SoldierStrong Donates Its First StrongMind Virtual Reality System to Syracuse Veterans Affairs Medical Center


A unique arrangement between Syracuse University, the Syracuse Veterans Affairs Medical Center and two national nonprofits has resulted in the donation today of a groundbreaking virtual reality system to treat veterans experiencing post-traumatic stress.

The donation was made during an event took place at the VA’s Behavioral Health Outpatient Clinic, 620 Erie Blvd West. It comes from SoldierStrong, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to providing advanced medical technologies to help injured veterans lead full lives. Its StrongMind initiative that has made an initial commitment to donate virtual reality hardware and software to 10 VA medical centers across the country as part of its focus on reducing post-traumatic stress, which is considered one of the leading causes of veteran suicides. The Syracuse donation is the first in the series.

Proceeds from a partnership between the university and Operation Hat Trick are funding the donation to the Syracuse VA. The Veterans Health Administration’s Innovative Ecosystem will assist in the facilitation and deployment of the equipment, and coordinate training efforts for the equipment and software.

“The VA always strives to incorporate technology in meaningful ways that improve patient care and help to reduce symptoms of PTSD. This equipment presents an exciting opportunity to engage Veterans with PTSD who may prefer to incorporate more technology into their treatment which will complement the offering of Evidence Based Treatments currently offered in the PTSD Clinic,” said Lauren Love, Syracuse VA Medical Center  Behavioral Health Careline Manager. “September is Suicide Prevention Month and this venture also provides a timely opportunity to incorporate creative new treatments aimed at reducing Veteran suicide.  We are grateful for the opportunity to partner with SoldierStrong and thank Syracuse University and Operation Hat Trick for their extraordinary generosity.”

Rachel Duffy, Syracuse University’s director of trademark licensing, said the relationship with Operation Hat Trick dates back to 2013 and has helped the Hampton, N.H., organization fulfill its mission of generating awareness and support for the recovery of wounded service members and veterans through the sale of OHT branded merchandise and products.

We’ve been honored to help Operation Hat Trick serve so many veterans through our co-branding agreement, but it’s an exceptional thing to see it result in a donationto the local Syracuse community,” Duffy said. “It’s a moment that should make the university’s many supporters very proud.”

Mike Haynie, Vice Chancellor and Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) Founder & Executive Director, noted the university’s involvement reflects its long-standing support for the nation’s military veterans.

“Syracuse University works closely with the Syracuse VA and many other veteran-serving organizations, to ensure that our veterans get the assistance they need and the care they deserve,” Haynie said. “This donation is another prime example of the power of partnership and connection among all veteran service organizations to achieve a greater good. For that reason, we are proud to support Soldier Strong and Operation Hat Trick’s efforts to make this creative technology an integral part in the treatment and recovery of veterans here in central New York and across the country.”

Operation Hat Trick founder and president Dot Sheehan noted that 22 military veterans commit suicide each day across the country.

“One of OHT’s goals is to work with organizations that creatively work toward solving the issue of veteran suicides. SoldierStrong/StrongMind is one of those organizations and we are proud to be involved,” Sheehan said. “We are especially excited to be associated with the Syracuse VA and Syracuse University where their commitment to OHT merchandise and product helps a purchase with a purpose become reality.”

Since SoldierStrong’s inception following the tragic events of 9/11, the Stamford, Conn.-based group has donated more than $3 million of medical devices to help injured veterans, including 22 state-of-the-art exoskeleton that aid in the rehabilitation of spinal injuries.

“Virtual reality treatment shows promise in two key areas,” said SoldierStrong co-founder Chris Meek. “It is both clinically effective and it reduces the stigma that many service members feel about seeking treatment for their post-traumatic stress. With the rise in popularity of virtual reality in non-medical settings, such as video games, entertainment and even the workplace, there’s convincing evidence that younger veterans will be more inclined to seek treatment using VR techniques than other methods.”