The VHA Innovators Network (iNET) empowers VA employees who actively move VA forward using innovation to better serve Veterans and their families.

iNET is composed of a group of 34 VA Medical Centers across the country. It supports both the design and development of employee generated innovations.

By using first-hand knowledge of frontline employees to identify some of VA’s greatest challenges, iNET takes a ground up approach to helping employees develop their own creative solutions.

iNET awarded three individuals who excelled in the work that is foundational to the network. The organization’s leadership gave the awards during the annual VA Innovation Experience event last month. Join us in celebrating the following individuals for their inspiring work and dedication.

2021 “Tanked” Award – Debra Cole

The “Tanked” Award celebrates the idea of agile innovation, ability to pivot a solution, and the dedication to solving a problem. Debra Cole has shown tremendous dedication in pushing through obstacles.

She designed a unique solution to her identified problem, keeping Veterans and fellow employees at the forefront of the design process. Her prototype is simple, effective, and built by the tools provided throughout her FY21 Spark-Seed-Spread journey.

2021 Investee of the Year – Brian Higgins

The recipient of the 2021 Investee of the Year Award is Brian Higgins, a blind rehab specialist at VA Palo Alto Healthcare System. He has been recognized for his remarkable achievement in bringing the standard white cane into the 21st century. The advanced sensor-enabled “smart white cane” increases Veterans’ freedom, safety and independence. It will soon make an immeasurable difference in the lives of Veterans who are blind or visually impaired.

2021 Innovation Specialist of the Year – Kathryn Beckner

The 2021 Innovation Specialist of the year is Kathryn Beckner, an innovation specialist at Richmond VA.

Beckner was instrumental in the success of launching the Greenhouse Initiative and exploring new business models for co-designed collaborations. She also served as a panelist at the VHA Innovation Experience Virtual Series event, Breaking Boundaries Collaboration Challenge, and moderated the iNET Incubator series.

By Allison Amrhein is the director of operations for the VHA Innovators Network and communications lead for the VHA Innovation Ecosystem

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Published on Dec. 10, 2021

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  1. Hernan Reyes January 3, 2022 at 11:57 am

    I just waited on hold for 10 minutes just to be told CPAP supplies are now handled by a private contractor.
    They gave me their number, after listening to their “health tips ” repeatedly. So I call the contractor and they have a message saying their wait time is 30 minutes and I can get a callback if I choose to.
    What a heck of an innovation!
    Maybe VA could have sent the phone change notice by email .
    Or maybe they could set up ordering online for CPAP supplies?

  2. Steve M. Goldsmith December 10, 2021 at 7:40 pm

    The VA lies n covers up for there employees here in Muskogee, Oklahoma.

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