$25 Million Philanthropic Donation for VA Patients

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) will be providing VA patients with precision medicine through a partnership with a private donation from South Dakota philanthropist T. Denny Sanford and a matching amount from Sanford Health Systems. 

The Sanford HealthSystem will provide genetic testing that will help physiciansprescribe medication and dosages that will specifically be able to target a veteran’s health issues.

It will be a $25 million funded program to be launched in Durham, North Carolina in 2019 and its first focus will be on cancer survivors. Plans are to roll out the program by 2022 to 125 VA sites across the country and provide 250,000 veterans with the free testing.

“I spent eight years in the Air Reserves at the Minneapolis Saint Paul Air Reserve Station, which gave me a window into the incredible sacrifices made by our nation’s service members and their families. I’ve invested in this unique partnership between Sanford Health and the VA as a tribute to those brave, selfless men and women,” Denny Sanford said in a statement.

The genetic testing is done simply with a blood test that will show what a veteran is predisposed to as far as their ability to metabolize or breakdown the various classes of drugs on the market such as antidepressants, anticoagulants and opioids which would be based on each individual’s genetic markers.  Blood tests will reveal whether a patient’s metabolism is faster which means he or she would need higher doses of the medication to be effective as well as vice versa if their metabolism is slower.

VA Secretary Robert Wilkie shares Sanford’s sentiments and goals and says that the blood screening tests will help health practitioners at the VA prescribe the most appropriate medications and at the right dosages for our veterans who are cancer survivors providing the best care possible for our nation’s heroes.

There have been other organizations who have made contributions to to the healthcare efforts for our veterans in the past, among them are the Cohen Veterans Network founded by billionaire Steven Cohen in 2016 to help with setting up of mental health clinics for veterans.  Also, along those same lines, is the Wounded Warrior Project which was set up in 2015 to assist mental health programs at universities across the nation for the benefit of our veterans.

Some critics say though that as good as these organizations are in helping our veterans, they could divert federal funding away from the VA thus undermining it’s ability to meet the demand of healthcare for our vets.

The VA currently treats about 9 million veterans and while Sanford’s donation will cover 250,000 vets, footing the bill for treating the remaining vets who could benefit from the genetic testing is unclear at this time.  

Results of genetic testing for veterans in order to prescribe exact dosages in medication, in the long run however, will someday benefit patients in the private sector.