This month’s agency spotlight is on the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA or VA) is a government-run military benefits system. The Veterans Administration was founded in 1930 and became the cabinet-level Department of Veterans Affairs in 1989. Their mission statement is to fulfill President Lincoln’s promise “To care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan” by saving and honoring the men and women who are America’s veterans. Their primary function is to support veterans in their time after service by providing benefits and support.
The Continental Congress of 1776 encouraged enlistments during the Revolutionary War by providing pensions for soldiers who became disabled. Individual states and communities provided this care given to veterans. In 1811, the first medical facility for veterans was authorized by the federal government but didn’t open until 1834.
In the 19th century, the veteran’s assistance program was expanded to include benefits and pensions for not only veterans but also their widows and dependents. After the Civil War, many state veteran’s homes were established. Because this home care was available, incidental medical/hospital treatment was provided for all injuries and diseases, regardless of service origin.
When the United States entered World War I, Congress established a new system of veteran’s benefits. Included programs were disability compensation, insurance for servicemen and veterans, and vocational rehabilitation for the disabled. Three different federal agencies administered these benefits; Veteran’s Bureau, Bureau of Pensions of the Interior Department, and the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers.
Establishment of the Veterans Administration came in 1930 when Congress authorized the president “to consolidate and coordinate government activities affecting war veterans.” The three component agencies, listed above, became bureaus within the Veterans Administration.
World War II resulted in an increase in the veteran population and many new benefits for war veterans. As a result, the World War II GI Bill was signed into law. This bill placed the VA second to the War and Navy Departments in funding and personnel priorities.
The Department of Veterans Affairs Act of 1988 changed the former Veterans Administration as an independent agency into a cabinet-level Department of Veterans Affairs. The DVA was created due to nearly one-third of the population being eligible for veteran’s benefits.
Currently, the department is trying to end veteran homelessness.
Subsequent posts this month will look at components within the VA, issues facing them, and how department employees can be injured while working.