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VA celebrates birthday, prepares for future

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By VAntagePoint

On this day in 1930, President Herbert Hoover signed Executive Order 5398, elevating what was then the Veterans Bureau to a federal administration, and creating the Veterans Administration — with the purpose to “consolidate and coordinate Government activities affecting war veterans.” This, the second consolidation of federal veterans programs, included the National Homes and the Bureau of Pensions of the Interior Department. These three component agencies became bureaus within the Veterans Administration.

VA was elevated to a cabinet-level executive department by President Ronald Reagan in October 1988. The change took effect March 15, 1989, and the Veterans Administration was renamed as the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

History of the Veterans Bureau: The initial consolidation of federal veterans programs took place Aug. 9, 1921, when Congress combined all World War I veterans programs to create the Veterans Bureau. Public Health Service Veterans’ hospitals were transferred to the bureau at that time, and an ambitious hospital construction program for World War I veterans began.

The Veterans Health Administration—the largest of the three administrations that comprise VA—evolved from the first federal Soldiers’ facility established for Civil War Veterans of the Union Army. On March 3, 1865, the day before his second inauguration and six weeks before his assassination, President Abraham Lincoln signed a law to establish a national military and naval asylum for sick and injured Union veterans of the Civil War. The National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers, established by this legislation — later known as VA homes, and then domiciliary — was the first major federal program to provide hospitals, medical and rehabilitative services exclusively to America’s veterans.

Today’s VA continues to meet veterans’ changing medical, surgical and quality-of-life needs. New programs provide treatment for traumatic brain injuries, post-traumatic stress, suicide prevention, women veterans and more. The VA health care system has grown from 54 hospitals in 1930, to a network of 1,750 points of care including hospitals, community-based outpatient clinics, nursing home care units and domiciliaries. VA has opened outpatient clinics, and established telemedicine and other services to accommodate a diverse veteran population, and continues to cultivate ongoing medical research and innovation to improve the lives of America’s patriots.

VHA operates one of the largest health care systems in the world serving over 9 million enrolled veterans. As part of the MyVA initiative, VA is working to reorganize for success—guided by ideas and initiatives from veterans, employees, and all of its shareholders. VA seeks to provide veterans with a seamless, integrated, and responsive customer service experience.

VA continues to serve our veterans and the American people through efforts to expand access to care by increasing the number of medical appointments. Over the past year, the combination of increasing appointments inside VA and in the community has resulted in veterans receiving approximately 7 million additional appointments for care.

In fiscal year 2014, VA completed a record-breaking 1.32 million claims providing veterans their earned benefits. As it tackles current challenges, the organization remains focused on the future—to meet the increasing demand for services and benefits, embrace opportunities for transformation, and strategize for the unique needs of a growing, changing veteran population.

Caring for our nation’s veterans, their survivors and dependents continues to be the guiding mission of VA. Under the leadership of Secretary Bob McDonald and Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson, VA has charted a path forward and made significant progress to enhance our health care system, improve service delivery and set the course for long-term reform. n