top of page

VA History

Image by Ian Hutchinson

History of the Veterans Administration 

The U.S. has the most comprehensive system of assistance for Veterans of any nation.

It can be traced back to 1636 with the Pilgrims, when they were at war with the Pequot Indians. The Pilgrims passed a law to support the disabled soldiers who supported the colony.

In 1776, the Continental Congress decided to include pensions to enlistees. Also, during this time, the individual states and communities took care of the disabled Veterans by providing direct medical care and hospital care. 

It was in 1811 when the Federal Government had authorized the first domiciliary and medical faculties for Veterans. They continued to enhance benefits for Veterans by expanding the nations Veterans assistance program. This program included benefits and pensions to not only the Veterans but also their widows and dependents. 

Many states established Veterans homes after the Civil War. This included incidental medical and hospital treatment. Care was provided for all injuries and diseases even if they were not service connected. All Veterans were authorized to receive help, to include indigent and disabled Veterans of the Civil War, Indian Wars, Spanish-American War and Mexican border War. This also included Veterans who were discharged out of the regular service. 

During this time, the Bureau of Pensions was established in 1832 and the National Home for Disabled  Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers in 1865.  

Image by Chris Curry

When World War I started in 1917, Congress established a new system of Veterans Benefits. These programs included disability compensation, insurance for Servicemembers and Veterans, and Vocational Rehabilitation for the disabled. In 1922, it gained a large number of Veterans Hospital facilities from the Public Health Services.

In the 1920's there were 3 different agencies to take care of Veterans which included, The Veterans Bureau, the Bureau of Pension, and the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers. In 1930, Congress authorized President Herbert Hoover to consolidate and coordinate government activities affecting War Veterans. All 3 agencies became bureaus within the Veterans Administration under Brigadier General Frank T. Hines, the 1st Administrator of Veterans Affairs. 

With the end of World War II, the Veteran population increased tremendously with 16,000,000 WWII Veterans and 4,000,000 WWI Veterans. The Veterans Bureau, the programs that had cared for the Veterans, which was centralized in Washington D.C., came under scrutiny due to scandals and numerous delays and bottlenecking within the agency. This is when they decided to give more authority to the field offices. Also, at this time, the U.S. Government decided to think about consolidating the services for Veterans. 

On June 22, 1944, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed a very important bill into law, the GI Bill of Rights. This had a great effect on the American Way of Life more than any other legislation with the possible acceptation of the Homestead Act. Later, there were further educational benefits that help the Veterans of the Korean War. 

President Ronald Reagan signed into law the Department of Veterans Affairs Act of 1988 but this didn't take affect till March 15, 1989, under President George H.W. Bush. With this act, it changed the former Veterans Administration from an independent government agency into a cabinet-level Department of Veterans Affairs. There was a reform period from 1995-2000, which improved health care access, quality, and efficiency. They added a integrated electronic health informant system (VistA). This helped increase patients treated by 24%, 48% increase in ambulatory visits. With this implementation, VHA increased patients 104% with 10,000 fewer employees since 1995. 

The "New GI Bill" of 2008 the GI Bill college benefits were double. This included a 13-week extension to federal unemployment benefits. In 2009, President Obama extended more benefits through the GI Bill. It was then that the benefits were able to be transferred to the surviving spouse and then servicemembers reaching 10years would be able to transfer their benefits to their dependents (spouse and child(ren)).

bottom of page