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What is the United States Department of Veterans Affairs?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 22 September 2016
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The United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is a cabinet-level administration in the United States which supervises benefits for veterans of the armed services and their family members. The Department of Veterans Affairs has a very extensive staff, with offices and facilities across the United States which keep the VA running smoothly. All American veterans are entitled to services through the VA, ranging from burial benefits to education loans.

This government department was originally founded in 1930 as the Veterans Administration, in response to a growing and obvious need to create a unified office to deal with the complex needs of American veterans. In 1988, the VA was reorganized into the Department of Veterans Affairs, with the organization being headed by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs. Incidentally, for grammar mavens who are questing in vain for the mysteriously missing apostrophe, the official name of this government department really is the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, not The United State Department of Veterans' Affairs.

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The VA is broken up into three main branches. The Veterans Health Administration provides healthcare to veterans at a variety of Veterans Affairs hospitals across the United States, with healthcare ranging from psychiatric care for veterans with PTSD to routine surgeries. Advocates for single-payer healthcare in the United State sometimes use the VA as a model, showing that it is possible to have an efficient and effective single payer healthcare system, although in the early 21st century, the VA was rocked by a series of healthcare-related scandals which cast aspersions upon its otherwise excellent reputation.

The Veterans Benefits Administration supervises, as one might imagine, the benefits to which veterans are entitled. These benefits include life insurance, survivor's benefits, pensions, education grants, home loans, vocational rehabilitation, and a variety of other services. Some of these services have been threatened by budget cutbacks, to great public outcry, as many Americans agree that these benefits should be preserved. Finally, the National Cemetery Administration manages burial benefits and Veterans Affairs cemeteries.

When people leave the military, part of this process includes a quick orientation within the Veterans Affairs system, so that veterans understand how to access the services they need. Regional VA offices may also offer orientations, classes, and other forms of assistance to veterans who might need help securing their benefits, and many veterans associations also offer mentoring and assistance programs so that veterans can take advantage of an extensive support network of people who know how to deal with the VA.

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