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Wm. Jennings Bryan Dorn VAMC


Our History

The mission of the Wm. Jennings Bryan Dorn VA Medical Center is to provide Veterans focused, performance driven health care - and the facility has a long and proud history of providing South Carolina Veterans with the highest quality health care.

Constructed in 1932, the first patient was admitted to the Columbia Veteran Affairs (VA) Hospital on December 1, 1932.  At that time the hospital capacity was 306 beds and staff numbered 457.

The land on which the hospital is situated was known as the Hampton-True tract and was donated by Richland County and the City of Columbia for the erection of a veteran's hospital.  It was built by the federal government at a cost of $1.3 million and consisted of 13 buildings located approximately five miles from downtown Columbia.When first opened, the hospital was a combined facility providing all VA function in the state.  In October 1946, activities separated from the hospital and the VA Regional Office was temporarily housed at Fort Jackson Army Hospital until the new Federal Building was completed in downtown Columbia.

The Columbia VA Hospital became affiliated with the University of South Carolina School of Medicine in May 1975.  Also in 1975, a satellite outpatient clinic was opened in Greenville, South Carolina to extend medical care and benefits.

In January 1976, ground was broken for a 400-bed replacement hospital with 250,000 square feet of space at a cost of $32 million.  Then in November 1977, ground was broken for a 120-bed nursing home care building with 56,304 square feet at a cost of $3.5 million.  The new hospital was activated in 1979 followed by the nursing home in 1980.

Psychiatry Service was expanded from 34 to 60 beds in 1979.  In 1991, ground was broken for a new $8.7 million 100,299 square foot psychiatry building that was dedicated on June 25, 1993.

On August 28, 1978, President Jimmy Carter signed Public Law 95-353 officially naming the Columbia VA Hospital as the "William Jennings Bryan Dorn Veterans' Hospital."  A famed United States Congressman from South Carolina, William Jennings Bryan Dorn was an Army Veterans who served in the Army Air Forces during WWII.

In Fiscal Year 2016, the Dorn VA Medical Center saw 81,552 unique patients, of which 7,928 were female Veterans. From FY15 to FY16, the Dorn VAMC gained 3.19 percent in unique patients and experienced an increase of 1.58 percent in the number of enrollees.

The Dorn VA Medical Center provides outpatient care through seven Community-Based Outpatient Clinics (CBOCs) located in South Carolina in the Upstate, Midlands and Pee Dee areas of South Carolina.  The seven CBOCs are located in Anderson, Florence, Greenville, Rock Hill, Orangeburg, Spartanburg, and Sumter.  All clinics with the exception of Rock Hill are VA employee staffed.  All clinics have a mental health component available.

The Dorn VA Medical Center is a level 1C teaching hospital, providing a full range of patient care services, with state-of-the-art technology, education, and research.  Comprehensive health care is provided through primary care, tertiary care and long-term care in areas of medicine, surgery psychiatry, physical medicine and rehabilitation, cardiology, neurology, oncology, dentistry, geriatrics and extended care.

Veterans Benefits Administration and the University of South Carolina School of Medicine are located on the campus of Dorn VAMC.  Other affiliations are robust for training of nurses and allied health professions.  Similarly, medical center leadership has active relationships with the Department of Defense, both with nearby Fort Jackson and Shaw Air Force Base.

As the medical center moves toward the future, staff are focusing on becoming the provider of choice for Veterans and adapt to meet the increasing needs of our Veterans by:

  • Providing efficient and cost-effective health care;
  • Developing personalized care plans with an emphasis on preventative care;
  • Creating an exceptional Veteran experience;
  • Ensuring patients are engaged in their health care decisions; and
  • Providing 21st Century Care using 21st Century technology such as My HealtheVet.



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.