What Is the Veterans Administration?

Founded at the height of the Great Depression, in 1930, the Veterans Administration was formerly an independent government agency. It became U.S. Cabinet level in 1989 with the title Department of Veterans Affairs. Commonly referred to as "the VA," the organization provides patient care, benefits, and essential services to veterans of the U.S. armed forces and their families.

The VA provides veterans with disability compensation for those injured or contracted a disease while serving. The department also serves a number of other functions designed to help veterans and their families:

  • Education and training
  • Medical
  • Surgical rehabilitative care
  • Readjustment counseling
  • Bereavement counseling
  • Surviving spouse benefits
  • Benefits to homeless veterans
  • Medical research
  • Life insurance
  • Vocational rehabilitation
  • Headstones/burial markers

Key Takeaways

  • The Veteran's Administration is today known as the Department of Veterans Affairs or VA.
  • It provides home loans and other benefits to veterans of the armed forces.
  • A certificate of eligibility is required before obtaining a VA home loan because specific service requirements for veterans can vary.
  • The VA also offers help with bereavement counseling, burial expenses, medical needs, as well as essential benefits to family members.
  • Examples of financial assistance include compensation, education and training, and life insurance.

Understanding Veterans Affairs

Within the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs lie to divisions, the Veteran's Health Administration (VHA) and the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA).

The VHA is the largest integrated health care system in the United States. It includes 1,255 health care facilities: 170 VA medical centers and 1,074 outpatient sites. VHA serves more than 9 million veterans enrolled in the VA health care program.

The VBA makes available a variety of benefits and services that provide financial assistance and other forms of help to service members, their dependents, and survivors. The list includes compensation, education and training, life insurance, vocational rehabilitation, and job placement assistance.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs also runs 153 national cemeteries throughout the United States and Puerto Rico, providing benefits for all eligible service members and family members. Burial and memorial benefits include opening and closing of the grave, perpetual care, a burial flag, a headstone/marker, and a presidential memorial certificate.

Veterans who were dishonorably discharged, as well as the imprisoned and parolees, may not be eligible for VA benefits, and benefits are not available to those with outstanding felony warrants.

VA Home Loans

The VBA also provides federal guarantees of home loans for qualified applicants. To be eligible for a VA-guaranteed home loan, veterans must have served on active duty in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, or Marines.

The specific service requirements will vary, depending on the time period during which a veteran served. A certificate of eligibility is required to obtain a VA loan, and the loan can be obtained through any mortgage lender who participates in the VA home loan program. The VA-guaranteed home loan is one of very few 0% down payment loans available in the United States (the USDA Rural Housing Loan is another).