El Paso VA Health Care System
VA established full-time presence in the El Paso community in 1969 when it opened an office under the auspices of the Regional Office of Lubbock, Texas, at 2701 Montana. Services were provided by two social workers and four benefits counselors and included referrals to fee basis physicians, pre-and- post hospital follow-up and coordination of benefits and care.
In 1974, a VA Outpatient Clinic established operations in the Gilbert Annex of the R.E. Thomason Hospital, under the jurisdiction of the Big Spring VA Medical Center. In 1975, the El Paso VA Outpatient Clinic became an independent outpatient clinic. Services provided included general medicine, prosthetics, pharmacy and dental.
By 1987, demand for services had far exceeded the capacity of the Brook Hollow facility and planning was initiated for a new facility adjacent to William Beaumont Army Medical Center. Construction of the new 254,000 square foot ambulatory care center began on June 11, 1993, and it opened its doors to patients on October 16, 1995. Since opening, the unique patients seen has increased from 10,755 in FY 1993 to 30,477 in FY 2013.
In response to demand for services to Veterans in the southern New Mexico area, a VA-staffed outpatient primary care clinic was opened in Las Cruces, NM on November 4, 1994. Today, this Communicty Based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC), a part of the El Paso VA Health Care System, sees more than 3,300 Veterans a year. (based on end of FY13).
In April of 2010, a Community Based Outpatient Clinic opened in East El Paso. This brought primary care to the fastest growing area and mostly densely Veteran populated region of El Paso. In addition to primary care, the Eastside Clinic offers mental health and physical therapy services, part-time lab draw and benefits advisor.
The El Paso VA Health Care System has a joint venture with William Beaumont Army Medical Center (WBAMC). This joint venture allows both activities to maximize resource utilization. Through the joint venture, VA purchases emergency room service and inpatient care for acute medical, psychiatric and surgical emergencies. The joint venture has led to unique agreements that have increased patient access in general surgery and vascular surgery.
The El Paso VA Health Care System also acquires services from local hospitals and other VA Medical Centers located within the VA Southwest Health Care Network, which serves far West Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona.
A Brief History of the Veterans Health Administration (VHA)
Today’s Veterans Health Administration (VHA) originated during the Civil War as the first federal hospitals and domiciliaries ever established for the nation’s volunteer forces.
National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers (1865-1930)
On March 3, 1865, a month before the Civil War ended, President Abraham Lincoln authorized the first-ever national soldiers’ and sailors’ asylum to provide medical and convalescent care for discharged members of the Union Army and Navy volunteer forces. The asylum was the first of its kind in the world.
Two early soldiers’ homes were very small and housed up to 300 men. They provided medical care and long-term housing for thousands of Civil War veterans.
The national homes were often called “soldiers’ homes” or “military homes.” Initially only soldiers and sailors who served with the Union forces — including U.S. Colored Troops — were eligible for admittance. The first National Home opened near Augusta, Maine on November 1, 1866.
Many programs and processes begun at the national homes continue at VHA today. They were the first to accept women Veterans for medical care and hospitalization beginning in 1923.
By 1929, the national homes had grown to 11 institutions that spanned the country. All of the national homes have operated continuously since they opened.
Veterans Bureau (1921-1930)
On August 9, 1921, Congress created the Veterans Bureau by combining three World War I Veterans programs into one bureau.
World War I was the first fully mechanized war and soldiers exposed to mustard gas and other chemicals required specialized care. Tuberculosis and neuro-psychiatric hospitals opened to accommodate Veterans with respiratory or mental health problems.
Native Americans, on November 6, 1919, became eligible for full Veterans benefits, including health care. In 1924, Veterans’ benefits were liberalized to cover disabilities that were not service-related. In 1928, admission to the National Homes was extended to women, National Guard, and militia Veterans.
Veterans Administration (1930-1989)
The second consolidation of federal Veterans programs took place on July 21, 1930 when President Herbert Hoover consolidated the Veterans Bureau with the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers and Pension Bureau and re-designated it as the Veterans Administration.
General Frank Hines, Director of the Veterans Bureau since 1923, became the first Administrator of the VA. His tenure lasted 22 years and ended in 1945 when General Omar Bradley took the helm. In 1930, VA consisted of 45 hospitals. By 1945, the number had more than doubled to 97.
World War II ushered in a new era of expanded Veterans' benefits through the Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944, commonly referred to as the "G.I. bill", which was signed into law on June 22, 1944. General Omar Bradley took the reins at VA in 1945 and steered its transformation into a modern organization. In 1946, the Department of Medicine and Surgery was established within VA. VA was able to recruit and retain top medical personnel by modifying the Civil Service system. The first women doctors were hired in 1946. When Bradley left in 1947, there were 125 VA hospitals.
Dr. Paul Magnuson, a VA orthopedic surgeon and Chief Medical Director, 1948-1951, led the charge to create an affiliation program with America’s medical schools for medical research and training purposes. By 1948, 60 medical schools were affiliated with VA hospitals. Over the years, these collaborations resulted in groundbreaking advances in medicine, nursing, medical research, and prosthetics.
In the post-World War II period, 90 new and replacement Veterans hospitals were planned.
The first-ever successful human liver transplant operation took place at the Denver VA Medical Center in May 1963 under Dr. Thomas Starzl. In 1977, two VA doctors, Dr. Rosalyn Yalow (Bronx VAMC) and Dr. Andrew Schally (New Orleans VAMC) received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their work in developing radioimmunoassay of peptide hormones. Many modern medical advances originated as trials or experiments in VA hospitals and now benefit patients of all types worldwide.
Department of Veterans Affairs (since 1989)
The VA was elevated to a Cabinet-level Executive Department by President Ronald Reagan in October 1988. The change took effect on March 15, 1989, when the Veterans Administration was renamed the Department of Veterans Affairs, but retained use of “VA” as its acronym.
The Department of Medicine and Surgery was re-designated as the Veterans Health Services and Research Administration and on May 7, 1991, the name was changed to the Veterans Health Administration (VHA).
The Veterans Health Administration (VHA) is the largest of three administrations that comprise the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. VHA’s primary mission is to provide medical care and services to America’s military Veterans.
VHA operates one of the largest health care systems in the world and provides training for a majority of America’s medical, nursing, and allied health professionals. Roughly 60% of all medical residents obtain a portion of their training at VA hospitals and our medical research programs benefit society at-large.
Today’s VHA continues to meet Veterans’ changing medical, surgical, and quality of life needs. New programs provide treatment for traumatic brain injuries, post traumatic stress disorder, suicide prevention, women Veterans, and more.
VA opened outpatient clinics, established telemedicine, and other services to accommodate a diverse Veteran population and cultivates on-going medical research and innovation to improve the lives of America’s patriots.