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Overview:

Located within the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Veterans Benefits Administration is charged with providing a wide variety of services to former members of the US armed forces and their families. Care for veterans has been a source of controversy for generations, going back to the Bonus March of the Depression era and later the post-Vietnam debates over Agent Orange and post-traumatic stress. Even during the current administration of George W. Bush, criticisms have arisen over budget cuts and other problems regarding veterans’ benefits.

 
more
History:

American soldiers first began receiving government benefits during the Revolutionary War. In 1780 the Continental Congress promised officers half pay for seven years and enlisted soldiers a bonus of $80 if they served until the end of the war against England. The Continental Congress also provided pensions for disabled soldiers and gave land to others for their service. In 1789, with the ratification of the U.S. Constitution, the first Congress assumed the burden of paying veterans benefits by passing legislation that continued the pension law adopted by the Continental Congress.
 
The first federal facility for veterans was the Naval Home in Philadelphia, founded in 1812. This was followed by the establishment of the Bureau of Pensions in 1833 which was the first administrative unit dedicated solely to the assistance of veterans. During the 19th century, government officials expanded benefits and pensions not only for veterans, but also their spouses and dependents. By the end of the Mexican War in 1848, American veterans numbered in the hundreds of thousands. This number ballooned following the conclusion of the Civil War; there were approximately 1.9 million Union Army veterans on the federal rolls. Almost the same number existed in the Confederacy, however, Confederate veterans were not granted benefits by the federal government until 1958, for those still living.
 
In response to the number of disabled Civil War veterans from the Union army, Congress in 1865 authorized the National Asylum for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers, which was changed to the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers in 1873. This federal organization was an early forerunner to the modern VA hospital, although the homes at first provided mostly room and board along with incidental medical care to disabled and indigent veterans. By the late 1920s, medical care at the homes rose to hospital level.
 
World War I represented the next great influx of veterans onto federal rolls, with five million returning soldiers and 200,000 wounded. To meet the needs of this large group, Congress authorized a new program for awarding veterans' benefits that included disability compensation and vocational rehabilitation, plus insurance for active-duty personnel and veterans. The benefits were administered by the Veterans Bureau, the Bureau of Pensions of the Interior Department and the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers. In 1930 the functions of all three were folded into the newly created Veterans Administration (VA).
 
Two years later, the biggest controversy over federal treatment of veterans occurred in Washington, D.C. Shortly after the end of World War I, veterans were promised by Congress a bonus payment of $1,000, although payment wasn’t due until 1945. As the Depression deepened in 1932, some 12,000 to 15,000 veterans and their families began to converge on the nation’s capital demanding immediate payment of the bonus. The so-called “Bonus Army” camped out in shantytowns along the Anacostia River and eventually grew to 25,000 in population, making it a great embarrassment to President Herbert Hoover.
 
The House of Representatives proposed legislation that would have provided immediate payment of the veterans' cash bonuses. But the Senate balked, thanks to opposition from some Republicans and President Hoover, who feared the nearly $2 billion cost. Veterans were outraged and took to the streets, marching slowly up and down Pennsylvania Avenue for three days in what was called the “Death March.” Many Bonus Marchers stayed in Washington, and in late July, two marchers were shot by police and riots ensured. President Hoover then ordered the army under the command of General Douglas MacArthur to clear out the Bonus Army camp, resulting in the shantytown being destroyed. President Hoover's administration never recovered from the images of citizens fleeing before the troops.
 
The fiasco of the Bonus Army remained in the minds of federal officials as World War II wound to a close. This time there were more than 16 million veterans to deal with. In 1944, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the "Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944," better known as the "GI Bill of Rights." The bill has been called by some historians the most important piece of legislation since the Homestead Act. Drafted by the American Legion, the GI Bill provided: money for tuition, books and living expenses for up to four years of college or vocational schools; low-interest mortgages to homeowners; farm and small business loans at low interest; twenty dollars a week allowance for returning vets looking for employment; and funding to establish veterans' hospitals and to provide vocational rehabilitation for disabled veterans.
 
The G.I. Bill had a tremendous impact. More than one million veterans enrolled in college in 1946 alone. By 1956, over 10 million veterans had used the educational benefit. From 1944 to 1949, nearly 9 million veterans received close to $4 billion from the unemployment compensation program. The VA offered insured loans until 1962, and they totaled more than $50 billion. Subsequent legislation extended benefits under the GI Bill to veterans of the Korean and Vietnam wars, and the Readjustment Benefits Act of 1966 extended them to all who served in the armed forces even in peacetime. An updated G.I. Bill of Rights, called the Montgomery G.I. Bill, is now in effect.
 
 Veterans returning home from the Vietnam War endured a different set of obstacles from those of previous generations. Because of the war’s unpopularity, many veterans were treated with either indifference or disdain. Medical conditions stemming from exposure to chemicals used by US armed forces, such as Agent Orange, were questioned by the federal government, making it difficult for veterans to receive treatment. Veterans complaining of psychological problems, later termed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), were also ignored by VA officials. Homelessness became a serious problem for many Vietnam veterans unable to receive help or simply cope with their conditions.
 
These problems remain decades later. According to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans (NCHV), there are almost 300,000 veterans homeless on any given night across the US. Veterans of the Gulf War and Iraq, like their Vietnam brethren, are fighting today for recognition of their medical maladies, such as Gulf War Syndrome, which includes symptoms of fatigue, skin rash, headache, muscle and joint pain, memory loss and difficulty concentrating, shortness of breath, sleep problems, gastrointestinal problems and chest pain. PTSD also continues to be a serious problem. From 1999 to 2007, the number of veterans receiving disability compensation for PTSD increased from 120,000 to more than 280,500.
         
Following the creation of the VA during the New Deal, the federal government waited more than 50 years before embarking on a major reorganization of its administration of veterans’ affairs. Following a prolonged lobbying effort by veterans organizations, President Ronald Reagan signed legislation in 1988 to elevate the VA to cabinet-level status and turned it into the Department of Veterans Affairs. As reorganized, the department included three main elements: the Veterans Health Services and Research Administration, which was renamed the Veterans Health Administration; the Veterans Benefits Administration; and the National Cemetery System, later renamed the National Cemetery Administration.
 

Remembering the GI Bill

(PBS NewsHour with Jim Lehrer)

 

more
What it Does:

Located within the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Veterans Benefits Administration is charged with providing a wide variety of services to former members of the US armed forces and their families. These services include education and vocational rehabilitation benefits, pensions, home loans and life insurance. A listing of all of these services can be found at Benefits. The VBA operates 57 regional offices and utilizes nine service delivery networks to provide all of its services to veterans and their families.
 
Compensation and Pensions
Providing pensions and disability compensation to veterans represents one of the largest tasks of the VBA. More than 2.7 million veterans each year receive either monthly pension checks or disability payments. Disability compensation is paid to veterans with service-connected disabilities, meaning the disability was a result of disease or injury incurred or aggravated in line of duty during active service. Veterans with nonservice-related disabilities may be eligible for VA pension programs if the veteran served during wartime but became permanently and totally disabled outside of military duty. Pensions may also be paid to the survivors of wartime veterans. In 2001, the VBA paid $22 billion in disability compensation, survivor benefits and disability pensions to 3.2 million people. More information about pensions and disability payments can be found at the Compensation and Pension Benefits Page.
 
Education
The largest education benefit dispensed by the VBA is through the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) which provides up to 36 months of funding for veterans to study at colleges, technical or vocational schools. The GI Bill also supports apprenticeships and job training. Participants can receive in excess of $36,000 in tuition. Veterans from the reserve have different eligibility requirements and different rules on receiving benefits. MGIB may also be used by members of the military while still on active duty. MGIB benefits may be used up to 10 years from the date of last discharge or release from active duty. The 10-year period can be extended if the veteran was prevented or delayed due to disability or because they were held by a foreign government or power. Spouses and children of veterans can also receive education benefits through the Dependents' Educational Assistance program which offers up to 45 months of education assistance. More information on education benefits is located at the GI Bill Website.
 
The VR&E Program provides services and assistance necessary to enable veterans with service-related disabilities to gain and keep employment. In the event a veteran's disability prohibits suitable employment, the program offers help so the veteran can achieve independence in living.
Program services can include evaluation of rehabilitation needs, employment services, medical and dental care, financial counseling and education or training to develop marketable job skills. Veterans pursuing education or training may also receive a subsistence allowance. In some cases, the VR&E program provides educational and vocational counseling for eligible service members and veterans who don’t have disabilities and their dependents. See the program’s website for more information on VR&E.
 
Housing
VBA’s housing program provides veterans with loans to purchase homes, primarily in cases where private financing is not available. These cases generally involve rural areas, small cities and towns. Veterans may borrow up to 100% of the sales price or reasonable value of the home, whichever is less. If a veteran needs to refinance, they may borrow up to 90% of the home’s value, where allowed by state laws. As of January 1, 2006, the maximum VA loan amount with no down payment was $417,000 and can be as high as $625,500 in certain high-cost areas. In addition to home loans, the VBA offers veterans with disabilities grants of up to $43,000 to purchase or remodel a home to assist with accessibility and independence. Veterans who are partially or totally blind can be eligible for grants of up to $8,250 to adapt a home. More information on housing assistance is located at the Loan Guaranty Website.
 

The VBA offers life insurance to service members and veterans who may not be able to get insurance from private companies because of the extra risks involved in military service, or because of a service-related disability. See the website for more information.

 

more
Where Does the Money Go:

The VBA’s largest stakeholder consists of current and past members of the armed services plus their family members. There are approximately 28 million veterans in the country today. Currently, 1.4 million men and women serve on active duty in the military, with another 1.5 million serving as reservists.
 
Numerous veterans’ organizations pay close attention to the VBA. The National Coalition for Homeless Veterans is a group of community-based organizations seeking to eliminate homelessness among veterans. It serves as a liaison between branches of the federal government and local homeless veteran service providers.
 
Disabled American Veterans has more than 1.2 million members and is committed to aiding veterans with disabilities. Through its National Service Program, DAV operates 88 offices plus a corps of 260 National Service Officers (NSOs) and 26 Transition Service Officers (TSOs) who directly represent veterans with claims for benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs. The free service is available to all veterans.
 
Vietnam Veterans of America is the only national Vietnam veterans organization congressionally chartered. VVA's goals are to promote and support issues important to Vietnam veterans, to create a new identity for this generation of veterans and to change public perception of Vietnam veterans.
 
New Directions is a long-term drug and alcohol treatment program that provides food, shelter and rehabilitation to homeless veterans at four locations throughout Los Angeles. An estimated 27,000 homeless veterans live in Los Angeles, which is also home to the country’s largest VA hospital.
 
Swords to Plowshares is a community-based veterans' self-help group that advocates for veterans' rights and provides services to veterans. Its goal is to help homeless and low-income veterans through direct services and advocacy of effective public policy. Their web site provides information about programs and services, such as a drop-in center and legal services.
 
Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) is the country’s oldest nonprofit veterans service organization that has long served as a voice for veterans and a catalyst for change in improving veterans' benefits through community service programs and special projects.

 

PBS NOW Resources for Veterans

 

more
Controversies:

Empty Promises
Care for veterans has been a source of controversy for generations, going back to the Bonus March of the Depression era and later the post-Vietnam debates over Agent Orange and post-traumatic stress. Even with changes in the federal structure of the VA in the late 1980s that established the Veterans Benefits Administration, problems have continued to arise, either at the bureaucratic level or higher.
 
As recently as January 2008, the issue of veterans’ benefits, or more specifically that of dependents, became a focal point thanks to a last-minute political decision by President George W. Bush. During the State of the Union address, the President called on Congress to allow U.S. troops to transfer their unused education benefits to family members. A week later, however, when Bush submitted his $3.1 trillion federal budget to Congress, he included no funding for the plan, which could cost up to $2 billion annually according to budget analysts.
 
The proposal was a late addition to the speech after President Bush decided that he wanted to announce a program that would favor military families. This decision left little time to vet the idea, and some administration officials were caught off-guard by the move. Nevertheless, the idea of extending education benefits is generating bipartisan interest on Capitol Hill, although it remains to be seen if funding will make it into the next budget. 
 
Under the current GI Bill, service members are eligible for nearly $40,000 in education benefits, such as college tuition or employment training, after they complete three years of active duty. Almost 70 percent of active-duty U.S. troops and veterans use at least part of these benefits, which cover three-quarters of the cost of tuition, room, board and fees in a four-year state university. VA officials concede that the cost would probably soar if most families make full use of the benefits.
 
In addition to extending education benefits, President Bush called for expanded access to childcare for military families and for new preferences for military spouses competing for positions in the federal government. Pentagon officials are still working on cost estimates for these proposals.
No Funds in Bush Budget For Troop-Benefits Plan: He Made Proposal in January Speech (by Michael Abramowitz and Robin Wright, Washington Post)
 
Proposed Pre-Iraq Invasion Benefits Cuts
The Bush administration also came under attack during the President’s first term regarding cuts in funding for veterans benefits on the eve of the invasion of Iraq and another round of tax cuts. In 2003, Republicans on the House Budget Committee proposed slashing $844 million in health care for veterans and an additional $463 million in benefit programs including disability compensation, vocational rehabilitation, education survivor's benefits and pension programs from next year's budget. In addition, GOP members planned to cut $15 billion from veterans programs over the next 10 years, all in response to the economic downturn affecting the country at that time.

Veterans advocacy groups were outraged by the proposed cuts. They pointed out that although the country was having a difficult time economically, the pending invasion of Iraq meant that soon more veterans would be in need of greater government support, not less. A spokesman for the Disabled American Veterans said the cuts could mean a serious reduction in medical care for veterans in VA hospitals.
 
Although Republicans eventually backed off on the spending cuts, the issue was again brought up the following year in 2004.
Republicans Seek to Slash VA Budget! (by Kate McLaughlin, Veterans Against the War)
Behind Our Backs (by Paul Krugman, New York Times)
The Sticker-Shock Congress (Editorial, New York Times)

White House Directs Agencies To Prepare Big Spending Cuts

(by Edmund L. Andrews, New York Times)

 

more
Suggested Reforms:

While the VBA has struggled to keep its funding intact, other problems have arose stemming from the department’s handling of pensions and disability benefits. In 2006, the Governmental Accountability Office (GAO) reported failures on the part of the VBA to adequately handle the processing of veterans pensions. The 2006 report found significant limitations in procedures for assessing whether pensioners continue to receive the proper benefits, resulting in millions of dollars in improper pension payments made each year. A 2008 GAO report found delays in the processing of disability claims filed by veterans, causing cases to backlog.
 

Improved Management Would Enhance VA’s Pension Program (PDF)

 

 

more
Former Directors:

Daniel Cooper
Vice Admiral Daniel L. Cooper (Ret.) began directing the Veterans Benefits Administration in April 2002 as the Under Secretary for Benefits in the Department of Veterans Affairs. He graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy and received his Master of Public Administration degree from Harvard's Littauer School. Upon graduating from the Naval Academy, he served 33 years in the Navy.
 
Cooper initially served in the amphibious force. He began his submarine service aboard the diesel submarine USS Trigger in 1959. In 1972 he became commanding officer of the USS Puffer operating out of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. From 1976 to 1979 he served as commander of Submarine Squadron TEN in New London, Conn., and from 1986 to 1988, he commanded the submarine force in the U.S. Atlantic Fleet.
 
As a flag officer he held several positions in Washington, D.C.: comptroller, Naval Sea Systems Command; director, Navy Budgets; director, Navy Program Planning; and Assistant Chief of Naval Operations for Undersea Warfare.
 
Following his retirement from military service, Cooper served as a vice president of Gilbert Commonwealth, an electrical engineering firm, in Reading, Pa. He also served as chairman of the advisory board of the Applied Research Laboratory at Penn State University. He was a director on the board of USAA (insurance) for ten years, a director of PECO (utilities) and later on the board of EXELON Corporation which purchased PECO.
 
Prior to his nomination as under secretary, Cooper served as chairman of the Veterans Affairs Claims Processing Task Force charged with examining multiple issues affecting the processing of applications for disability compensation, pension and survivors' benefits. Cooper announced his resignation under pressure in February 2008.

Embattled Veterans Official Resigns Post (by Aaron Glantz, Inter Press Service)

 

 

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Comments

Juanita lopez 4 years ago
To make it short, my ex-husband was getting a pension in 1979. He was injured while in the service. He was getting about 99.00 a month and some how he stopped recieving it. He is having some physical and I feel mental problems now. What can I do for him? I feel he was injured while he was in the Air Force. Can some thing be done to help him. His name is Olayo Lopez Jr.and he was stationed at CoCo Beach,Florida. I do have is sos in which I can give it at a later time. ...

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Founded: 1988
Annual Budget: $50.9 billion
Employees: 14,857
Official Website: http://www.vba.va.gov
Veterans Benefits Administration
Dunne, Patrick
Previous Acting Under Secretary

Born in Washington, D.C. and raised in Troy, N.Y., Patrick Dunne graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1972 with a B.S. in mathematics. He earned an M.S. in mathematics from the Naval Postgraduate School and also graduated from the Navy’s Nuclear Power training program. Dunne served in the Navy for 33 years, commanding the attack submarine USS Baltimore and the USS Frank Cable, as well as the U.S. naval forces in the Northern Mariana Islands. In August 2006, Dunne took over as the VA’s Assistant Secretary for Policy and Planning. Following the resignation of Daniel Cooper in February 2008, retired Rear Admiral Dunne was named Acting Under Secretary for Benefits. He left the position when Barack Obama took over as President.

 
 
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Bookmark and Share
Overview:

Located within the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Veterans Benefits Administration is charged with providing a wide variety of services to former members of the US armed forces and their families. Care for veterans has been a source of controversy for generations, going back to the Bonus March of the Depression era and later the post-Vietnam debates over Agent Orange and post-traumatic stress. Even during the current administration of George W. Bush, criticisms have arisen over budget cuts and other problems regarding veterans’ benefits.

 
more
History:

American soldiers first began receiving government benefits during the Revolutionary War. In 1780 the Continental Congress promised officers half pay for seven years and enlisted soldiers a bonus of $80 if they served until the end of the war against England. The Continental Congress also provided pensions for disabled soldiers and gave land to others for their service. In 1789, with the ratification of the U.S. Constitution, the first Congress assumed the burden of paying veterans benefits by passing legislation that continued the pension law adopted by the Continental Congress.
 
The first federal facility for veterans was the Naval Home in Philadelphia, founded in 1812. This was followed by the establishment of the Bureau of Pensions in 1833 which was the first administrative unit dedicated solely to the assistance of veterans. During the 19th century, government officials expanded benefits and pensions not only for veterans, but also their spouses and dependents. By the end of the Mexican War in 1848, American veterans numbered in the hundreds of thousands. This number ballooned following the conclusion of the Civil War; there were approximately 1.9 million Union Army veterans on the federal rolls. Almost the same number existed in the Confederacy, however, Confederate veterans were not granted benefits by the federal government until 1958, for those still living.
 
In response to the number of disabled Civil War veterans from the Union army, Congress in 1865 authorized the National Asylum for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers, which was changed to the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers in 1873. This federal organization was an early forerunner to the modern VA hospital, although the homes at first provided mostly room and board along with incidental medical care to disabled and indigent veterans. By the late 1920s, medical care at the homes rose to hospital level.
 
World War I represented the next great influx of veterans onto federal rolls, with five million returning soldiers and 200,000 wounded. To meet the needs of this large group, Congress authorized a new program for awarding veterans' benefits that included disability compensation and vocational rehabilitation, plus insurance for active-duty personnel and veterans. The benefits were administered by the Veterans Bureau, the Bureau of Pensions of the Interior Department and the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers. In 1930 the functions of all three were folded into the newly created Veterans Administration (VA).
 
Two years later, the biggest controversy over federal treatment of veterans occurred in Washington, D.C. Shortly after the end of World War I, veterans were promised by Congress a bonus payment of $1,000, although payment wasn’t due until 1945. As the Depression deepened in 1932, some 12,000 to 15,000 veterans and their families began to converge on the nation’s capital demanding immediate payment of the bonus. The so-called “Bonus Army” camped out in shantytowns along the Anacostia River and eventually grew to 25,000 in population, making it a great embarrassment to President Herbert Hoover.
 
The House of Representatives proposed legislation that would have provided immediate payment of the veterans' cash bonuses. But the Senate balked, thanks to opposition from some Republicans and President Hoover, who feared the nearly $2 billion cost. Veterans were outraged and took to the streets, marching slowly up and down Pennsylvania Avenue for three days in what was called the “Death March.” Many Bonus Marchers stayed in Washington, and in late July, two marchers were shot by police and riots ensured. President Hoover then ordered the army under the command of General Douglas MacArthur to clear out the Bonus Army camp, resulting in the shantytown being destroyed. President Hoover's administration never recovered from the images of citizens fleeing before the troops.
 
The fiasco of the Bonus Army remained in the minds of federal officials as World War II wound to a close. This time there were more than 16 million veterans to deal with. In 1944, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the "Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944," better known as the "GI Bill of Rights." The bill has been called by some historians the most important piece of legislation since the Homestead Act. Drafted by the American Legion, the GI Bill provided: money for tuition, books and living expenses for up to four years of college or vocational schools; low-interest mortgages to homeowners; farm and small business loans at low interest; twenty dollars a week allowance for returning vets looking for employment; and funding to establish veterans' hospitals and to provide vocational rehabilitation for disabled veterans.
 
The G.I. Bill had a tremendous impact. More than one million veterans enrolled in college in 1946 alone. By 1956, over 10 million veterans had used the educational benefit. From 1944 to 1949, nearly 9 million veterans received close to $4 billion from the unemployment compensation program. The VA offered insured loans until 1962, and they totaled more than $50 billion. Subsequent legislation extended benefits under the GI Bill to veterans of the Korean and Vietnam wars, and the Readjustment Benefits Act of 1966 extended them to all who served in the armed forces even in peacetime. An updated G.I. Bill of Rights, called the Montgomery G.I. Bill, is now in effect.
 
 Veterans returning home from the Vietnam War endured a different set of obstacles from those of previous generations. Because of the war’s unpopularity, many veterans were treated with either indifference or disdain. Medical conditions stemming from exposure to chemicals used by US armed forces, such as Agent Orange, were questioned by the federal government, making it difficult for veterans to receive treatment. Veterans complaining of psychological problems, later termed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), were also ignored by VA officials. Homelessness became a serious problem for many Vietnam veterans unable to receive help or simply cope with their conditions.
 
These problems remain decades later. According to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans (NCHV), there are almost 300,000 veterans homeless on any given night across the US. Veterans of the Gulf War and Iraq, like their Vietnam brethren, are fighting today for recognition of their medical maladies, such as Gulf War Syndrome, which includes symptoms of fatigue, skin rash, headache, muscle and joint pain, memory loss and difficulty concentrating, shortness of breath, sleep problems, gastrointestinal problems and chest pain. PTSD also continues to be a serious problem. From 1999 to 2007, the number of veterans receiving disability compensation for PTSD increased from 120,000 to more than 280,500.
         
Following the creation of the VA during the New Deal, the federal government waited more than 50 years before embarking on a major reorganization of its administration of veterans’ affairs. Following a prolonged lobbying effort by veterans organizations, President Ronald Reagan signed legislation in 1988 to elevate the VA to cabinet-level status and turned it into the Department of Veterans Affairs. As reorganized, the department included three main elements: the Veterans Health Services and Research Administration, which was renamed the Veterans Health Administration; the Veterans Benefits Administration; and the National Cemetery System, later renamed the National Cemetery Administration.
 

Remembering the GI Bill

(PBS NewsHour with Jim Lehrer)

 

more
What it Does:

Located within the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Veterans Benefits Administration is charged with providing a wide variety of services to former members of the US armed forces and their families. These services include education and vocational rehabilitation benefits, pensions, home loans and life insurance. A listing of all of these services can be found at Benefits. The VBA operates 57 regional offices and utilizes nine service delivery networks to provide all of its services to veterans and their families.
 
Compensation and Pensions
Providing pensions and disability compensation to veterans represents one of the largest tasks of the VBA. More than 2.7 million veterans each year receive either monthly pension checks or disability payments. Disability compensation is paid to veterans with service-connected disabilities, meaning the disability was a result of disease or injury incurred or aggravated in line of duty during active service. Veterans with nonservice-related disabilities may be eligible for VA pension programs if the veteran served during wartime but became permanently and totally disabled outside of military duty. Pensions may also be paid to the survivors of wartime veterans. In 2001, the VBA paid $22 billion in disability compensation, survivor benefits and disability pensions to 3.2 million people. More information about pensions and disability payments can be found at the Compensation and Pension Benefits Page.
 
Education
The largest education benefit dispensed by the VBA is through the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) which provides up to 36 months of funding for veterans to study at colleges, technical or vocational schools. The GI Bill also supports apprenticeships and job training. Participants can receive in excess of $36,000 in tuition. Veterans from the reserve have different eligibility requirements and different rules on receiving benefits. MGIB may also be used by members of the military while still on active duty. MGIB benefits may be used up to 10 years from the date of last discharge or release from active duty. The 10-year period can be extended if the veteran was prevented or delayed due to disability or because they were held by a foreign government or power. Spouses and children of veterans can also receive education benefits through the Dependents' Educational Assistance program which offers up to 45 months of education assistance. More information on education benefits is located at the GI Bill Website.
 
The VR&E Program provides services and assistance necessary to enable veterans with service-related disabilities to gain and keep employment. In the event a veteran's disability prohibits suitable employment, the program offers help so the veteran can achieve independence in living.
Program services can include evaluation of rehabilitation needs, employment services, medical and dental care, financial counseling and education or training to develop marketable job skills. Veterans pursuing education or training may also receive a subsistence allowance. In some cases, the VR&E program provides educational and vocational counseling for eligible service members and veterans who don’t have disabilities and their dependents. See the program’s website for more information on VR&E.
 
Housing
VBA’s housing program provides veterans with loans to purchase homes, primarily in cases where private financing is not available. These cases generally involve rural areas, small cities and towns. Veterans may borrow up to 100% of the sales price or reasonable value of the home, whichever is less. If a veteran needs to refinance, they may borrow up to 90% of the home’s value, where allowed by state laws. As of January 1, 2006, the maximum VA loan amount with no down payment was $417,000 and can be as high as $625,500 in certain high-cost areas. In addition to home loans, the VBA offers veterans with disabilities grants of up to $43,000 to purchase or remodel a home to assist with accessibility and independence. Veterans who are partially or totally blind can be eligible for grants of up to $8,250 to adapt a home. More information on housing assistance is located at the Loan Guaranty Website.
 

The VBA offers life insurance to service members and veterans who may not be able to get insurance from private companies because of the extra risks involved in military service, or because of a service-related disability. See the website for more information.

 

more
Where Does the Money Go:

The VBA’s largest stakeholder consists of current and past members of the armed services plus their family members. There are approximately 28 million veterans in the country today. Currently, 1.4 million men and women serve on active duty in the military, with another 1.5 million serving as reservists.
 
Numerous veterans’ organizations pay close attention to the VBA. The National Coalition for Homeless Veterans is a group of community-based organizations seeking to eliminate homelessness among veterans. It serves as a liaison between branches of the federal government and local homeless veteran service providers.
 
Disabled American Veterans has more than 1.2 million members and is committed to aiding veterans with disabilities. Through its National Service Program, DAV operates 88 offices plus a corps of 260 National Service Officers (NSOs) and 26 Transition Service Officers (TSOs) who directly represent veterans with claims for benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs. The free service is available to all veterans.
 
Vietnam Veterans of America is the only national Vietnam veterans organization congressionally chartered. VVA's goals are to promote and support issues important to Vietnam veterans, to create a new identity for this generation of veterans and to change public perception of Vietnam veterans.
 
New Directions is a long-term drug and alcohol treatment program that provides food, shelter and rehabilitation to homeless veterans at four locations throughout Los Angeles. An estimated 27,000 homeless veterans live in Los Angeles, which is also home to the country’s largest VA hospital.
 
Swords to Plowshares is a community-based veterans' self-help group that advocates for veterans' rights and provides services to veterans. Its goal is to help homeless and low-income veterans through direct services and advocacy of effective public policy. Their web site provides information about programs and services, such as a drop-in center and legal services.
 
Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) is the country’s oldest nonprofit veterans service organization that has long served as a voice for veterans and a catalyst for change in improving veterans' benefits through community service programs and special projects.

 

PBS NOW Resources for Veterans

 

more
Controversies:

Empty Promises
Care for veterans has been a source of controversy for generations, going back to the Bonus March of the Depression era and later the post-Vietnam debates over Agent Orange and post-traumatic stress. Even with changes in the federal structure of the VA in the late 1980s that established the Veterans Benefits Administration, problems have continued to arise, either at the bureaucratic level or higher.
 
As recently as January 2008, the issue of veterans’ benefits, or more specifically that of dependents, became a focal point thanks to a last-minute political decision by President George W. Bush. During the State of the Union address, the President called on Congress to allow U.S. troops to transfer their unused education benefits to family members. A week later, however, when Bush submitted his $3.1 trillion federal budget to Congress, he included no funding for the plan, which could cost up to $2 billion annually according to budget analysts.
 
The proposal was a late addition to the speech after President Bush decided that he wanted to announce a program that would favor military families. This decision left little time to vet the idea, and some administration officials were caught off-guard by the move. Nevertheless, the idea of extending education benefits is generating bipartisan interest on Capitol Hill, although it remains to be seen if funding will make it into the next budget. 
 
Under the current GI Bill, service members are eligible for nearly $40,000 in education benefits, such as college tuition or employment training, after they complete three years of active duty. Almost 70 percent of active-duty U.S. troops and veterans use at least part of these benefits, which cover three-quarters of the cost of tuition, room, board and fees in a four-year state university. VA officials concede that the cost would probably soar if most families make full use of the benefits.
 
In addition to extending education benefits, President Bush called for expanded access to childcare for military families and for new preferences for military spouses competing for positions in the federal government. Pentagon officials are still working on cost estimates for these proposals.
No Funds in Bush Budget For Troop-Benefits Plan: He Made Proposal in January Speech (by Michael Abramowitz and Robin Wright, Washington Post)
 
Proposed Pre-Iraq Invasion Benefits Cuts
The Bush administration also came under attack during the President’s first term regarding cuts in funding for veterans benefits on the eve of the invasion of Iraq and another round of tax cuts. In 2003, Republicans on the House Budget Committee proposed slashing $844 million in health care for veterans and an additional $463 million in benefit programs including disability compensation, vocational rehabilitation, education survivor's benefits and pension programs from next year's budget. In addition, GOP members planned to cut $15 billion from veterans programs over the next 10 years, all in response to the economic downturn affecting the country at that time.

Veterans advocacy groups were outraged by the proposed cuts. They pointed out that although the country was having a difficult time economically, the pending invasion of Iraq meant that soon more veterans would be in need of greater government support, not less. A spokesman for the Disabled American Veterans said the cuts could mean a serious reduction in medical care for veterans in VA hospitals.
 
Although Republicans eventually backed off on the spending cuts, the issue was again brought up the following year in 2004.
Republicans Seek to Slash VA Budget! (by Kate McLaughlin, Veterans Against the War)
Behind Our Backs (by Paul Krugman, New York Times)
The Sticker-Shock Congress (Editorial, New York Times)

White House Directs Agencies To Prepare Big Spending Cuts

(by Edmund L. Andrews, New York Times)

 

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Suggested Reforms:

While the VBA has struggled to keep its funding intact, other problems have arose stemming from the department’s handling of pensions and disability benefits. In 2006, the Governmental Accountability Office (GAO) reported failures on the part of the VBA to adequately handle the processing of veterans pensions. The 2006 report found significant limitations in procedures for assessing whether pensioners continue to receive the proper benefits, resulting in millions of dollars in improper pension payments made each year. A 2008 GAO report found delays in the processing of disability claims filed by veterans, causing cases to backlog.
 

Improved Management Would Enhance VA’s Pension Program (PDF)

 

 

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Former Directors:

Daniel Cooper
Vice Admiral Daniel L. Cooper (Ret.) began directing the Veterans Benefits Administration in April 2002 as the Under Secretary for Benefits in the Department of Veterans Affairs. He graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy and received his Master of Public Administration degree from Harvard's Littauer School. Upon graduating from the Naval Academy, he served 33 years in the Navy.
 
Cooper initially served in the amphibious force. He began his submarine service aboard the diesel submarine USS Trigger in 1959. In 1972 he became commanding officer of the USS Puffer operating out of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. From 1976 to 1979 he served as commander of Submarine Squadron TEN in New London, Conn., and from 1986 to 1988, he commanded the submarine force in the U.S. Atlantic Fleet.
 
As a flag officer he held several positions in Washington, D.C.: comptroller, Naval Sea Systems Command; director, Navy Budgets; director, Navy Program Planning; and Assistant Chief of Naval Operations for Undersea Warfare.
 
Following his retirement from military service, Cooper served as a vice president of Gilbert Commonwealth, an electrical engineering firm, in Reading, Pa. He also served as chairman of the advisory board of the Applied Research Laboratory at Penn State University. He was a director on the board of USAA (insurance) for ten years, a director of PECO (utilities) and later on the board of EXELON Corporation which purchased PECO.
 
Prior to his nomination as under secretary, Cooper served as chairman of the Veterans Affairs Claims Processing Task Force charged with examining multiple issues affecting the processing of applications for disability compensation, pension and survivors' benefits. Cooper announced his resignation under pressure in February 2008.

Embattled Veterans Official Resigns Post (by Aaron Glantz, Inter Press Service)

 

 

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Comments

Juanita lopez 4 years ago
To make it short, my ex-husband was getting a pension in 1979. He was injured while in the service. He was getting about 99.00 a month and some how he stopped recieving it. He is having some physical and I feel mental problems now. What can I do for him? I feel he was injured while he was in the Air Force. Can some thing be done to help him. His name is Olayo Lopez Jr.and he was stationed at CoCo Beach,Florida. I do have is sos in which I can give it at a later time. ...

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Founded: 1988
Annual Budget: $50.9 billion
Employees: 14,857
Official Website: http://www.vba.va.gov
Veterans Benefits Administration
Dunne, Patrick
Previous Acting Under Secretary

Born in Washington, D.C. and raised in Troy, N.Y., Patrick Dunne graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1972 with a B.S. in mathematics. He earned an M.S. in mathematics from the Naval Postgraduate School and also graduated from the Navy’s Nuclear Power training program. Dunne served in the Navy for 33 years, commanding the attack submarine USS Baltimore and the USS Frank Cable, as well as the U.S. naval forces in the Northern Mariana Islands. In August 2006, Dunne took over as the VA’s Assistant Secretary for Policy and Planning. Following the resignation of Daniel Cooper in February 2008, retired Rear Admiral Dunne was named Acting Under Secretary for Benefits. He left the position when Barack Obama took over as President.

 
 
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