The Office of Veterans Affairs has roots dating back to 1636, when the Plymouth colony pilgrims declared that the colony would care for disabled soldiers. In 1930, the Veterans Administration was established. Since that time, the agency has provided medical and financial benefits to America's veterans. As the leader of Veterans Affairs, the secretary leads the Veterans Health Administration, the Veterans Benefits Administration and the National Cemetery Administration.
The Secretary of Veterans Affairs is a member of the President's cabinet, who leads all aspects of care for military veterans. Under the secretary, there is a deputy secretary and a chief of staff. There are also seven assistant secretaries who head their respective departments. The agency employs hundreds of thousands of workers in numerous positions, including the staffs of 152 medical centers nationwide. Each state has a Veterans Administrative Office that handles benefits and health care for veterans in their state. The Secretary of Veterans Affairs ultimately manages all of these employees as well, making employment-related decisions and delegating tasks.
Making a Budget
Every year, federal agencies provide a budget request to the White House and Congress, stating how much money the agency will need to continue operations for the coming year. At the direction of the secretary, the Veterans Affairs Budgetary Office requests each department's budget. The office reviews the requests and ensures that they are accurate and reasonably based on the department's performance. Once completed, the budget requests are sent to the secretary, who has the authority to make adjustments as deemed necessary. The secretary is responsible for finalizing the budget request before it is sent to the President and Congress.
Veterans Health Administration
The Veterans Health Administration is the largest health system in the country. It consists of 152 medical centers, in addition to more than 1,000 clinics and residential facilities. According to the VHA website, the department provides medical services to more than 8 million veterans each year. As the head of Veterans Affairs, the secretary is also the head of the VHA. The secretary is ultimately responsible for the performance and regulation of each medical center.
Veterans Benefit Administration
The Veterans Benefits Administration provides various types of monetary benefits to veterans. The Secretary of Veterans Affairs is also the director of the VBA. The Office of Disability Services falls under the VBA and provides disabled veterans with monetary compensation and benefits. The Office of Economic Opportunity provides veterans with employment assistance, home ownership opportunities and educational opportunities. The Office of Field Operations is the final department, which manages medical records and handles appeal requests for service denials.
National Cemetery Administration
The National Cemetery Administration manages 131 national shrines to commemorate the lives of deceased veterans. Veterans who served their minimal active duty requirements, along with their immediate family members, are eligible for burial in a veteran's cemetery. The Administration provides gravestones for each burial site and maintains the appearance of the locations. The Secretary of Veterans Affairs also leads the NCA and ensures that its responsibilities to deceased veterans are met.
Erika Winston is a Washington, D.C.-based writer, with more than 15 years of writing experience. Her articles have appeared in such magazines as Imara, Corporate Colors E-zine and Enterprise Virginia. She holds a Juris Doctor degree from Regent University and a Masters in public policy from New England College.