SHAP­ING TO­DAY’S VA

Of the 2 mil­lion U.S. troops sent to Europe dur­ing World War I, more than 100,000 died, and 200,000 were wounded. When the sol­diers re­turned, they had a new sys­tem for vet­er­ans ben­e­fits.

The Record (Troy, NY) - - LIFE+TIMES - By KURT SNIBBE | South­ern Cal­i­for­nia News Group

The U.S. has given ben­e­fits to those who have served in the Armed Forces since the colo­nial days. But as the na­tion amassed 2 mil­lion troops to send to Europe in

1917, Congress estab­lished a new sys­tem of vet­er­ans ben­e­fits. The plans for World War I vet­er­ans in­cluded pro­grams for dis­abil­ity com­pen­sa­tion, in­sur­ance for ser­vice per­son­nel and vet­er­ans and vo­ca­tional re­ha­bil­i­taion for the dis­abled.

In 1919, the Amer­i­can Le­gion was char­tered by Congress as a pa­tri­otic vet­er­ans or­ga­ni­za­tion. The Amer­i­can Le­gion’s ef­forts in the 1920s re­sulted in the cre­ation of the U.S. Vet­er­ans Bureau, the fore­run­ner of the Depart­ment of Vet­er­ans Af­fairs we have to­day. The VA is the sec­ond largest fed­eral agency, be­hind the Depart­ment o De­fense, with more than 200,000 em­ploy­ees.

The mis­sion state­ment of to­day’s VA is to ful­fill Pres­i­dent Abra­ham Lin­coln’s prom­ise: “To care for him who shall have borne the bat­tle, and for his widow, and his or­phan.” In 2016, there were around 20.4 mil­lion U.S. vet­er­ans rep­re­sent­ing less than 10 per­cent of the to­tal U.S. adult pop­u­la­tion.

The num­ber of peo­ple on ac­tive duty has dropped sig­nif­i­cantly from the draft era of the 1960s. There were 3.5 mil­lion on ac­tive duty in 1968, and about 1.3 mil­lion ac­tive duty ser­vice mem­bers to­day. There are also about 800,000 re­serve forces in the Deparmtne of De­fense. In 2016, women made up about 9 per­cent of vet­er­ans, and the VA ex­pects that num­ber to dou­ble in 2045.

U.S. NA­TIONAL ARCHIVE PHOTO

U.S. sol­diers in France cel­e­brat­ing the end of World War I on Nov. 11, 1918.

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