitor their progress over the next year or two as they complete pilot testing; we’ll evaluate outcomes to see if the solutions should be rolled out on a larger scale. We’re also working hard to define new topics for the 2011 Industry Competition, which will be announced in early 2011.  We’ll also be looking for ways to continue to keep VA employees engaged.  Watch our website for what’s new.

Jonah Czerwinski was Senior Advisor to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs and served as Director of the VA Innovation Initiative at U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

*Note: VAi2 has been superseded by the VA Center for Innovation (VACI). Links in this post have been updated to reflect that change.

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Published on Dec. 20, 2010

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  1. j January 3, 2011 at 4:09 pm

    I reall think the va is doing a good job with claims

  2. Bob Ventrella December 31, 2010 at 6:45 pm

    I volunteer as a retiree counselor at Great Lakes Naval Station. I have seen claims go thru in as fast as three weeks and others take months. This can be assisted by the service organizations ass siting with the claim bua old rule of CAUSE & EFFECT! It must be defined. I refer to claims from the new vets which I assist with both for voc-rehab and disability. Us older vets have a different road to travel. But as always the cause must be defined and the effect especially yhe onset . In my case I have applied for the Ischemic condition but could not define the onset or the cause. It may have come on later as well as Dypsnea as dicovered ny NAVY surgeons who wrote that the condition began over thirty years ago whilst on AD. The Ischemic after the eval rejection did not mention Heart Attacks that occured in the VA facility or the relationship between the Ischemic and the Lung condition. I have asked for a relook not an appeal. BE persistent, IF you think you are right.

  3. Austin malone December 30, 2010 at 3:17 pm

    Why is it that the regulations says that a C&P examiner cannot overrule a practicing professional in their field, who has written and submitted a supporting letter in your favor and works at a VA hospital. The examiner admits in his C&P report that he is not qualified to rate my condition due to not being a qualified professional in the Periodontal field. Therefore he has no knowledge of any research studies related to my claim. The examiner still added some personal assumed comments in his rewritten C&P report, after I tried to get a copy from the RO, seven months after the exam. The RO reviewer still denied my claim referring to this C&P examiners report and three other reports from two years earlier. Two years earlier my claim was remanded to Washington. I was examined twice for the same condition. The Doctors had no guidelines to follow, so they asked me what I was being examined for. In 2008-2009 the same doctor who wrote the last 2010 C&P was solicited to review my folder,site un seen. In that report, the same doctor admits again that he is not qualified to rate my condition. But again he adds personal comments. The RO reviewer denied my claim back then and misrepresented what the solicited doctor wrote and ignored the fact that he admits that he was and still not qualified to overrule my VA Periodontist. I read that an RO reviewer is not allowed to add personal comments or misrepresent an examiners C&P report (which is very hard to get a copy of) to justify a denied claim.

  4. Charles Mordecai December 29, 2010 at 8:25 pm

    The VA Secretary is asking employees how to fix a problem they created (that is madness) ask the veterans, they are the one fighting the problems. Also why does the Social Security Administration allowed the disability claimant to contact the person working on their claims but not the VA? Additionally, do you really believe a VA employee is going to say just fire me if I intent ally denies a claim for personal gains, example: making my quota for my promotion instead of reviewing the evidence and following the law. Ask the veterans what should be fix. This can be accomplish by requesting comments at the VA Hospital or regional office. Also reduced the time for a claim/appeal to get complete example 4 months. Overall, you don’t ask the people who created the problem you ask the stakeholders. VA employees should be under Title 5. Thank you.

    • Martin December 29, 2010 at 11:33 pm

      Aking the Veterans is a great idea and the VA does that. But also asking the employees who are working in the flawed system how to better the system makes sense as well. Your comment about reducing the time it takes for an appeal. The courts have ruled and the time frames alloted to the veteran are because the veterans cases need that time to be developed. If you have a lock solid appeal it should be taken care of during the NOD process which needs to be filed within 1 year of the original rating decision.
      The VA is making strides to fix the system so that it is more user friendly for everybody involved. It simply cannot waive a wand and rate every case currently pending.
      But they do make an effort to adhere to every single veterans request in the claims process, unless it has no merit and an examination has already been provided by the VA.
      To wrap it up, I read the comments on the blogs and shake my head sometimes. As you can see the VA is making efforts to communicate with the Veterans across the Nation, and most of the reply’s are negative feedback. The VA is asking for your thoughts, not a complaint. Semper Fi.

      • brenda hayes January 9, 2011 at 8:44 pm


        I disagree with your comment regarding complaints.

        The VA does need to hear these complaints; they also need to learn from these complaints.

        The main complaint I hear is “no one is listening”; “no one if “fixing” the systems. The systems are made up of people that are employed by a system that is NOT set up for accountability.

        When this changes, I think, only then, will there be notable changes in all of our government systems.

        Also, it has been suggested on this site that there is another government agency, the SSA, that does seem to be more effective and timely in doing their mission. What are they doing differently for this to be the case?

        Concerning the VA complaints/problems:

        What are the issues? What are the solutions?

        I have suggested putting up an area on this blogsite set up just for Issues/Solutions; and apparently it does not even merit acknowledgment from the Vantage Point Team much less any of the VA bureaucrats.

        In the 1980’s this modality was used by The ARMY FAMILY ACTION COMMITEE. In fact, it is still in the Army system and continues to be used for the purpose of feedback on problems and possible solutions.

        My understanding is that this formalized feedback loop has a weak link to the disabled Veterans/family members and retirees. It probably needs some tweaking, but it is part of a system that is already in place and can be expanded upon for better effectiveness. Again, it takes Veteran/family members perceived problems/complaints and turns them into possible solutions.

        During that time, the The Army’s mantra became “we hire soldiers; but we retain families.” The VA should also be giving more than lip service to this concept as well. You see it occasionally in writing; but it still has not been accepted fully by VA management at the D.C. level as well as for the VA’s line employees.

        Also; if employees have been in the VA system for years; they have to know or have SOME idea what the processes are that broken or outdated, etc. that need to be changed in order to rectify so many of these complaints/problems from Veterans/family members.

        Is there a website that these VA employees can filter their frustrations/problems/concerns with possible solutions (even anonymously, if necessary)?

        A lot of times, change is not welcomed by management and this site could be overseen at a different level. Lifetime federal employees don’t like to be put in controversial situations; low profile or no profile is how we all “get to Abilene” (anyone remember the Bay of Pigs?).

        For example; one blogger wrote (complained) concerning untimely receipt of compensation pay that has affected him and his family in a very serious manner. (We often forget that most Americans are only one or two paychecks from being homeless”.)

        (This Convalescence comp issue/solutions should also be part of General Shinsecki’s program for “avoiding” possible Vet/family members homeless situation(s).)

        ISSUE: Convalescence compensation

        It appears that “convalescence requests” are not expedited. It appears that they are placed in the claim stacks with all of the other claims which sets up unnecessary hardships for Veterans/family members.

        SOLUTION(S): A). Have VAMC personnel, Dr./Nurse Practioners/Social Workers/VAMC assigns/Private Doctors sign off on a VA Form which can be pulled off VA Website)that goes directly to XXXX where it is processed for its timely compensation to the Veteran.

        B) Letter (and email) to go out with Conv Pay that spells out steps for continuance, etc.and/or have such information placed on Veterans E-file that stipulates when it was received, when it will go out, and steps necessary to continue, etc.

        Whomever is the Undersecretary that the issue/solution would come under should communicate why this would or wouldn’t work in specific terms.

        The “word” still has not gotten out about this blogsite; I again think that having a specific area where Issues/Concerns/Solutions is needed.

        If the VA wants to get feedback (solutions)that will work from the people that are having to deal with its ineffectiveness, it would be better to lay it out now; then wait for the thousands of Veterans/Family members that want to have a say in a system that was set up to serve them…and that the American people (including them) pay for!

        Blogging for Change..for the benefit of all Veterans and family members.

        …because they deserve better; much better.

        Vetwife Advocate


  5. Richard Wickberg December 28, 2010 at 9:14 pm

    We’re veterans and by the way congress votes, expendible and a nuicence to the federal budget. If some leglislators had their way, they’d close the VAMC’s.

  6. D. Russell December 28, 2010 at 6:26 pm

    I am just wondering how much I have to loose to get help with my Va benefits, all the people that filed after me got theirs already. What is taking so long. I am going bazerk waiting and waiting. How much longer do I have to wait till I loose my house cause I can’t work due to ischemic heart disease, high blood pressure just to name a few.

    • Martin December 29, 2010 at 11:23 pm

      First, I hope you filed a claim using a power of attorney (American Legion, DAV, VFW, MOPH…..) Because these are your veterans advocates that work with the VA Regional Office staff daily, and they know the law (or should) as well as the VA staff. Their services are provided free of charge and membership to the organization is typically not required. That being said, you cannot compare your claim to others because you most likely do not know all of the ins and outs of the other cases, even though from the outside they seem similar. If you have not responded to the VCAA letter (VA Duty to Assist) which gives you 60 days to submit any evidence which may help the VA rate you claim, then that could be a hold up. If you have responded and filled out the 21-4142 Release of information, so the VA can go to your private clinic and get you medical records, your clinic could be the hold as well.
      There are a lot of possibilities out there that may cause a delay in your rating decision. I dont know how far you live from the VA Regional Office, or what state you are in. But I would check out http://www.nacvso.org and see if your county has a veterans service officer that can help you with your claim. Often times a CVSO (County Veterans Service Officer) can assist with expediting the rating and adjudication process.

  7. kay December 28, 2010 at 2:11 pm

    Christina, home loans and education benefits are two different things.

    You don’t have a ticking clock for use of the home loan benefit.

    Congress set the ticking clock on education benefits, drop your Congressperson a line and ask for that money, but unless the law changes, it’s not VA that is to blame, it’s how Congress wrote the law.

    Until Congress fixes it (if it does), you can still look into using your entitlement to purchase a home. Call the VFW or American Legion, they can help you get your Certificate of Eligibility. You can even contact a loan company who can request the form on your behalf. Once you have the form, you can use it to qualify for a no downpayment home loan.

  8. Christina Thomas December 27, 2010 at 2:03 pm

    I really have a hard time undertanding that I can not get my Educational Benefits because I waited to long to use them. Well I wasn’t told by my Reserve Unit tha I had to use them in 10 years. This doesn’t seem to matter. Any money I put into my education accont is lost to me. Is that fair to those of us that want to improve our lot in life. I think not and I think t high time that we stop taking this sitting down. I am ure there are more important things, but there is a lot of us that got screwed out of our money for education and owning homes, because someone forgot to tell us this small detail that we would not get to use our educational or homebuying power after ten years. So someone better figure out what is the next step for those of us that got shafted out of our educational and home buyers money. In the meantime, I will be looking for a lawyer to help me get mine.

  9. Jim Doran December 27, 2010 at 10:06 am

    I partially agree with Ron Nesler. VA Medical Centers have a captive audience. They already know the facility is there, so why do they need a PR Department at all? There are 12 vacancies at the hospital, perhaps some of this money could be used to fund additional medical professionals, or give MERIT raises to some employees (i.e. PA, RN, LPN, Med Techs.)

    However, contrary to Mr. Nesler’s comment the money cannot be used to fund disability claims for veterans. The VARO didn’t put the PR Dep’t together, the VAMC did. The VARO is funded through MANDATORY funding in the House Appropriations bills. The VAMC is funded through DISCRETIONARY funding controlled by the Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. The Veterans Healthcare Administration must fight for every dime it gets. When they do get funding from the House the VAMC or VISN shouldn’t be wasting it on PR. That’s a Central Office function.

    • Martin December 29, 2010 at 11:13 pm

      I disagree. You are correct the VHA has to fight for what they have, however, a PR department is absolutely necessary. Each VAMC jurisdiction has different programs, some MC’s are more specialized in different fields of medicine than the next closest VAMC. Understand that the VAMC’s have been highly scrutinized for decades for not doing enough for our veterans. And now it seems they are being scrutinized for doing to much for our veterans. PR is a great tool for veterans outreach. Contrary to your statement “everybody knows it is there” veterans now the hospital is there, but often do not realize they are eligible for care at the hospital. A lot of veterans actually dont classify themselves as being a veteran, which in turn prevents them from applying for benefits VBA or VHA.

  10. Ron Nesler December 25, 2010 at 11:01 am

    The money that this one VARO spent on public relations in one year would have paid the disability compensation of fifty 100% service connected war veterans for twenty years.

Comments are closed.

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