U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

DEFINITION of 'U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs'

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, established in 1988 by President Ronald Reagan, elevated the previous Veterans Administration to a Cabinet-level executive department, giving it a new name that allowed it to still be referred to by its longtime acronym, the “VA.” It comprises three administrations – the Veteran's Health Administration, evolved from the first federal solder's facility established for veterans of the Union Army after the Civil War and later joined by a system of veterans hospitals, clinics and nursing home units; the Veterans Benefits Administration, which supervises the VA Home Loan Guaranty Program and other benefits, including employment and education; and the National Cemetery Administration, which runs 147 national cemeteries across the country.


BREAKING DOWN 'U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs'

According to its website, the VA's roots stretch back to 1636 when the Pilgrims of Plymouth Colony voted that the Colony would support soldiers disabled by its war with the Pequot Indians. During the Revolutionary War, the Continental Congress of 1776 enacted pensions for disabled soldiers; in the 19th century, support was extended to widows and dependents. Veterans benefits expanded further during World War I, with the first consolidation of World War I veterans' programs occurring in 1921, When Congress created the Veterans Bureau. In 1930, President Herbert Hoover elevated the Bureau to a federal administration.

The President's 2017 budget includes $182.3 billion for the VA, which employed 366,343 people as of December 2015, according to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM). The VA is headed by the United States Secretary of Veterans Affairs.