History - VA History
The United States has the most comprehensive system of assistance for veterans of any nation in the world. This benefits system traces its roots back to 1636, when the Pilgrims of Plymouth Colony were at war with the Pequot Indians. The Pilgrims passed a law which stated that disabled soldiers would be supported by the colony.
The Continental Congress of 1776 encouraged enlistments during the Revolutionary War by providing pensions for soldiers who were disabled. Direct medical and hospital care given to veterans in the early days of the Republic was provided by the individual States and communities. In 1811, the first domiciliary and medical facility for veterans was authorized by the Federal Government. In the 19th century, the Nation's veterans assistance program was expanded to include benefits and pensions not only for veterans, but also their widows and dependents.
After the Civil War, many State veterans homes were established. Since domiciliary care was available at all State veterans homes, incidental medical and hospital treatment was provided for all injuries and diseases, whether or not of service origin. Indigent and disabled veterans of the Civil War, Indian Wars, Spanish-American War, and Mexican Border period as well as discharged regular members of the Armed Forces were cared for at these homes.
Congress established a new system of veterans benefits when the United States entered World War I in 1917. Included were programs for disability compensation, insurance for service persons and veterans, and vocational rehabilitation for the disabled. By the 1920s, the various benefits were administered by three different Federal agencies: the Veterans Bureau, the Bureau of Pensions of the Interior Department, and the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers.
The 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 became bureaus within the Veterans Administration. Brigadier General Frank T. Hines, who directed the Veterans Bureau for seven years, was named as the first Administrator of Veterans Affairs, a job he held until 1945.
The VA health care system has grown from 54 hospitals in 1930, to include 152 hospitals; 800 community based outpatient clinics; 126 nursing home care units; and 35 domiciliaries. VA health care facilities provide a broad spectrum of medical, surgical, and rehabilitative care. The responsibilities and benefits programs of the Veterans Administration grew enormously during the following six decades. World War II resulted in not only a vast increase in the veteran population, but also in large number of new benefits enacted by the Congress for veterans of the war. The World War II GI Bill, signed into law on June 22, 1944, is said to have had more impact on the American way of life than any law since the Homestead Act of 1862. Further educational assistance acts were passed for the benefit of veterans of the Korean Conflict, the Vietnam Era, Persian Gulf War, Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
In 1973, the Veterans Administration assumed another major responsibility when the National Cemetery System (except for Arlington National Cemetery) was transferred to the Veterans Administration from the Department of the Army. The Agency was charged with the operation of the National Cemetery System, including the marking of graves of all persons in national and State cemeteries (and the graves of veterans in private cemeteries, upon request) as well and administering the State Cemetery Grants Program. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) was established as a Cabinet-level position on March 15, 1989. President Bush hailed the creation of the new Department saying, "There is only one place for the veterans of America, in the Cabinet Room, at the table with the President of the United States of America."
In 2009, President Obama appointed Secretary Eric K. Shinseki to lead a massive transformation of the VA into a high-performing 21st century organization that can better serve Veterans. Under the leadership of Secretary Shinseki, the VA has adopted three guiding principles to govern the changes underway, namely being people-centric, results-driven, and forward-looking. These principles are reflected in the 16 major initiatives that serve as a platform from which transformation is being executed.
The 16 major initiatives are:
Eliminating Veteran homelessness
Enabling 21st century benefits delivery and services
Automating GI Bill benefits
Creating Virtual Lifetime Electronic Record
Improving Veterans' mental health
Building Veterans Relationship Management capability to enable convenient, seamless interactions
Designing a Veteran-centric health care model to help Veterans navigate the health care delivery system and receive coordinated care
Enhancing the Veteran experience and access to health care
Ensuring preparedness to meet emergent national needs
Developing capabilities and enabling systems to drive performance and outcomes.
Establishing strong VA management infrastructure and integrated operating model
Walter these are from the VA site:
Transforming human capital management
Performing research and development to enhance the long-term health and well-being of Veterans
Optimizing the utilization of VA's Capital portfolio by implementing and executing the Strategic Capital Investment Planning (SCIP) process
Improving the quality of health care while reducing cost
Transforming health care delivery through health informatics
To learn more about these initiatives, consult the VA Strategic Plan.
A MESSAGE TO VETERANS FROM THE SECRETARY OF VETERANS AFFAIRS
May 22, 2014
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Fellow Veterans and Family Members,
After 38 years in The Army, I am now honored and privileged to serve as your Secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA). VA remains committed to providing the high quality benefits you have earned and deserve.
Allegations of VA employees’ misconduct have surfaced over the last several weeks, beginning with scheduling delays at the Phoenix VA Health Care System. As I testified before Congress on May 15, I take any allegations about patient safety or employee misconduct very seriously. The reports of Veterans’ negative experiences while seeking VA care are of great personal concern to me. I fully agree with President Obama’s statement on May 21, 2014: “If these allegations prove to be true, it is dishonorable, it is disgraceful . . . .”
In response to these allegations at the Phoenix VA Medical Center and a number of other facilities, the VA Office of Inspector General is conducting a comprehensive, independent review. In addition to the IG’s independent review, I ordered the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) to conduct a nationwide audit of all other major VA healthcare facilities to ensure understanding of, and compliance with, our appointment policy. That audit is being conducted now by more than two hundred senior VHA staff. All teams are independent of the facilities they are visiting. You and your families deserve to have full faith in your VA, and we intend to earn it every day.
As President Obama made clear to the American people May 21, 2014, “Every single day, there are people working in the VA who do outstanding work and put everything they’ve got into making sure that our Veterans get the care, benefits, and services that they need.”
I echo that praise and commend the hard work and dedication of the vast majority of our VA employees, many of whom are Veterans themselves. Every year, dedicated employees are prepared to provide care for over 8.9 million Veterans enrolled in VA healthcare. Every day, VHA conducts approximately 236,000 outpatient healthcare appointments—about 85 million last year.
Since 2009, we have enrolled two million more Veterans in high-quality VA healthcare, reduced Veterans' homelessness by 24 percent, and provided Post-9/11 GI Bill educational benefits to more than one million student Veterans and eligible family members. We have opened up new presumptives for Veterans to receive long overdue care for exposure to Agent Orange, for combat-related PTS-D, and for Gulf War illnesses. And, we have decreased the disability claims backlog by over 50 percent in the last 14 months. We will meet our goal of eliminating the claims backlog in 2015.
Every VA medical facility is accredited by The Joint Commission, an independent, non-profit organization that ensures the quality of U.S. healthcare through intensive evaluation of more than 20,000 healthcare organizations. In 2012, The Joint Commission, recognized 19 VA hospitals as top performers, and that number increased to 32 in 2013.
Since 2004, the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) survey has consistently shown that, on average, Veterans who use VA healthcare award our hospitals and clinics a higher customer satisfaction score than patients give private sector hospitals. When asked if they would use a VA medical center the next time they need inpatient or outpatient care, 96 percent and 95 percent of Veterans, respectively, indicated they would. Veterans across the Nation are receiving quality care from VA. We must encourage other Veterans to seek it.
Notwithstanding these accomplishments, VA will do even better. If any allegations under review are substantiated, we will act.
As we approach our observance of Memorial Day and its special significance to our Nation, VA is re-doubling its efforts, with integrity and compassion, to earn your trust.
As President Obama said, Veterans have “done their duty, and they ask nothing more than that this country does ours—that we uphold our sacred trust to all who have served.”
And, we will.
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