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 was named as the first Administrator of Veterans Affairs, a job he held until 1945.
The responsibilities and benefits programs of the Veterans Administration grew over the decades.
World War II saw an increase in the Veteran population, which led Congress to enact several new laws benefiting Veterans. The GI Bill was signed into law on June 22, 1944 and is thought to have impacted the American way of life more than any law since the Homestead Act.
Additional educational assistance acts were created over the years to benefit Veterans of the Korean Conflict, the Vietnam Era, the Persian Gulf War and the All-Volunteer Force.
In 1973, the Veterans Administration assumed responsibility for operating the National Cemetery System, when this honor was transferred from the Department of the Army to the Veterans Administration.
The agency marks the graves of all those who are buried in national and state cemeteries (as well as the grave sites of Veterans in private cemeteries, upon request). It is also charged with administering the State Cemetery Grants Program.
On March 15, 1989, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) was established as a Cabinet-level position by President George H. W. Bush. He 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.”
The VA health care system has grown along with the department. In 1930, 54 hospitals were in operation. Today, 171 medical centers; more than 350 outpatient, community and outreach clinics; 126 nursing home care units; and 35 domiciliaries care for our nation’s heroes. These facilities provide a broad spectrum of medical, surgical and rehabilitative care.