This category includes government establishments primarily engaged in administration of programs of assistance, training, counseling, and other services to veterans and their dependents, heirs, or survivors. Also included are offices that maintain liaison and coordinate activities with other service organizations and governmental agencies. Veterans hospitals are classified in Hospitals categories, and veterans' insurance in the Insurance Carriers industries.
Administration of Veteran's Affairs
In 2002, there were an estimated 25 million veterans in the United States, most of whom served during periods of armed conflict. More than 70 million Americans, including veterans and their dependents, were potentially eligible for veterans benefits provided by the U.S. government, representing approximately one-third of the nation's population.
Veterans' benefits were administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs, second in size only to the Department of Defense among government departments. In 2004, the Department of Veterans Affairs had a budget of approximately $63.6 billion. About $30.2 billion of the department's budget went to discretionary funding and $33.4 billion to entitlements. Department-wide employment was about 203,000 in 2000, down from 266,000 in 1993.
In 2005, there were an estimated 1,832 U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs establishments, employing 215,902 people. Administration of Veterans was the largest sector representing 1,735 of the 1,832 health care facilities, or 94.7 percent of market share. The majority of VA facilities were concentrated in California, New York, Massachusetts, New York, and Florida, with more than 25 percent market presence. On average, there were 158 people employed per VA health care facility. As of 2005 the department owned 30,217 acres of land and 5,558 buildings, operated 158 hospitals, 840 ambulatory care and community-based outpatient clinics, 133 nursing homes, 206 community-based outpatient psychiatric clinics, 57 regional benefits offices, and 120 cemeteries.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is organized into three functional agencies: the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), the Veterans Benefits Administration, and the National Cemetery System. The VHA operates the largest health care system in the nation, including 173 medical centers, 133 nursing homes, 40 domiciliary care units, and 398 outpatient clinics. An estimated 3.6 million veterans received medical treatment in 1999. Combat veterans also received counseling at more than 200 Vietnam Veteran Outreach Centers for a variety of problems, including posttraumatic stress disorder. The budget for medical programs in 1999 accounted for more than 40 percent of the total budget.
The Veterans Benefits Administration is responsible for most nonmedical benefit programs, including disability compensation, pensions, burial benefits, rehabilitation assistance, home loan guarantees, and insurance. These entitlement programs amounted to $20.1 billion in 1999, when the agency processed approximately 3.5 million claims by veterans seeking disability compensation or pensions. Another 631,640 widows, children, or parents of deceased veterans were receiving survivor benefits. In addition, more than 370,000 veterans or their dependents were receiving educational benefits, and about 343,954 veterans had received home loan guarantees for new mortgages, as well as refinancing. Since the GI Bill of Rights was passed in 1944, the government has guaranteed home loans for more than 15 million veterans and their dependents. About 20.7 million veterans and dependents have attended college or received job training. The Veterans Benefits Administration also administers the fourth largest insurance program in the United States, with 2.2 million policyholders.
The National Cemetery System consists of 114 cemeteries and 34 memorials and monuments to veterans of the nation's wars. More than 2 million veterans and family members are buried in these national cemeteries, which occupy more than 5,000 developed acres. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs also provides headstones and markers for veterans' graves in private cemeteries. In 1999 the National Cemetery System's 1,300 employees provided more than 61,370 interments. The agency projects that its interments will increase nearly 50 percent by 2008.
The United States has provided veterans' benefits since 1818, when Congress finally agreed to pay veterans of the Revolutionary War pensions they had been promised for more than 40 years. During the War, the Continental Congress had encouraged enlistments by promising pensions for soldiers who were disabled in the fighting. It also approved a lifetime pension amounting to half-pay for all officers. However, because the Continental Congress did not have the power to raise money through taxes, there was no practical way to fulfill either promise.
In 1780, the Continental Congress voted to give officers who served until the end of the war half-pay for life, but according to Richard Severo and Lewis Milford, authors of The Wages of War, few officers ever expected to receive pensions because the Continental Congress lacked the resources to pay soldiers even their regular wages. In December 1817, after several other failed efforts, President James Monroe asked Congress to approve pensions for all veterans of the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. Monroe told Congress, "In contemplating the happy situation of the United States our attention is drawn, with peculiar interest, to the surviving officers and soldiers of our Revolutionary Army, who so eminently contributed, by their services, to lay its foundation." Congress passed a bill the following year to give enlisted men $8 per month and officers $20.
Nearly 19,000 veterans applied for pensions in 1818. However, following the Panic of 1819, Congress amended the law to require that veterans be indigent before they qualified for a pension. More than 6,000 veterans were dropped from the pension rolls when they failed to prove poverty. These first pensions were administered by the office of the Secretary of War from 1818 until 1833, when Congress created the Bureau of Pensions, also within the Department of War. Prior to the Civil War, the administration of veterans' benefits was criticized for encouraging ex-soldiers to live at the government's expense and for encouraging graft and corruption.
In many ways, the treatment of veterans after the Civil War was similar to what followed the Revolutionary War. By 1866, nearly 1 million Union soldiers had been demobilized and returned to their homes only to find there were no jobs available. The average Union soldier received about $250 when he was discharged, but very little else. By 1868, New York Governor Reuben E. Fenton lamented that homeless veterans in his state "are numbered by the thousands, and are altogether beyond the power of Executive and Legislative relief." He added that "their needs cannot be postponed," and called upon charitable organizations to help. The North American Review also estimated that in 1866 more than 5,000 former Union or Confederate soldiers were in state prisons, and one prison physician reported, "They...