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Harry S. Truman Memorial Veterans’ Hospital


Our History

The site of the Columbia, Missouri VA facility was approved in 1963 as a replacement for a hospital in Excelsior Springs, Missouri that closed in 1951. The general medical and surgical facility was constructed between 1968 and 1972. The first patient was admitted to the hospital on April 4, 1972 and in 1975 -- by an act of Congress -- the new facility was renamed the Harry S. Truman Memorial Veterans' Hospital.

In order to accommodate a burgeoning demand for outpatient services, clinical addition plans were submitted for Congressional and Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) approval in September 1993. The final scope and budget were approved and authority granted in May 1994. A groundbreaking ceremony for the new ambulatory care addition was held on November 27, 1995. The Dedication Ceremony for the new 106,000 square foot addition took place on March 20, 1998.

As the VA healthcare system transformed itself in the mid-1990s, Truman VA underwent significant changes such as establishing Primary Care teams and providers to help manage the health of each enrolled Veteran. To address the need to provide more care in an outpatient setting, inpatient programs were downsized. Enhanced access to health care led to the development of community based outpatient clinics. Today, the Columbia facility is responsible for eight community clinics located in Jefferson City, Kirksville, Marshfield, Mexico, Osage Beach, Saint James, Sedalia, and Waynesville.

To upgrade and improve facilities, to address anticipated future needs and to support the facility’s status as a cardiac surgery referral center, a project to replace and renovate the facility’s operating room suite was submitted for consideration in July 2004 and resubmitted every year until it was approved in March 2007. After the project was designed and bid for construction, a construction contract was awarded in June 2009. A Groundbreaking Ceremony was held on August 10, 2009. Approximately 27,000 square feet of new space was added and 12,000 square feet were remodeled. The new space provided for two cardiothoracic OR rooms, an endovascular OR room, two general OR rooms, one special OR room and a cystoscopy room. The renovated space for support functions includes pre-operative preparation, the post-operative anesthetic care unit and space for urology. Infrastructure deficiencies with electrical systems, HVAC systems and space allocations were corrected to improve functionality, work flow and efficiencies. The project was completed in November 2013 - more than a year after the original anticipated date, because the endovascular room was approved as an addition to the project. A small addition to the new OR suite building and an extension to the renovated imaging services area was constructed to accommodate an in-house MRI in 2013. Future enhancements will include construction of sterile processing functions directly below the OR suites and a new, expanded intensive care unit on top of the OR suite building.

Truman VA is located in Columbia, Missouri. A regional hub for education, health care and commerce, Columbia possesses a unique blend of metropolitan flair and Midwestern hospitality. The city, located approximately 120 miles from both Kansas City and St. Louis, has a population of 110,000, including more than 30,000 students from the University of Missouri, Stephens College, Columbia College and several other educational institutions. Several magazines and related surveys consistently rate Columbia as one of the nation's best cities in which to live.

A Brief History of the Veterans Health Administration (VHA)

Today’s Veterans Health Administration (VHA) originated during the Civil War as the first federal hospitals and domiciliaries ever established for the nation’s volunteer forces.

National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers (1865-1930)

Birds-eye-view of the Togus, Maine National Home campus

Eastern Branch National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers in Togus, Maine, 1891.

On March 3, 1865, a month before the Civil War ended, President Abraham Lincoln authorized the first-ever national soldiers’ and sailors’ asylum to provide medical and convalescent care for discharged members of the Union Army and Navy volunteer forces. The asylum was the first of its kind in the world.

Two early soldiers’ homes were very small and housed up to 300 men. They provided medical care and long-term housing for thousands of Civil War veterans.

The national homes were often called “soldiers’ homes” or “military homes.” Initially only soldiers and sailors who served with the Union forces — including U.S. Colored Troops — were eligible for admittance. The first National Home opened near Augusta, Maine on November 1, 1866.

Many programs and processes begun at the national homes continue at VHA today. They were the first to accept women Veterans for medical care and hospitalization beginning in 1923.

By 1929, the national homes had grown to 11 institutions that spanned the country. All of the national homes have operated continuously since they opened.

View of the front facade of the hospital at the National Military Home in Dayton, Ohio

National Military Home Hospital in Dayton, Ohio, 1912.

Veterans Bureau (1921-1930)

On August 9, 1921, Congress created the Veterans Bureau by combining three World War I Veterans programs into one bureau.

World War I was the first fully mechanized war and soldiers exposed to mustard gas and other chemicals required specialized care. Tuberculosis and neuro-psychiatric hospitals opened to accommodate Veterans with respiratory or mental health problems.

Native Americans, on November 6, 1919, became eligible for full Veterans benefits, including health care. In 1924, Veterans’ benefits were liberalized to cover disabilities that were not service-related. In 1928, admission to the National Homes was extended to women, National Guard, and militia Veterans.

Veterans Administration (1930-1989)

The second consolidation of federal Veterans programs took place on July 21, 1930 when President Herbert Hoover consolidated the Veterans Bureau with the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers and Pension Bureau and re-designated it as the Veterans Administration.

General Frank Hines, Director of the Veterans Bureau since 1923, became the first Administrator of the VA. His tenure lasted 22 years and ended in 1945 when General Omar Bradley took the helm. In 1930, VA consisted of 45 hospitals. By 1945, the number had more than doubled to 97.

World War II ushered in a new era of expanded Veterans' benefits through the Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944, commonly referred to as the "G.I. bill", which was signed into law on June 22, 1944. General Omar Bradley took the reins at VA in 1945 and steered its transformation into a modern organization. In 1946, the Department of Medicine and Surgery was established within VA. VA was able to recruit and retain top medical personnel by modifying the Civil Service system. The first women doctors were hired in 1946. When Bradley left in 1947, there were 125 VA hospitals.

Dr. Paul Magnuson, a VA orthopedic surgeon and Chief Medical Director, 1948-1951, led the charge to create an affiliation program with America’s medical schools for medical research and training purposes. By 1948, 60 medical schools were affiliated with VA hospitals. Over the years, these collaborations resulted in groundbreaking advances in medicine, nursing, medical research, and prosthetics.

In the post-World War II period, 90 new and replacement Veterans hospitals were planned.

The first-ever successful human liver transplant operation took place at the Denver VA Medical Center in May 1963 under Dr. Thomas Starzl. In 1977, two VA doctors, Dr. Rosalyn Yalow (Bronx VAMC) and Dr. Andrew Schally (New Orleans VAMC) received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their work in developing radioimmunoassay of peptide hormones. Many modern medical advances originated as trials or experiments in VA hospitals and now benefit patients of all types worldwide.

Department of Veterans Affairs (since 1989)

The VA was elevated to a Cabinet-level Executive Department by President Ronald Reagan in October 1988. The change took effect on March 15, 1989, when the Veterans Administration was renamed the Department of Veterans Affairs, but retained use of “VA” as its acronym.

The Department of Medicine and Surgery was re-designated as the Veterans Health Services and Research Administration and on May 7, 1991, the name was changed to the Veterans Health Administration (VHA).

The Veterans Health Administration (VHA) is the largest of three administrations that comprise the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. VHA’s primary mission is to provide medical care and services to America’s military Veterans.

VHA operates one of the largest health care systems in the world and provides training for a majority of America’s medical, nursing, and allied health professionals. Roughly 60% of all medical residents obtain a portion of their training at VA hospitals and our medical research programs benefit society at-large.

Today’s VHA continues to meet Veterans’ changing medical, surgical, and quality of life needs. New programs provide treatment for traumatic brain injuries, post traumatic stress disorder, suicide prevention, women Veterans, and more.

VA opened outpatient clinics, established telemedicine, and other services to accommodate a diverse Veteran population and cultivates on-going medical research and innovation to improve the lives of America’s patriots.