Our History - Kansas City VA Medical Center
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Kansas City VA Medical Center


Our History

On September 27, 1949 the Del Webb Construction Company of Phoenix, Arizona broke the ground on a 48 acre tract located at Linwood and Van Brunt Boulevards. About one thousand persons assembled on the hilltop to watch the ceremony. One hundred persons sat on the speaker's stand. They were civic leaders, Officers of veterans organizations and their auxiliaries, physicians and others who had an actual physical part in the building of the hospital.

Promptly at 3 o'clock, demonstrating almost incredible precision in the tim­ing, four B‑29 bombers appeared out of the Northeast, flying at about 5,000 feet. It was to be the role of the big planes to open the ceremonies by roaring over the speaker's stand and the crowd at 1,000 feet.

The program was delayed, however, as the planes passed two miles east of the site and roared off into the wild blue yonder.

Herbert H. Burr, a Congressional Medal of Honor winner, turned the first spadeful of earth.

After three years of construction, the ten million dollar hospital was ded­icated on October 5, 1952. It was the one hundred fifty‑fifth of the proposed 174 V.A. facilities and the thirty‑ninth completed in the post World War II building program. It was called the newest and most modern facility for car­ing for veterans in the United States.

At the time of the dedication, there were 27 patients, twelve full‑time physicians and two floors were open for medical care ‑ third floor for surgery and seventh floor for medical cases. In the initial stages of development, the hospital services were: 300 beds for general medicine and surgery, 40 beds for tuberculosis patients, 83 beds for psychotic cases, 77 beds for neurologic cases. Laboratories occupied part of the second floor for both clinical and research use. Also on the second floor were dental and x‑ray clinics, and an extensive rehabilitation clinic with physical medicine and occupational therapy equipment. Each was a model of convenience and had the latest equipment.

In 1954, two years after its opening, the hospital was averaging 345 patients daily and had admitted 5,647 patients. It had a staff of 18 full‑time physicians, 18 young doctors training in specialities and 72 consultant physicians from the field of private practice. Slowest to develop was the department for the mentally ill.

History of the Kansas City VA Medical Center


  • Hospital opened October 5, 1952 
  • Original construction - $10 million; 3 years to build
  • 155th of the proposed 174 VA facilities
  • 39th completed in post WW11


1952 – opened

1953 – 1st 2 residents from the Dept of Medicine of the University of Kansas School of Medicine came on initial rotation

1961 – outpatient annex built

1963 – air conditioning added; animal research facility built

1967 – fully automated elevators

1969 – 3-ICUS opened; boiler plant converted from coal to gas

1970 – Outpatient dental program established

1972 – Research and Education Wing completed

1976 – Broke ground for new ambulatory care building
- Completed installation of closed circuit color educational television system

1979 - The first VICTORS low vision rehabilitation program in the United States was established at the KCVAMC

1985– Computers for employees

1989 – Recipient of Presidential Award for Quality Improvement

1990 – Become a “smoke-free” facility

1991 – MRI facility dedicated

1992 – Recipient of Robert W. Carey Award for Quality Improvement

1993 – Windsor Manor Transitional Residence opens

1994 – Hosted the 14th National Veterans Wheelchair Games

1998 – New MICU opened

1999 – Belton and Whiteman CBOCs open

2000 – Nevada, MO and Paola, KS CBOCs open
- Recipient of VHA Patient Safety Improvement Award
- New SICU opened
- Veteran Benefit representative opens office at facility

2002 – Warrensburg and Cameron Outpatient clinics open
- Primary Laboratory opens
- New surgical suites open

2004 – Opened Women’s Clinic (designated space)
- Implemented innovative clinic initiative (DIGMA, Drop In Group Medical Appt)

2005 – Progressive Care Unit opens; added telemetry beds
- Chiropractic care added to on-site services

2007 – State-of-the-Art Cardiac Cath Lab opens
- OIF/OEF Case Management Program established
- Smoke-free entrance

2008 – PET/CT installed
- Digital Signage added, improving communication to employees and patients
- Greeter Program implemented

2009 – Veterans Court
- Shuttle Service (from parking lot to front entrance)
- Teleretinal Imaging
- Upgraded Signage entire facility and grounds
- Hospice Unit opens
- Blind Rehab Center
- Excelsior Springs Community Clinic
- Contracted with PlaneTree to implement patient centered care
- Recognized by the National Center for Patient Safety in a publication “Developing a Culture of Safety: One VA Facility’s Story”
- Rec Hall renamed to “Hall of Heroes”
- Lowes Home Improvement Stores selects KCVA as their Heroes Program reciepient and their staff volunteers for work day at KCVA --- building the gazebo

2011 – Cochlear Implant program begins
- New Retail Store opens; 3-1/2 times larger than previous store
- Mobile Medical Unit activated; traveling to Trenton, Bolivar and Carrollton, Missouri
- Mother’s Room for KCVAMC female employees opened
- Purchase completed for Kaiser Permamente Outpatient Bulding; Building renamed by employees, "Honor Annex"
- Select Menus for inpatients begins
-“KCVA Shines” Program begins, inpatients can now have their shoes shined during their stay
- Opened medical center Social Media Sites, "Facebook and Twitter accounts"
- CBOCs have mental health available via telemedicine

2012 – Opened Radiation Therapy Building in Overland Park, KS
- Veteran Transportation Service begins
- Home Depot Home Improvement Stores selects KCVA for volunteer project; builds a walking path for patients and employees
- 60th Anniversary of Medical Center; staff celebrations throughout the year
- Wayfinding Kiosk added in Main Tower lobby
- Former Prisoners of War ride in horse-drawn carriages in American Royal Parade
- Major League Baseball and the Kansas City Royals donate resources to provide aesthetic upgrades to the Honor Annex, to include children play areas and a healing garden

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 military 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 to provide civilian medical care to Veterans of temporary volunteer forces.

Two earlier soldiers’ homes, operated by the U.S. Army and Navy for Veterans of the Regular military forces, were very small and housed only up to 300 men each. The National Homes housed ten of thousands of Veterans. The National Homes were often called “soldiers’ homes” or “military homes.” Initially only Civil War soldiers and sailors who served honorably with the Union forces—including U.S. Colored Troops—were eligible for admittance. The first National Home, now VA’s oldest hospital, opened near Augusta, Maine, on November 1, 1866. They provided medical care and long-term housing for thousands of Civil War Veterans.

View of the seal for The National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers dated March 3, 1865

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 original National Homes have operated continuously since they opened.

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

Hospital, Central Branch, National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers, Dayton, Ohio, 1912.

Bureau of War Risk Insurance, Public Health Service, & Federal Board of Vocational Education (1917-1922)

For nearly five years three separate federal programs, two of which were under the Treasury Department, provided benefits exclusively to World War I Veterans. In 1921, the Bureau of War Risk Insurance, Public Health Service Veterans’ hospitals, and Rehabilitation Division of the Federal Board of Vocational Education were consolidated to form one agency.

Veterans Bureau (1921-1930)

View of the seal of the Veterans Bureau dated 1921

On August 9, 1921, Congress created the Veterans Bureau by combining three World War I Veterans programs into one bureau. The Veterans Bureau and National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers worked cooperatively to provide medical care to all Veterans at this time.

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 who served in World War I were authorized, for the first time in history, to apply for American citizenship due to a law enacted on November 6, 1919, making them eligible for full Veterans benefits, including health care. The first segregated federal Veterans hospital opened under the Veterans Bureau on February 12, 1923, in Tuskegee, Alabama. In 1924, Veterans’ benefits were liberalized for the second time in history to cover disabilities that were not service-related. In 1928, admission to Veterans Bureau hospitals and National Homes was fully 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.

View of the seal of the Veterans Administration dated 1930

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, but many were later shelved, when VA’s budget was cut to help fund U.S. Cold War programs. During the 1950s VA’s cooperative research studies led to discoveries about cancer, diabetes, chemotherapy, nuclear medicine, and helped to diminish the spread of tuberculosis.

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. Dr. Ferid Murad (Palo Alto VAMC) received a Nobel Prize in 1998 for his discoveries concerning nitric oxide as a signaling molecule in the cardiovascular system. 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 full effect on March 15, 1989, when the Veterans Administration was renamed as the Department of Veterans Affairs. VA’s first Secretary after the elevation, Ed Derwinski, insisted that the “VA” acronym be retained since it have been a familiar part of American culture for more than 50 years

VA’s Department of Medicine and Surgery was re-designated as the Veterans Health Services and Research Administration, as part of the elevation, and on May 7, 1991, was renamed as 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.

Department of Veterans Affairs seal

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 has roots spanning over 150 years and 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.

In recent years VHA has opened more outpatient clinics, established telemedicine, vet centers, and suicide prevention hotlines, and developed other services to accommodate a diverse and ever-changing Veteran population. VHA continually evolves and cultivates on-going cutting-edge medical research and innovation to improve the lives of America’s patriots.