Minneapolis VA Health Care System Research Service
Submitting a VA Grant
How do I submit a VA grant?
The grant application process for VA proposals is outlined below. Applicants submitting through the Research Office are encouraged to review the resources linked below. Those submitting HSRD applications should contact CCDOR for guidance.
Step 1: Determine appropriate VA research service and funding opportunity
VA grants are funded by one of four VA Office of Research & Development (ORD) services. Each prospective applicant should begin by determining which of these services is the best fit for the planned work. A brief overview of each service is listed below.
- Clinical Science R&D (CSRD) supports human subjects research with an empasis on the translational pathway from scientific discovery to clinical application. Studies supported by CSRD include interventional and effectiveness studies, clinical, epidemiological and technological studies.
- Biomedical Laboratory R&D (BLRD) supports and conducts preclinical research to understand life processes from the molecular, genomic, and physiological levels. Studies supported by BLRD include pre-clinical models, studies using tissue or biological samples, and animal subjects studies.
- Health Services R&D (HSRD) supports research intended to identify, evaluate, and rapidly implement evidence-based strategies to improve VA healthcare. HSRD studies include topics such as suicide prevention, opioid management, mental health, complex chronic diseases, health informatics, and implementation science.
- Rehabilitation R&D (RRD) studies integrate clinical, preclinical, and applied rehabilitation research to restore functional independence and improve quality of life. Studies supported by RRD focus on basic, translational and clinical studies of disorders and diseases of importance to the rehabilitation of Veterans.
After determining the appropriate ORD service, applicants should next determine the specific Request For Application (RFA) to which they intend to apply. VA RFAs are posted to the VA ORD Intranet site at: http://vaww.research.va.gov/funding/rfa.cfm (copy and paste this link into your browser). When in doubt, investigators are encouraged to contact the relevant Scientific Review Officer or Program Manager. Contacts are listed on the service-specific websites linked above.
Step 2: Determine eligibility and prerequisites
Specific eligibility requirements or prerequisites apply depending on RFA and/or ORD service.
- All VA services require that the applicant have at least a 5/8ths paid VA appointment, or that the applicant be eligible to accept a minimum 5/8ths appointment if selected for funding.
- While clinicians are automatically eligible to apply to BLRD, applicants who are not clinicians must request eligibility through the Biomedical Laboratory R&D Program for Non-Clinician Scientists. Application deadlines are December 1 and June 1 for the Spring and Fall submission cycles, respectively. Applicants should plan to request eligibility well in advance of their intended grant submission cycle.
- Career Development Awards (CDA) applicants generally must be within five years of obtaining their terminal degree or last clinical training. The specific eligibility requirements vary by ORD service; applicants should refer to the "Eligible Individuals" section of the RFA for guidance.
- Many RFAs require a Letter of Intent (LOI), pre-application, or Intent to Submit (ITS) submission in advance of the application. For example, all CDA applications require an approved LOI, all RRD submissions require a pre-application, and HSRD submissions require an approved ITS. Applicants should refer to the guidance in the RFA for details.
Step 3: Select application cycle and request grant package
Each ORD service has two application cycles annually, with the exception of RRD, which has two Merit cycles and two pilot project cycles per year. Applicants should determine the best cycle in which to apply based on their own current funding and projected project start dates. Whenever possible, applicants should consider how resubmissions will affect continuity of funding, should an application not be selected on the first submission.
The submission cycles, deadlines, and details below are for general guidance only. Applicants are strongly advised to verify all dates and deadlines by referring to the specific timeline listed in the applicable RFA.
- CSRD and BLRD applicants submit in Spring and Fall cycles. Letters of Intent, if required, are due November 1 (for Spring cycle) and May 1 (for Fall cycle), and grant deadlines fall on or around March 10 and September 10, respectively.
- HSRD applicants submit in Summer and Winter cycles. Intent to Submit packages are due on or around May 5 (for Summer cycle) and November 5 (for Winter cycle), and grant deadlines fall on or around June 10 and December 10, respectively.
- RRD Merit and CDA applicants submit in Summer and Winter cycles. Pre-applications are due May 1 (for Summer cycle) and November 1 (for Winter cycle), and grant deadlines fall on or around June 10 and December 10, respectively.
- RRD Small Projects in Rehabilitation Research (SPiRE) pilot grant applicants submit in Spring and Fall cycles. Pre-applications are due February 1 (for Spring cycle) and August 1 (for Fall cycle), and grant deadlines fall on or around March 10 and September 10, respectively.
To request a grant application package, contact the Signing Official (SO) responsible for submitting the grant:
- CSRD, BLRD, and RRD grants are submitted through the Research Office. The Research Office also submits non-HSRD VA grants that fall under special cycles, or under services such as the VA Cooperative Studies Program (CSP). Contact the Deputy ACOS for your grant package.
- HSRD grants are submitted by CCDOR. Contact the CCDOR Administrative Officer for guidance.
The SO or delegate will prepare your grant package and provide necessary templates, guidance, and examples as needed. Grant packages may be provided as individual files, or via web-based tools. VA grant submission uses Grants.gov and eRA Commons. Applicants who do not currently have an eRA Commons account should contact the relevant SO to obtain a VA-affiliated eRA Commons ID.
A note for Site PIs: If you are the lead for Minneapolis VA but not the overall lead investigator for a multi-site grant, the lead site should be preparing the grant package. The lead site will need specific institutional information from Minneapolis to complete the grant package. See the Institutional Information page for frequently requested Minneapolis VA institutional information for Research.
Step 4: Complete grant package and return to the SO within applicable deadlines
Both the Research Office and CCDOR maintain internal deadlines to ensure adequate time for administrative review of grant packages prior to submission. Per Research Service policy, individuals who fail to adhere to stated deadlines may be refused permission to submit a grant in a given application cycle.
Applicants are strongly encouraged to meet with the SO or delegate responsible for administrative review of the grant package. The SO or delegate will go over timelines, provide general instructions, and explain any significant changes or new requirements affecting that submission. Applicants will be provided with a grant applicant checklist to help them understand what components should or must be included with each grant submission package.
Applicants are also strongly encouraged to meet with the Budget Analyst when planning the grant budget. The Budget Analyst can provide information on salary expenses, allowed expenditures, and assist in planning annual costs to ensure applications do not exceed budget caps.
During administrative review, the SO or delegate will check for errors such as omission of required components, inclusion of URLs, and attachments that exceed applicable page or margin limits. The SO or delegate may comment on typographical or grammatical errors if noted, but will not routinely proofread grant sections nor provide scientific critique. Applicants are instead strongly encouraged to rely on peer support for scientific feedback prior to submission.
Once a grant has passed administrative review, and the applicant has confirmed that s/he considers the application to be final, the SO or delegate will submit the grant through Grants.gov. Applicants should recieve notification when the grant has been accepted in eRA Commons. At that point, applicants should log in to eRA Commons and review the assembled grant. The applicant will have a maximum of two business days to make changes or corrections to the submitted grant. After two business days, or close of the application cycle (whichever comes first), submitted grants will be locked and cannot be changed.
Step 5: Grant review, scoring, and intent to fund
Grant review cycles vary by ORD service. Typically, a review committee will meet to discuss an application within 1 to 2 months post-submission. Grants may be assigned a score, or may be triaged (not discussed). When impact and/or percentile scores are assigned, applicants will be able to see these scores in eRA Commons. Similarly, once summary statements are available, applicants can review the statement in eRA Commons.
Grants that recieve a score will be next reviewed at the margins meeting, typically held 2-4 months after grant submission. The margins meeting is where funding decisions are made. Applicants should recieve a statement after the margins meeting, indicating whether the application was selected for funding or not. A courtesy copy of funding decisions is also sent to the Research Office. Applicants may not contact Scientific Review Officers until after the funding decisions have been made.
Grants that were not selected for funding may be resubmitted, with some exceptions. Some special RFAs do not allow resubmission, and RFAs that do allow resubmission typically limit applicants to one (pilot project) or two resubmissions (Merit and Career Development). If applicants determine that resubmission is appropriate, they are encouraged to contact the appropriate SO to plan for the next grant application cycle.
Step 6: Just-In-Time and post-award
Successful applicants will need to complete Just-In-Time (JIT) paperwork to secure release of grant funds. Beginning in January 2022, VA awards will use the eRA Commons system for JIT. Applicants will need to secure local R&D Committee approval for their research protocol. If applicable, investigators must also complete registration with ClinicalTrials.gov, complete waivers for off-site research, and respond to ORD concerns regarding budget or other aspects of the proposal. Once all JIT requirements are satisfied, a start date can be selected and funds will be released to station.
For JIT assistance or guidance, investigators should contact the individual who submitted the grant (Deputy ACOS or CCDOR Administrative Officer).