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25 Years | 25 Stories of NAVREF
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25 Years | 25 Stories of NAVREF
Since 1992, the National Association of Veterans' Research and Education Foundations has worked to support our members to become a source of excellence for VA Research and Development. Over the course of Fiscal Year 2017, NAVREF will be promoting 25 stories from our members, friends, and stakeholders recounting our unique heritage, culture, and spirit.  You can look forward to 2 recollections each month culminating on September 10th in Las Vegas where we will host our 25th Annual NAVREF Conference.  Thank you for your support of NAVREF’s vision of a nation in which veterans receive the finest care based on innovative research and education.

Our Eleventh Story: Acknowledging Our Need

Angela Murakami
Former NAVREF Associate Executive Director 

One of my most memorable NAVREF days was when Barbara West and I had a meeting with Ronald C. Moe, who had recently retired from the Congressional Research Service (CSR).  Mr. Moe was responsible for CRS’s yearly report to Congress on quasi-governmental hybrid organizations which included a segment on the VA-affiliated nonprofit research corporations (NPCs).  During that meeting, we learned that if not for the fact that Congress wanted the NPCs to exist, the NPCs are essentially unconstitutional because they exist in a space somewhere between public and private entities but not quite securely in either realm.  

In the years following, we would see articles in the newspapers about other congressionally authorized nonprofits doing things that would be completely acceptable for most nonprofits but because government officials were somehow involved, those nonprofits were perceived as doing something inappropriate.  Sound familiar?

The difference for NPCs was that they had NAVREF and the vast community of supporters and overseers who saw the value of the NPCs in helping VA achieve its research and education missions.  As various issues popped up throughout the years, NAVREF worked with diligence and collaboration to ensure and secure the success – if not the survival -- of the NPCs.  

A large part of that community included the devoted VA personnel from each VA medical center (VAMC) from the medical center directors, chiefs of staff, and research and education ACOSs to the VA principal investigators and others involved in the day-to-day efforts of research and education.  Another part included the personnel from VA’s Central Office –the chief research and development officers (CRADOs), the chief academic affiliations officers (CAAOs), the staff of the Nonprofit Program Office (NPPO), and, in particular, the staff of the Office of General Counsel (OGC).  Then there were the long-standing staff of the congressional committees who helped guide various tweaks to the NPC authorizing statute through the -- often contentious -- legislative process to ensure that the statue continued to work for the NPCs and VA.  And lastly, there were hundreds of hard-working NPC board members, senior staff, and employees who work tirelessly to support those VA research and education projects. The results of that collaboration are what we see today - a true public-private partnership that now brings in over $250 million in additional funds each year to support research and education at VAMCs across the country.  

During my time working for NAVREF, I saw first-hand that NAVREF’s success was due to not only the dedication of its staff but also the all-volunteer board, especially the devoted board chairs who would make the time to call Barbara almost every single day; and the many, many NPC executive directors, senior staff and board members who volunteered hours of their time to ensure that NAVREF was meeting the needs of the NPCs.    

All that said, I can’t forget to acknowledge Barbara West, NAVREF’s first executive director, who held the hands of many NPC executive directors and board members.  Her leadership helped to create that community which was bound by a shared mission and dedicated to positively impacting the lives of veterans by helping NPCs grow from nascent nonprofits to fully-functioning, robust research and education organizations.

Congratulations to NAVREF on reaching your 25th anniversary.  May you continue on for at least 25 more years!
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