MIGHTY CULTURE

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.

VA Careers

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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This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.