Have you ever used any educational benefits through the VA? Do you use the VA Clinic or the VA hospital for health care? Do you receive VA Compensation or Pension Benefits? If you are a surviving spouse of a qualifying veteran do you receive VA Dependent Indemnity Compensation? If you are the dependent of a qualifying veteran do you receive educational benefits?
If you have ever used any VA assistance, have you ever wondered where those benefits originated? Do you know who is out there still fighting to ensure veterans have access to health care and educational benefits? Who lobbies Congress for funding for VA Benefits?
At the earliest beginning of a community taking responsibility for disabled soldiers are the Pilgrims of Plymouth Colony. The Pilgrims passed a law which stated that disabled soldiers would be supported by the colony. (1)
The Continental Congress of 1776 encouraged enlistments during the Revolutionary War by providing pensions for soldiers who were disabled. Direct medical and hospital care given to veterans in the early days of the Republic was provided by the individual States and communities. In 1811, the first domiciliary and medical facility for veterans was authorized by the Federal Government. In the 19th century, the Nation’s veterans assistance program was expanded to include benefits and pensions not only for veterans, but also their widows and dependents.
After the Civil War, many State veterans homes were established. Since domiciliary care was available at all State veterans homes, incidental medical and hospital treatment was provided for all injuries and diseases, whether or not of service origin. Indigent and disabled veterans of the Civil War, Indian Wars, Spanish-American War, and Mexican Border period as well as discharged regular members of the Armed Forces were cared for at these homes.
Congress established a new system of veterans benefits when the United States entered World War I in 1917. Included were programs for disability compensation, insurance for service persons and veterans, and vocational rehabilitation for the disabled. By the 1920s, the various benefits were administered by three different Federal agencies: the Veterans Bureau, the Bureau of Pensions of the Interior Department, and the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers.