Federal Healthcare Timeline

by U.S. Medicine

November 10, 2014



  • S. Medicine publishes its first issue.
  • The new Naval Station Hospital Saigon receives the first American combat casualties directly from the Vietnam War.


  • A U.S. Marine Corps Hawk air defense missile battalion is deployed to Da Nang, the first commitment of American combat troops in South Vietnam.
  • William J. Driver becomes administrator of Veterans Affairs.
  • Sulfamylon, an antibacterial cream developed at the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research at Brooke Army Medical Center, TX, results in a 50% reduction in burn fatalities due to infection.
  • Funds from the Office of Economic Opportunity lead to the initiation of the Community Health Representative Program at Pine Ridge in South Dakota, the first step toward tribal control of health affairs under the Indian Health Service.


  • In Vietnam, efficiency and speed are enhanced by the MUST (medical unit, self-contained, transportable), a sort of “instant” hospital that could be moved by truck or aircraft.
  • Navy researchers develop new techniques for extending the life of whole blood for battlefield use.
  • The International Smallpox Eradication Program begins, led by the U.S. Public Health Service.
  • Osteopathic physicians are admitted to the Medical Corps.
  • The Military Medical Benefits Amendments of 1966 formally establishes the Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Uniformed Services (CHAMPUS).


  • A law removes limits on promotions of Army Medical Specialist Corps and Army Nurse Corps officers, equalizing the promotion and retirement rules of those mostly female corps with other AMEDD corps.


  • Congress ends an 18-year experiment, calling Army Medicine the “Army Medical Service,” which had caused as much confusion as it cured.


  • Donald E. Johnson becomes administrator of Veterans Affairs.
  • The U.S. Army Medical Unit at Fort Detrick, MD, is renamed U.S. Army Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID).


  • The National Communicable Disease Center (NCDC) is renamed the Center for Disease Control (CDC).
  • Army Nurse Corps Chief Anna Mae V. Hays is promoted to brigadier general. She was the first female general in Army history.
  • President Richard Nixon’s White Paper on Indian Policy proclaims the beginning of the policy of Indian self-determination.
  • Edward Freis and the VA Cooperative Study Group on Antihypertensive Agents publish the results of a landmark cooperative study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) indicating that use of antihypertensive drugs helps prevent or delay serious cardiovascular events.
  • The National Health Service Corps is created.


  • The military physician assistant program is first developed by the United States Air Force at Sheppard Air Force Base School of Heath Care Sciences in Texas.


  • The Cooperative Studies Program (CSP) is established as a division of the VA Medical Research Service to coordinate multicenter clinical trials to evaluate novel therapies or new uses of standard treatments.
  • The first urban Indian health clinics are established in Minneapolis, Seattle and Rapid City, SD.


  • The Uniformed Services Health Professions Revitalization Act of 1972 was passed, creating the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences and the Health Professions Scholarship Program.




  • The National Cemetery System is created when Congress transferred 82 national cemeteries from the Army to
  • As part of a massive reorganization, stateside Army hospitals are unified under a new entity called U.S. Army Health Services Command (HSC).
  • The Academy of Health Sciences at Fort Sam Houston, TX, graduates the first class of Army physician assistants.


  • Richard L. Roudebush becomes administrator of Veterans Affairs.



  • The Indian Self-Determination and Educational Assistance Act is established.
  • DoD reverses policies and provides pregnant women with the option of electing discharge or remaining on active duty. Previous policies required women be discharged upon pregnancy or the adoption of children.


  • Indian Health Care Improvement Act of 1977 is passed.
  • Max Cleland becomes administrator of Veterans Affairs.


  • The worldwide eradication of smallpox is announced.


  • The Coast Guard opens all assignments to women.



  • An Army Nurse Corps officer becomes the first African-American woman brigadier general in the history of the armed forces.
  • VA’s Readjustment Counseling Service opens Vet Centers, which provide psychological counseling for war-related trauma, community outreach, case management and referral activities, plus supportive social services to veterans and family members.



  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is recognized for the first time as a diagnosable psychiatric disorder.


  • Robert P. Nimmo becomes administrator of Veterans Affairs.
  • A mysterious epidemic is identified as Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). Over the next decades, the VA became the largest provider of care for patients with AIDS and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), the precursor of AIDS.


  • Harry N. Walters becomes administrator of Veterans Affairs.


  • Former Mississippi Congressman Gillespie V. “Sonny” Montgomery revamps the GI Bill, which has been known as the “Montgomery GI Bill” ever since, ensuring that the legacy of the original GI Bill lived on.


  • Thomas K. Turnage becomes administrator of Veterans Affairs.
  • Walter Reed researchers develop the first AIDS diagnosis and staging scheme.
  • First hepatitis A vaccine is developed.



  • The first 10 PRIMUS (Primary Medical Care For Uniformed Services) clinics are launched.


  • The Institute of Medicine publishes its landmark report, The Future of Public Health. The book details the breakdown of the U.S. public health system and underscores the importance of public health.

Legislation to elevate the VA to Cabinet status is signed by President Ronald Reagan.

  • The military HIV research program is established.


  • VA becomes the 14th department in the president’s cabinet, and Edward J. Derwinski is named the first secretary of Veterans Affairs.
  • With Operation Just Cause in Panama, wounded servicemembers for the first time are flown directly from the battlefield to Army hospitals in the United States, arriving still in their muddy battle dress.
  • In November, the Berlin Wall falls, symbolizing the end of the Cold War.



  • Operation Desert Shield is launched, deploying U.S. armed forces into the Persian Gulf region to help defend Saudi Arabia after the August invasion of Kuwait by Iraq. Thousands of military medical personnel are sent to provide medical care.
  • The Human Genome Project is formally established.
  • The Cooperative Studies in Health Services (CSHS) is created in partnership with the VA Health Services Research and Development Service.


  • Congress enacts the Agent Orange Act, giving the VA the authority to declare certain conditions “presumptive” to exposure to Agent Orange/dioxin, making these veterans who served in Vietnam eligible to receive treatment and compensation for these conditions.
  • S. MedicineI travels to the Middle East for special reports about medical support for Operations Desert Shield/Storm.



  • The Army begins retiring most of its former members’ health records to the VA. During the next six years, the other services followed suit.
  • An act of Congress appends the words “and Prevention” to the Centers for Disease Control name.


  • Jesse Brown becomes secretary of Veterans Affairs.



  • The Defense Science Board Task Force reports on Persian Gulf War health effects.



  • The VA Pharmacy Benefits Management Strategic Healthcare Group (VA PBM) is established to oversee the formulary for the entire VA system.
  • VA puts its healthcare facilities under 21 networks that provide more medical services to more veterans than at any time during VA’s long



  • The Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Uniformed Services (CHAMPUS) is changed to TRICARE Management Activity.
  • The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act becomes law and dramatically changes patient privacy standards.



  • Staphylococcus aureus with reduced susceptibility to vancomycin emerges in the United States.


  • Togo D. West Jr. becomes Secretary of Veterans Affairs.


  • A DNA Bank at the Palo Alto VA Health Care System and a Biospecimen Repository at the Boston VA Medical Center are established.


  • Anthony J. Principi becomes secretary of Veterans Affairs.
  • On Sept. 11, after terrorists flew hijacked commercial airliners into New York’s World Trade Center towers, another hijacked plane struck the Pentagon, killing 189 people and damaging roughly one-third of the building. Overall, nearly 3,000 died in that day’s attacks.
  • In October, the War on Terror begins with Operation Enduring Freedom when U.S. Armed Forces invade Afghanistan in response to the 9/11 attacks and begin combat action against Al Qaeda terrorists and their Taliban supporters.


  • The war in Afghanistan prompts the invention of the one-handed tourniquet, which allowed soldiers to apply pressure to bleeds without assistance.


  • In March, the United States leads a coalition that includes the United Kingdom, Australia and Poland to invade Iraq with the goal being “to disarm Iraq in pursuit of peace, stability, and security both in the Gulf region and in the United States.”
  • Fleet Hospital 3 becomes the first Navy expeditionary field hospital to operate in a combat zone.
  • First continuous peripheral nerve block used on battlefield in Iraq.
  • QuikClot, a hemorrhage control agent is first used in Iraq.


  • Public Law 108-422 is enacted, making the VA’s provision of sexual trauma services a permanent benefit.


  • The base realignment and closure process determines that Walter Reed Army Medical Center and the National Naval Medical Center will merge.


  • James Nicholson becomes secretary of Veterans Affairs.


  • The VA announces that computer equipment stolen from an employee had sensitive personal information on 26.5 million veterans and military personnel. When the equipment was recovered, officials said it apparently had not been accessed.


  • Frank M. Best, the founder of S. Medicine, dies and is celebrated across federal medicine for his fairness and accuracy.
  • A newspaper investigation uncovers shoddy living conditions, including black mold and mouse droppings, in an outpatient ward at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. The aftermath of the scandal reached to the top levels of military medicine.
  • James B. Peake becomes secretary of Veterans Affairs. 


  • The GI Bill is updated once again, giving veterans with active duty service on, or after, Sept. 11 2001, enhanced educational benefits that cover more educational expenses, provide a living allowance, money for books and the ability to transfer unused educational benefits to spouses or children.


  • Eric K. Shinseki becomes secretary of Veterans Affairs.


  • The Army announces that the number of suicides rose again to almost one per day.


  • The Million Veteran Program (MVP) is launched, establishing one of the world’s largest databases of health and genetic information, for use in future research aimed at preventing and treating illness among veterans and all Americans.
  • In November, a dedication ceremony today marks the formal opening of the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC). The new facility consolidates the services of Walter Reed Army Medical Center to the campus of the National Naval Medical Center.


  • The VA and Pentagon announce a new $100 million research effort to find better ways to diagnose and treat mild traumatic brain injury (TBI) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a form of combat trauma with many of the same symptoms as mTBI.


  • The Defense Health Agency (DHA is established in October, replacing the TRICARE Management Activity and transferring responsibility to the DHA.
  • Air Force Lt. Gen. Douglas J. Robb, DO, is named the first DHA director.


  • A scandal involving data manipulation of how long veterans have to wait for medical appointments leads to high-level resignations and new legislation on when veterans can access private sector healthcare.
  • Robert McDonald becomes secretary of Veterans Affairs.
  • With a coalition of Middle Eastern countries, the U.S. military commences an air war on the terrorist groups of ISIL and the Al-Nusrah front in Syria.
  • The DoD deploys up to 4,000 men and women in uniform to Monrovia, Liberia, as part of Operation United Assistance to fight the Ebola epidemic in West Africa.

Comments are closed here.

Related Articles

Low to No Alcohol Use Optimizes Health Outcomes in HIV Patients

SEATTLE—For years, physicians have encouraged patients diagnosed with human immunodeficiency virus to minimize or avoid drinking alcohol. But how much does it really matter? “Controlled alcohol use over time, especially nonuse or very low-level use,... View Article

Army Researchers Identify a CV Bonus from Early ART Initiation in HIV

SAN ANTONIO, TX—ART has never looked better, at least if you’re an individual recently diagnosed with human immunodeficiency virus.  Researchers at the Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio recently determined that antiretroviral therapy reverses... View Article

U.S. Medicine Recommends

More From pharmacy


Oral Cancer Therapies Create Critical Demand for Pharmacists

CHICAGO—The pace of U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval of oral anticancer medications has rapidly increased, from less than one a year at the turn of the century to 10 in 2018. While patients generally... View Article


DCVAMC Acting Pharmacy Chief Ivan Cephas: ‘Caring Is the Reason’

WASHINGTON—Ivan Cephas, PharmD, the acting chief of pharmacy at the DCVAMC, would be the first to say that what he does is not above and beyond the call of duty. Despite having been awarded the... View Article


New Military Pharmacy Program Frees Patients from Long Waits

More than a dozen military treatment facility pharmacies have implemented a pilot customer service system that gives patients greater control over how they spend their time while waiting for prescriptions to be filled.


New Venous Thromboembolism Guidelines Could Change Treatment at VA

Venous thromboembolism, which includes deep venous thrombosis and pulmonary embolism, is the most common preventable cause of hospital death, according to the VA.


Use of Non-VHA Pharmacies Increases Risks of Scheduled Drug Overdoses

Using multiple sources to get prescribed pain medications and other Schedule II through V drugs increases risks for veterans, a new study finds.

Subscribe to U.S. Medicine Print Magazine

U.S. Medicine is mailed free each month to physicians, pharmacists, nurse practitioners, physician assistants and administrators working for Veterans Affairs, Department of Defense and U.S. Public Health Service.

Subscribe Now

Receive Our Email Newsletter

Stay informed about federal medical news, clinical updates and reports on government topics for the federal healthcare professional.

Sign Up