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The Race to Save Medical Research

Most Americans probably aren’t aware that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) healthcare system, along with the National Institutes of Health (NIH), is the best and biggest medical research powerhouse in the United States. Millions of veterans have benefited from VA research breakthroughs, including pioneering treatments for PTSD, Agent Orange, and prosthetics.

But it’s not just veterans who benefit. All Americans have profited from VA advances, such as the shingles vaccine, the implantable cardiac pacemaker, and the nicotine patch. The VA is on the frontlines of investigations on the risks of long COVID and studying why prostate cancer is so lethal for Black men.

Quite distressingly, this peerless research system is now under threat. In a November hearing before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, the VA’s Under Secretary for Health, Shereef Elnahal, warned of catastrophic consequences should the Senate fail to follow the lead of the House and pass the VA Infrastructure Powers Exceptional Research (VIPER) Act. This legislation reverses a misguided Department of Justice (DOJ) ruling prohibiting VA employees from being paid by academic affiliates for joint research initiatives. Elnahal explained that without VIPER, “major clinical trials answering key questions across all of American medicine” will be at risk.

To keep reading about this crisis, check out the full article in The Washington Monthly by Suzanne Gordon and Russell Lemle.

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