On July 21, 1930, President Herbert Hoover signed Executive Order 5398, which brought together the U. S. Veterans Bureau, the Bureau of Pensions and the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers into a single new agency--the Veterans Administration.
The importance of that Executive Order was not lost on Hoover.
"The new establishment [I create today] becomes one of the most important functions in the Government," he said.
Just a few facts can illustrate the wisdom of Hoover's prediction.
In 75 years, VA has gone from an independent federal agency to the Department of Veterans Affairs, the second-largest federal department after the Department of Defense. Our budget is substantially larger than in 1930--$69 billion, up from $800 million. Our staff has increased to 237,000 from 31,000. And the five million veterans who received VA health care last year are a vast increase from the 640,00 patients treated three-quarters of a century ago.
But, despite the passage of years, the start and finish of several wars, the rise of technology and the advent of a new century, our sacred mission has not changed. It is rooted in Abraham Lincoln's 1865 promise to "care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow and his orphan."
Nationally, VA's health care system has become what one prestigious medical journal called "a bright star" within the U.S. health care industry.
I doubt that many people realize that VA operates the largest integrated health care system in the country, with 157 hospitals and more than 860 clinics that expect to treat 5.2 million veterans this year.
More than half of the physicians practicing in the United States receive some of their professional education at VA medical centers. Three winners of the Nobel Prize in Medicine have worked for VA.
All of this expertise exists for the sole purpose of caring for our veterans. Special efforts are underway to reach out to the veterans of the Global War on Terrorism. The Department has started hiring programs for newly returned combat veterans and placed VA staff on military facilities for early counseling about veterans benefits, in addition to providing the world-class medical care that wounded veterans deserve.
As a new generation of combat heroes now turns to VA for health care, disability compensation, home loan guarantees, educational assistance and a variety of other benefits, we commit ourselves to keeping, for the next 75 years, President Hoover's prediction and President Lincoln's promise.
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