20 little known facts about VA medical centers

VA medical centers not only provide top-notch care to 9 million Veterans, but many have long and interesting backstories


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When you work at VA, you’re a part of a major piece of America’s history. Our roots date back to the Civil War, when the first hospitals and homes for disabled former soldiers began to open.

Today, across the nation, we provide top-notch care to 9 million Veterans in our medical centers. Many of these have long and unique backstories themselves. Whether you’re considering a career at VA or have worked here for years, you might be surprised by some of these 20 little-known facts about VA medical centers.

  1. The Togus VA Medical Center in Maine is the oldest facility for Veterans in the nation.
  2. The Bob Stump VA Medical Center in Prescott, Ariz., is located at the site of Fort Whipple, a base for the U.S. cavalry after the Civil War. It later became headquarters for the Rough Riders during the Spanish American War.
  3. The Southern Arizona VA Healthcare System began on an abandoned recreation spot known as Pastime Park, which at various times had been a skating rink, bowling alley, dance hall and a notorious roadside tavern.
  4. Tibor Rubin VA Medical Center in Long Beach, Calif., is named for the only Holocaust survivor to be awarded the Medal of Honor.
  5. The incredible views of the Smoky Mountains at the James H. Quillen VA Medical Center in Mountain Home, Tenn., (pictured at the top) were intended to benefit the recovery of the tuberculosis patients who were first treated there.
  6. Even before its official dedication, the VA San Diego Healthcare System jumped into action to provide emergency care following a 1972 California earthquake.
  7. The National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic — which offers disabled Veterans the chance to ski, rock climb, scuba dive and more — is held each year at the VAMC in Grand Junction, Colo.
  8. When the original Wilmington VA Medical Center opened on Aug. 26, 1946, 77% of the staff were Veterans.
  9. The first VA hospital in Miami, Fla., was actually a former hotel.
  10. At the James A. Haley Veterans Hospital and Clinics, Veterans participated in weekly taste tests to set the menu at the American Heroes Café.
  11. The Boise VA Medical Center occupies most of the former Fort Boise. Its sandstone buildings are some of the oldest in the city.
  12. The site of the Edward Hines, Jr. VA Hospital in Hines, Ill., was once a former board track racecourse. Popular in the early 1900s, board track racing was a motorsport race on an oval racecourse with a surface of wooden planks.
  13. The Captain James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center in Chicago, Ill., is the first partnership between VA and the Department of Defense, integrating Veteran and Naval health care into one facility. It’s also named for Apollo 13 astronaut Jim Lovell, played by Tom Hanks in the popular movie.
  14. Arrowheads and relics from Susquehannock tribe can still be found on Perry Point Peninsula, home of the Perry Point VA Medical Center in Maryland.
  15. The Battle Creek VA Medical Center was initially called Veterans Hospital Number 100 because it was the 100th VA hospital built in the United States.
  16. Henry Ford attended the groundbreaking of the John D. Dingell VA Medical Center in Detroit.
  17. At the Minneapolis VA Medical Center, three large atria in the facility allow for a window with natural light in each patient’s room.
  18. From the 1920s to 1965, the Cloud VA Medical Center’s farm served as both occupational therapy and a source of local crops and milk for the hospital.
  19. The VA Medical Center in St. Louis, Mo., occupies the Jefferson Barracks, the oldest operating U.S. military installation west of the Mississippi River.
  20. The Montana VA Health Care System serves one of the highest per-capita Veteran populations in the U.S. — almost 10% of the state’s population has served!

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Comments

  1. Judy Gardner    

    I was discriminated(I am white), poorly trained, constantly demeaned, and lacked solid leadership. Their commitment to the veterans we served were very different, They pushed numbers, I deeply cared about the Veterans. A very rough spot to be in.

  2. Peggy Hallman    

    Worst care ever, the VA staff spends more time looking for an excuse NOT TO SEE YOU. Before Covid-19, it was “lack of staff” or you need Patient Advocate approval to use the Women’s Clinic. The Patient Advocate is never available, never returns calls, or has a mail box to drop off transfer request for a change of clinic. The Women’s Center, the Vet Center, and BH kept championing the Women’s Clinic, the Silver Team kept telling me to fill out requests and this has been going on since November 8, 2019. By the time I finally got an appointment, the Women’s Clinic is in lock down due to Covid-19. Service was inexcusable, only 1 other patient was in the waiting room and she came after me. You have to check in via Kiosk, and if you are lucky the clerks (who weren’t wearing masks) might acknowledge you. Please stop wasting my tax dollars on this farce.

  3. Joan bray    

    Nothing but kind service at my VA clinic They spend more time with me then the civilian doctors that I used to go to. The civilian family practice group doctor would spend the entire time with back to me while filling out computer forms. The forms were printed out and given to me with an entire list of all the items we had “discussed” 90% of which were not addressed. My VA doctor looks me in the eye and I feel actually acknowledged. Yes, she fills in computer forms but it seems more of a collaboration.

  4. Matt Ovaska    

    VA is a joke. It’s a total waste of tax payers money. It should be shut down and let vets finally find health care in the private sector. I could write a book on the incompetance, abuse, and clear neglect our vet have had to endure for decades! It the truth hurts, so be it.

  5. S W    

    My VA has not changed. I don’t feel like after thirty years anything has improved. My VA is still a good old boys network and women veterans are second class if not invisible.

  6. S W    

    I have tried twice to post my comments about this article and both posts have not been added to the comments. This site definitely is set up to block any comments that oppose the lies. Especially if one uses blunt, but not too vulgar, language.
    Prove me wrong this time.
    My VA has not changed and has not improved one bit in the 30 years I have been going there. It is a good old boys network and women veterans are NOT treated equitably and equally with their male counterparts. I have heard from several women veterans who feel this way, as I do. Male veterans take priority. In the pain clinic a male vet was being given long term mh care which the psychologist said she doesn’t do, while refusing to help a female veteran. The social worker in the pain clinic was also seeing this same male veteran for exercises (mindfulness or others) to help him with his pain. At the same time she was refusing to work with a female patient because it “would be a duplication of effort” to her mh therapy in the mh clinic. Really?? Way can a male patient see both providers in the pain clinic and receive the SAME exercises, as well as long term mh counseling, but a woman veteran can’t? This is not an improvement. The woman veteran was obviously LESS important than the male.

    [Editor: Every single comment goes through human/VA employee moderation prior to publishing.]

  7. S W    

    After 30 years I can tell you without any doubt or hesitation that VA care has NOT improved. My VA is still a good old boys network and no woman veteran gets good care there. They do not have the facilities to do all the testing that women need, like mammograms. Women get farmed out to the community, that is IF VA’s community care office does their freaking job.
    Unless you have a stiff appendage in front of you, don’t bother with going to the VA.
    My VA? TOGUS, the oldest VA medical ceneter in the nation.

  8. S W    

    After 30 years I don’t feel like my VA has changed one bit. Women are NOT treated like real veterans with respect and concern. My VA is still very much a good old boys network. Unless you have a stiff appendage in front of you, forget about getting good care. Oh, by the way, my VA hospital? It’s TOGUS VA Medical Center in Maine, “the oldest facility for veterans in the nation”.
    They are also sorely lacking in any type of professionalism. Their secretaries can’t type a letter and fold it properly, employees leave and don’t forward their phone to someone who can get the messages, doctors feel it’s ok to be late for an appointment and not even have the courtesy to let their patients know they are running behind and haven’t forgotten about them. The veterans have to just understand that “things come up”. And if you are looking for a job at VA, don’t even bother to apply unless your under the age of 50 or have family already working there. You won’t get hired and HR won’t be bothered to send you a letter telling you that you weren’t hired either. Mediation for your complaint about not being hired, forget that. You’ll get absolutely nothing, NOTHING!!! Their direct isn’t authorized to pay $40,000.00 a year, if that’s what you want from mediation.
    Stop running these articles full of lies.

  9. Peter Stephen Borders    

    Where do you get this top notch care from? Iam a navy vet, who has had 5 mini strokes.two members of my family have died of breast cancer and now i have this big lump on my left breast and the va has done NOTHING. All this has been going since last November before all this covid 19 mess even started.the fort worth va clinic would rather let me die than do anything so top notch care my ass.

  10. Arnold H Fuller    

    Your care takers are human too. I always thank them for their service. I had a Doctor come out from behind the desks, walk up to me and tell me he was deployed to the Great Sand Box three times, and had worked in the VA in the Emergency room are for three years, and that I was the only one that ever thanked him for his service. He than saluted me, shoke my hand, and then gave me a big hug in front of everyone that was there. We both just looked at each other for a coupe of seconds, we both had tears in our eyes. Tucson VA 2020

  11. Charles Smith    

    In my opinion, in my life as a veteran 36 years, the VA has improved. For the first 8-9 years the clinic I go to, felt like it was a confrontational relationship. Now, with the workers and doctors I see, it feels as if we are on the same page, helping me with my health issues. Kudos Veteran Administration!

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