#VABrainTrust summit highlights brain health, innovations in care

Leaders in brain research will gather in Washington, D.C.

Veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan are showing higher numbers of experiencing mild traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder. Within the past 13 years, nearly 400,000 Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn Veterans were seen for PTSD at VA facilities following their deployments.

To find new and innovative ways to help Veterans dealing with these injuries, the VA Center for Innovation teamed up industry experts from Silicon Valley to host the #VABrainTrust “hackathon” in Austin and San Francisco this past February. The event brought together experts, developers, clinicians, Veterans, caregivers and the public and gave them the opportunity to collaborate with each other.

VA posed three challenges to the hackathon teams: How do we improve access to mental health services for Veterans? How can we improve diagnostics for mild TBI and PTSD? How do we improve the rehabilitation experience?

The path begun at the February hackathon will culminate at the Brain Trust: Pathways to InnoVAtion summit in Washington, D.C., on April 20-21 where the winners will highlight their projects. The summit will bring together leaders in brain research and promote collaboration between private industries, national/professional sports organizations, the federal government, innovators, scientists, athletes, clinicians, caregivers and Veterans.

Teamwork and partnering exercises at the event will aim to identify critical brain health solutions in the areas of prevention, diagnosis, treatment, rehabilitation, and the reintegration of who those who live with the effects of mTBI and/or PTSD. #VABrainTrust is designed not only to serve Veterans and Servicemembers, but to ultimately serve Americans.


Melissa Heintz

Melissa Heintz joined the Department of Veterans Affairs in 2015 and currently works as the National Veterans Day Coordinator, National Veterans Outreach. She grew up on an Army base in Japan before her family relocated to Hawaii. She holds a degree in Journalism/Mass Communications and Spanish from Seattle University. Melissa has served as a public affairs specialist with Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam and the Institute of Museum and Library Services. In December 2015, Melissa commissioned in the Air National Guard where she serves as a public affairs officer with the 113th Wing, D.C. Air National Guard.


  1. CT Brennan    

    I am a Veteran who worked as a PTSD clinician at a NY VA. I recently moved to the Central Coast area of California. The lack of care providers and specialty care is atrocious. My round trip mileage is over 125 miles. If I need specialty care or just ears cleaned I am referred to Los Angeles or Palo Alto 3 and 5 hour drives.

  2. Ken Porter    

    Now if only the person that writes the headlines can learn to spell………

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