The change took effect March 15, 1989, and administrative changes occurred at all levels. VA’s Department of Medicine and Surgery, established in 1946, was re-designated as the Veterans Health Services and Research Administration at that time, though on May 7, 1991, the name was changed to the Veterans Health Administration (VHA).
VHA evolved from the first federal soldiers’ facility established for Civil War Veterans of the Union Army.
Following 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. entered World War I in 1917, Congress established a new system of Veterans benefits, including programs for disability compensation, insurance for service personnel and Veterans, and vocational rehabilitation for the disabled.
It was a lesser amount than the unemployment benefits available to non-veterans.
This assistance avoided a repetition of the World War I demobilization, when unemployed Veterans were reduced to relying on charities for food and shelter.
Indigent and disabled Veterans of the Civil War, Indian Wars, Spanish-American War, and Mexican Border period, as well as the discharged regular members of the Armed Forces, received care at these homes. By the 1920s, three different federal agencies administered the various benefits: the Veterans Bureau, the Bureau of Pensions of the Interior Department, and the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers.
The VA was elevated to a cabinet-level executive department by President Ronald Reagan in October 1988. Bush hailed the creation of the new Department, saying, "There is only one place for the Veterans of America, in the Cabinet Room, at the table with the President of the United States of America." The Veterans Administration was then renamed the Department of Veterans Affairs, and continued to be known as VA.
The second consolidation of federal Veterans programs took place July 21, 1930, when President Herbert Hoover signed Executive Order 5398 and elevated the Veterans Bureau to a federal administration—creating the Veterans Administration—to "consolidate and coordinate Government activities affecting war veterans." At that time, the National Homes and Pension Bureau also joined the VA. Both he and Hines were the longest serving executives in VA’s history.
The three component agencies became bureaus within the Veterans Administration. Following World War II, there was a vast increase in the Veteran population, and Congress enacted large numbers of new benefits for war Veterans—the most significant of which was the World War II GI Bill, signed into law June 22, 1944.
It is said the GI Bill had more impact on the American way of life than any law since the Homestead Act of 1862.
The GI Bill placed VA second to the War and Navy Departments in funding and personnel priorities.