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Evolution of the Veterans Health Administration's Role in Emergency Management Since September 11, 2001

Dobalian A, Callis R, Davey VJ. Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness 2011; 5(S2): S182-184

The attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City and at the Pentagon on September 11, 2001 (9/11), and subsequent disasters including Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the H1N1 pandemic of 2009, and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010, have highlighted the critical need for federal agencies to prepare to execute their responsibilities during emergencies.  As described here, these events have led the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to make significant strides to improve its own and the nation's preparedness for disasters adn emergencies in the decade since 9/11 (Table).  This edictorial summarizes the little-known role of VHA in emergency management, describes the growth of this role since 9/11, discusses the challenges that VHA confronted during this period, and summarizes ongoing challenges the agency is attempting to address.  It is our contention that examining VHA's evolving role since 9/11 will provide useful lessons for other health care organizations' emergency preparedness planning.