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Veterans Health Administration
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Seal of the Department of Veterans Affairs
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VA Logo
Agency overview
Formed 1778[1]
Jurisdiction Federal government of the United States
Headquarters 810 Vermont Avenue NW., Washington, D.C., United States
Employees 279,792 (March 2011) [2]
Annual budget $47 billion US$ (2011) [3]
Agency executive Robert Petzel, Under Secretary of Veterans Affairs for Health
Parent agency United States Department of Veterans Affairs

The Veterans Health Administration (VHA) is the component of the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) led by the Under Secretary of Veterans Affairs for Health[3] that implements the medical assistance program of the VA through the administration and operation of numerous VA Medical Centers (VAMC), Outpatient Clinics (OPC), Community Based Outpatient Clinics (CBOC), and VA Community Living Centers (VA Nursing Home) Programs.

The VHA is distinct from the U.S. Department of Defense Military Health System of which it is not a part.

The VHA division has more employees than all other elements of the VA combined.


The first Federal agency to provide medical care to veterans was the Naval Home in Philadelphia, PA. The home was created in 1812 and was followed by the creation of Soldiers Home in 1853 and St. Elizabeth's Hospital in 1855. Congress created the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers in 1865 in response to the high number of Civil War casualties. These homes were initially intended to be room and board for disabled veterans. However, by the late 1920s, the homes were providing a level of care comparable to hospital care.

President Hoover created the Veterans Administration (VA) in 1930 to consolidate all veteran services. General Omar N. Bradley was appointed to VA administrator and Bradley appointed Major General Paul Hawley as director of VA medicine, both in 1945. Hawley successfully established a policy that affiliated new VA hospitals with medical schools. Hawley also promoted resident and teaching fellowships at VA hospitals. Ultimately, Hawley was responsible for starting the hospital-based research program at the VA. Bradley resigned in 1947. However, upon resignation, 97 hospitals were in operation and 29 new hospitals had been built. As a result, the VA health system was able to serve a much larger population of veterans than it had served in previous years.

President Reagan Elevated the VA to cabinet status in 1988, which became known as the Department of Veterans Affairs. The Department of Veterans Affairs oversees the Veterans Health Administration.[4]

In the mid-1980s the VHA was criticized for their high operative mortality. To that end, Congress passed Public Law 99-166 in December 1985 which mandated the VHA to report their outcomes in comparison to national averages and the information must be risk-adjusted to account for the severity of illness of the VHA surgical patient population. In 1991 the National VA Surgical Risk Study (NVASRS) began in 44 Veterans Administration Medical Centers. By 31 December 1993 there was information for 500,000 non-cardiac surgical procedures. In 1994 NVASRS was expanded to all 128 VHA hospitals that performed surgery. The name was then changed to the National Surgical Quality Improvement Program.[5]

Beginning in the mid-1990s VHA underwent what the agency characterizes as a major transformation aimed at improving the quality and efficiency of care it provides to its patients. That transformation included eliminating underutilized inpatient beds and facilities, expanding outpatient clinics, and restructuring eligibility rules. A major focus of the transformation was the tracking of a number of performance indicators—including quality-of-care measures—and holding senior managers accountable for improvements in those measures.[6]


The VHA has expanded its outreach efforts to include men and women veterans and homeless veterans.

The VHA, through its academic affiliations, has helped train thousands of physicians, dentists, and other health professionals. Several newer VA medical centers have been purposely located adjacent to medical schools.

The VHA support for research and residency/fellowship training programs has made the VA system a leader in the fields of geriatrics [1][2], spinal cord injuries [3], Parkinson's disease [4], and palliative care.

The VHA has initiatives in place to provide a "seamless transition" to newly discharged veterans transitioning from Department of Defense health care to VA care for conditions incurred in Iraq or Afghanistan.

The Veterans Health Administration Office of Research and Development's research into developing better-functioning prosthetic limbs, and treatment of PTSD are also heralded. The VHA has devoted many years of research into the health effects of the herbicide Agent Orange used by military forces in Vietnam.

In October 2012, the VHA announced a new goal "to care for and heal our wounded Veterans. In addition to repairing their damaged bodies and minds, VA has embarked on a unique campaign to repair their crumbling intimate relationships." [7][8]

See also[]


  2. FedScope
  3. 3.0 3.1
  4. VA History in Brief.(n.d.). Department of Veteran's Affairs
  5. Khuri, SF; Daley, J; Henderson, WG (2002). "The Comparative Assessment and Improvement of Quality Surgical Care in the Department of Veterans Affairs". pp. 20–27. Digital object identifier:10.1001/archsurg.137.1.20. PMID 11772210. 
  6. Quality Initiatives Undertaken by the Veterans Health Administration Congressional Budget Office Report, August 2009
  7. Relationship Retreats: Warriors to Soul Mates, October 20, 2012
  8. PAIRS Essentials VA Program Support Guide, January 2013

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