SATURDAY, JULY 3: The United States thanked veterans in a big way 80 years ago today by creating the Department of Veterans Affairs on July 3, 1930. The concept of assistance for veterans actually began long before Americans were flying red, white and blue; the Pilgrims of Plymouth Colony passed a law in 1636 that allowed soldiers disabled from war with the Pequot Indians to be supported by the colony. A century later in 1776, the tradition of support expanded when the Continental Congress provided pensions for those who enlisted in the Revolutionary War, according to the U.S. Government. Veteran care evolved to include VA health-care facilities, widow and dependent care and more, until finally, an official Veterans Administration was established in 1930 to oversee all Government activities affecting war veterans. (Learn more history at the official VA website.) Today, the annual VA budget hovers around $90 billion; employees number almost 280,000; and hundreds of medical centers, clinics and other facilities service veterans across the country.
Due to both physical and mental disabilities caused by war, homelessness has long been an issue concerning veterans and their families. The Obama Administration recently released a plan intended to reduce homelessness in America partly by focusing on more housing for veterans and families with young children. (Learn about other VA news and projects at its official website.)
The VA also is in charge of the National Cemetery System and, two years ago, expanded the spectrum of faiths officially recognized by the agency. That’s when the VA officially allowed the Pentacle to be placed on the tombstones of Wiccan veterans. Although the VA already recognized 38 religious emblems and symbols for veteran graves, it took two widows several years to convince the VA that the Wiccan Pentacle should mark the graves of those who believe. (The Associated Press published a piece on the news.)
(By ReadTheSpirit columnist Stephanie Fenton)
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