April 8, 2017

Over the years, there have been many changes to the policies in the Department of Veterans Affairs. Through votes made by Congress, many acts have been put into place to help further aid veterans. In this article, I will be discussing the changes made to the Department of Veterans Affairs throughout history and how the Department of Veterans Affairs grew to be.

Important Acts Created in the Past 20 Years

  1. 714 (105th): Veterans’ Benefits Act of 1997 – 1998

This act was created to improve and further expand on the Native American Veteran Housing Loan Pilot Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs. The purpose was to grant more authority and decision-making power to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs regarding services for homeless veterans. The act was introduced to the 105th Congress on May 7th, 1997 and was signed and enacted by the President of the United States on November 21, 1997.

H.R. 2116 (106th) Veterans’ Millennium Healthcare and Benefits Act of 1999 – 2000

This act stated that any veteran who needs nursing home care for a service-related disability rated at 70% or higher must receive such care. Furthermore, this act prevented any veteran who was receiving nursing home care to be transported from one facility to another facility without the acknowledgment of the veteran or his or her representative. The act was introduced to the 106th Congress on June 9, 1999, and was signed and enacted by the President of the United States on November 30th, 1999.

Public Law 107 – 103 Veterans Education and Benefits Expansion of 2001

This act was started to adjust and upgrade authorities directing to and relating to education benefits, compensation and pension benefits, housing benefits, burial benefits, and vocational rehabilitation benefits for veterans, to modify certain authorities relating to the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. The act was approved in 1999, but it did not go into effect until 2001.

History of the Department of Veterans Affairs

The United States has the most extensive veterans benefits program in the world. Laws have stated that soldiers who found themselves disabled during the war were to be supported by the colony ever since the Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock in 1636 and began feuding with the Pequot Indians. The Continental Congress adopted this law as well in 1776. Enlistments were encouraged by providing pensions to soldiers during the Revolutionary War. Before it was passed as a law, individual states and communities provided direct medical and hospital care to Veterans. It was in 1811 that veterans were authorized domiciliary and medical facilities to be treated in during and after the war. Later in the 19th century, the Veterans Assistance Program was expanded for the first time to include benefits and pensions to the widows and dependents of veterans and not just the veterans themselves.

After the Civil War, many state Veterans homes were established to not only treat service-related incidents but to treat illnesses and diseases for all veterans, whether service related or not.  Indigent and disabled veterans from wars including the Civil War, Indian Wars, Spanish-American War, and Mexican Border period could be treated in these homes. For the first time in history, veterans who were discharged from the Armed Forces could be treated no matter their status.

As time went on, so did the medical, surgical, and quality-of-life needs of the Veterans. The Department of Veteran Affairs has made advancements in their treatment with new programs that commit to nursing traumatic brain injuries, post-traumatic stress, suicide prevention, women Veterans and more.

The healthcare provided by the VA is among some of the top healthcare systems in the world and many of America’s medical, nursing and allied health professionals have had their training provided by the VA. It is said that about 60 percent of all medical professionals acquire formal training provided by a VA hospital or VA medical research program. To accommodate a diverse Veteran population, outpatient clinics and forms of telemedicine are being administered to a wide variety of veterans. The Department of Veteran Affairs is consistently finding new ways to treat and improve the lives of the American heroes.

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