This year marks the 85th birthday of the Department of Veterans Administration, now called the U.S Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). This government-run agency was established on July 21, 1930 and is responsible for providing a broad variety of benefits and services to veterans and their families.
The United States has a history of supporting its veterans, even long before the establishment of the VA. Veteran-focused assistance initiatives can be traced as far back as 1636 when the Pilgrims passed a law for supporting disabled soldiers.
Assistance for America’s veterans continued to grow throughout the years. Following the Civil War, state veterans’ homes were founded. These provided care for sick and injured veterans of the Civil War, as well as the Indian Wars, Spanish-American War, and Mexican Border period.
After World War I, Congress established a system of benefits for veterans run by three federally-run agencies: the Veterans Bureau, the Bureau of Pensions of the Interior Department, and the National Home for Disabled Soldiers. These agencies administered benefits related to compensation, insurance, disability compensation, and vocational rehabilitation for the disabled. In 1921, the three agencies were consolidated to one: the Veterans Bureau.
On July 21, 1930 the Veterans Bureau became the Veterans Administration when President Herbert Hoover elevated the Veterans Bureau to a federal administration. In 1989 the Veterans Administration was renamed the Department of Veterans Affairs when it became a Cabinet-level Executive Department.
According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website, the mission of the VA 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 serving and honoring the men and women who are America’s Veterans.’”
The core values of the VA make up the acronym, “I CARE”: Integrity, Commitment, Advocacy, Respect and Excellence. These values are considered promises VA employees make as individuals and as an organization to those the Department serves.
The VA offers many benefits and services to America’s veterans, including:
Health care – Through the VA’s Veterans Health Administration, veterans have access to 1,700 clinics, hospitals, readjustment counseling centers, domiciliaries, community living centers, and other facilities. It is the largest integrated health system in the United States.
Vocational rehabilitation – The VA offers vocational rehabilitation and employment services to assist veterans and family members with job training, job seeking skills, and career counseling. They also offer resources and incentives to employers to encourage the hiring of veterans.
Educational benefits – The Post 9/11 GI Bill gives servicemembers and veterans who served on active duty after Sept. 10, 2001 an opportunity to continue their education by covering up to 100% of the cost of in-state college tuition and fees and a portion of tuition and fees at private and foreign institutions. Benefits can be used for graduate and undergraduate degrees, vocational/technical training, on-the-job training, flight training and more. Visit va.gov for details on the Post 9/11 GI Bill.
Disability compensation – Veterans who are at least 10% disabled are eligible to receive a monthly tax-free benefit.
Home loans – VA loans are available to servicemembers and veterans. These loans feature competitive interest rates often without requiring a down payment or private mortgage insurance.