On July 3, 1930 Congress created the Veteran’s Administration. As some of you regular listeners know, I’m a Vietnam Vet so I am somewhat familiar with workings of the VA.

What many people don’t realize is that the VA is the second largest department in the US government, surpassed only by the United States Department of Defense. The United States Secretary of Veterans Affairs administers the VA.

In 2009, the total budget of the VA was $87.6 billion dollars and it employs 280,000 at it’s many medical facilities, clinics, and benefit offices. Some of the responsibilities of the VA are the administration of veteran’s benefits and programs for military families and survivors.

A Brief History of Veteran’s Care

The first known veteran care dates back to The Plymouth Colonies in 1636 during the early Indian wars. In 1776, soldiers were promised disability pensions if they were disabled during the American Revolutionary War. Individual states and communities were given the responsibility for direct medical and hospital care during that time.

The first domiciliary and medical facility for veterans was authorized in 1811 by the federal government and eventually opened in 1834. At the beginning of the 19th Century the veteran’s assistance program was expanded to include benefits and pensions for widows and dependents.

Veteran’s Benefits In The Modern Era

In 1917 Congress established more programs in the forerunner to the current VA. Disability compensation, insurance for servicepersons and veterans, and vocational rehabilitation were instituted.

By the 1920’s three new agencies were formed to oversee veterans programs. The Veterans Bureau, the Bureau of Pensions of the Interior Department, and the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers.

In June of 1944, the G.I. Bill was signed into law. It had more impact on American life than any other bill since the Homestead Act of the mid 1800’s.

Some Final Thoughts

The VA has definitely grown from the 54 hospitals in 1930 to the over 170 medical centers, 350 outpatient facilities, community and outreach clinics and 126 nursing homes care units.

In spite of all the wonderful work the VA does there are still those who feel that the US government falls short in providing for veterans in some areas. Stories appear all too often in news media documenting veterans who have somehow fallen through the cracks in the system.

No program is finite. No program fits all situations. The best that any of us can do is to continue to shine light on any discrepancies in these programs as we find them. We currently have an all-volunteer military. These folks are there by choice to sacrifice their family time, and lives for us. They deserve the best we can give them. If you see a soldier be sure to thank him or her for their service. Not because it’s the politically correct thing to do but because it’s the right thing to do.

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