What is the US Secretary of Veterans Affairs?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

The United States Secretary of Veterans Affairs heads the Department of Veterans Affairs, the largest Federal agency in the United States after the Department of Defense. If you're curious about the missing apostrophe in “veterans,” you might want to know that the spelling of this agency started out inconsistently, with some people including the apostrophe and others leaving it out. Ultimately, a decision was made to remove the apostrophe for convenience, even though this is technically grammatically incorrect.

The US Secretary of Veterans Affairs is appointed by the President of the United States and confirmed by the Senate.
The US Secretary of Veterans Affairs is appointed by the President of the United States and confirmed by the Senate.

President George Bush Senior established the Department of Veterans Affairs in 1989, designating it a Cabinet level agency. As a result, the US Secretary of Veterans Affairs is a member of the Presidential Cabinet, appointed by the President and subject to confirmation hearings in the United States Senate. The US Secretary of Veterans Affairs is also in the Presidential line of succession, in the second to last position, with non-natural citizens and Acting Secretaries being excluded from the succession.

The US Secretary of Veterans Affairs tackles problems, such as homelessness, many veterans face following their service.
The US Secretary of Veterans Affairs tackles problems, such as homelessness, many veterans face following their service.

As a member of the Presidential Cabinet, the US Secretary of Veterans Affairs discusses issues which relate to veterans with the President, and proposes policy decisions which could benefit veterans. Although the US Secretary of Veterans Affairs does not need to be a member of the military, he or she usually is, and by convention, the Secretary resigns when a new Presidential administration takes office, allowing the President to select a new Secretary. The US Secretary of Veterans Affairs also meets with representatives of other agencies such as Health and Human Services and the Department of Defense to discuss situations of mutual interest, such as advances in medical technology which could benefit injured veterans.

The secretary is assisted by Undersecretaries who head up the various sections within the Department of Veterans Affairs, also known as the Veterans Administration or VA. These departments deal with things like health care for veterans, housing assistance, education grants, death benefits, and job-retraining for veterans. The VA establishes an assortment of mandates and policies which impact the benefits offered to veterans and their families.

As one might imagine, the US Secretary of Veterans Affairs is often extremely busy in wartime. However, even when the country is not at war, large numbers of veterans and their families are entitled to VA benefits, keeping the agency occupied with long-term care and support. The VA's extensive network of hospitals and other facilities offers some of the most cutting-edge medical care in the world, along with superb medical research opportunities.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments

sunnySkys

@KaBoom - I believe most of the duties of the Department of Veterans Affairs were already being carried out before the department was established as part of the cabinet. So veterans affairs existed, if just wasn't part of the cabinet and thus there was no US Secretary of Veterans Affairs.

KaBoom

I had no idea the Department of Veterans Affairs wasn't formed until 1989! Wow. I thought it was one of those departments that's pretty much always been around. It seems like this department does so much important stuff with regards to the military and veterans. I can't imagine it not existing!

I'm sort of surprised this secretary is second to last in line for the presidency. It seems like someone with military and organization experience would be pretty qualified to take over the presidency!

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