Veterans Administration (VA) Overview
The Veterans Administration has three main subdivisions, known as Administrations.
- Veterans Health Administration (VHA): responsible for providing health care to veterans, in all its forms, as well as for biomedical research, Regional Medical Centers, and Community Based Outpatient Clinics (CBOCs).
- Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA): responsible for initial veteran registration, eligibility determination, and five key lines of business (benefits and entitlements): Home Loan Guarantee, Insurance, Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment, Education (GI Bill), and Compensation & Pension
- National Cemetery Administration: responsible for providing burial and memorial benefits, as well as for maintenance of VA cemeteries
The VA employs nearly 280,000 people who serve 21.6 million U.S. veterans.
To encourage enlistments during the Reveolutionary War, the Continental Congress provided pensions for soldiers who were disabled during their military service. Initially, in the early years hospitalization and medical care was taken care of by the individual states and local communities.
In 1834 the federal govenment opened the forst domiciliary and medical hospital for veterans. Also in the 1800s benefits and veteran’s pensions were extended to include surviving spouses and dependents of veterans.
In the 1860s, after the Cival War many state veteran’s homes were open where hospital care and episodal injuries and diseases, not necessarily related to any time in the military were also treated. Somewhat similar to the way it is today.
In 1917, during World War I, congress expanded veterans benefits to include disability compensations for injuries incurred during military service, health insurance, and vocational rehabilitation for disabled veterans.
Prior to 1930 veterans benefits and services were handled by different organizations. In 1930 the separate agencies were consolidated under the auspice of the new Veteran’s Administration. The first director of the Veterans Administration was Brigadier General Frank T. Hines, who served for seven years, until 1945. The new Veteran’s Administration included, the Veterans Health Administration, the Veterans Benefits Administration, and the National Cemetery Association.
In 1944, President Franklin D. Roosevelt passed the G.I. Bill; officially known as the Serviceman’s Readjustment Act. The GI Bill provided a number of new benefits to soldiers returning form World War II, including low-cost first time home mortgages, low interest loans to be used as seed money to open businesses, and cash payments for tuition and living expenses associated with attending colleges and universities, or getting vocational educations. It also provided for one year of unemployment compensation for returning servicemen and women.
As a result of War II there was an enormous increase in the number of veterans served by the VA, The number of veterans increased by nearly five times with 15 million new veterans coming out of the war. As we’ve seen in recent times, there was a lot of criticism of the quality of service, with delays and bottlenecks resulting from a too centralized agency that was being run out of Washington DC. In response, the agency began decentralizing it’s operations, allowing field offices to handle more of the day to day operations.
With the addition of veterans from the Korean Conflict, Vietnam War, and the Gulf War, nearly on third of the American population today is eligible for some sort of veteran benefit. According to the Veterans Administration, The Veterans Health Administration (VHA) has grown, over the years, from 54 hospitals in 1930 to 153 medical centers and over 700 community outpatient clinics, 126 nursing homes, and 35 domiciliaries today. In 1988 the Department of Veterans Affairs Act which transformed the Veterans Administration into the Department of Veterans Affairs, which has a member on the president’s cabinet, so as to have a direct line to the president.