This research paper aims at exploring the work of the DVA, its regulations, and the system of benefits American veterans could use. In the US, there are many veterans of different ages. All of them need support and respect. The activities of the DVA and the benefits prove that American veterans may still ask for help and get enough support to continue living after the period of their military service. Veterans may be volunteers and draftees. Therefore, it is hard to guess if the conditions under which people must live after their military service are what they expect. Besides, many veterans suffer from disabilities and health problems. Modern professional healthcare organizations should help such people to find solutions to their problems and concerns. The analysis of the credible and up-to-date literature is used to answer the main research question: “Is the DVA taking all possible and appropriate steps to support veterans and their families and provide them with the required help taking into account their financial, social, emotional, and physical conditions?” In the end, the recommendations to improve the work of the DVA are given.
The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs and Regulating the Veteran’s Benefits System
Nowadays, the question of respect for the elderly, the roles and contributions of veterans, and the governmental responsibility remain to be crucial topics. The reason for such discussions is not to demonstrate people’s gratitude and prove the awareness of what has been done by veterans only. It is necessary to know how to thank people for their brevity and remember the importance of their actions. People’s freedoms and safety have a high price, and veterans, as no one else, know a lot of this price. Each country has its organization or agency that should take responsibility for the activities devoted in honor of veterans and their actions. At the same time, it is necessary to remember that veterans are not the elderly only. There are many young men and women, who continue participating in different military actions and wars to provide its citizens with peace and freedom.
In the United States, the Department of Veteran Affairs is the governmental organization that develops the system of benefits for veterans and introduces the programs with the framework of which people of the chosen category may have access to the appropriate health, psychological, financial, and emotional support. It is wrong to consider veterans as a minor group of people with certain disabilities. Veterans are the people, who made a lot for their countries. For example, Lifton (1985) perfectly described the feelings of veterans and helped to understand how personal pain and alienation could change strong people and make them unable to cope with the traumatic experiences they got. Ordinary people and children may need additional explanations and clarification about how to treat veterans and appreciate their achievements.
Sometimes, it is so hard for veterans to cope with extreme rage and relieve the trauma because of constant notifications of violence and power people use in their books, movies, and interviews (Lifton, 1985). The DVA aims at investigating veterans’ needs and feelings to create the benefits’ systems and opportunities, which facilitate veterans’ lives. Therefore, it is wrong to ignore the work of the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs because it is a real chance to help people and protect them from their own negative experiences and painful memories. The crisis of the department in 2014 proves that people have not achieved the desired success and should be ready to work hard (Buell, 2016). The government, policymakers, and social workers are the groups of people, who can make contributions to the work of the DVA and improve the quality of life veterans have to use after they come back home.
This project explains the roles of different people in the work of the DVA, the peculiar features of the regulations developed by the VA, the existing system of the benefits that could be available to veterans, and the necessity to promote the work of the DVA in the United States. This project includes the evaluation of the historical achievements to demonstrate how past presidents and other stakeholders influenced the development of the work of the DVA. The description of the current benefits and the explanation of how veterans could use them regarding their current statuses and opportunities are developed. The main research question is whether or not the government and the DVA do everything possible to support veterans and their families and provide them with the best options and choices to be made.
History of the Veterans Affairs System
Historical Changes in the VA System of Benefits
The U.S. VA System underwent considerable changes during the last several centuries. Relying on the materials offered by the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (2015b), the roots of the DVA had their beginning in 1636. It was the period when the Pilgrims of Plymouth Colony developed conflicts with the Pequot Indians and tried to support the law with the help of which disabled soldiers and the elderly could get the required portion of the support in different forms (U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, 2015b). It was hard to clarify what kind of help could be offered to veterans because the Pilgrims did not specify if the disabled soldiers needed financial, medical, or even psychological help.
In 1776, the Continental Congress approved the idea to provide disabled soldiers with pensions due to the losses and pain they had to deal with. Such improvements demonstrated the intentions of the government to divide support and help for veterans in regards to their possible needs. People had to divide the types of help veterans could ask for and introduce the benefits the current government could suggest. The Continental Congress promoted the division of help into medical and financial. That was one of the crucial steps in the development of the organizations that dealt with veterans’ affairs. In 1811, much attention was paid to the solution of domiciliary questions (U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, 2015b). Many veterans needed governmental support to find new homes for themselves and their families. Congress aimed at the development of the programs and the conditions under which veterans could find new homes and continue living without considerable domestic changes.
The role of veterans in American society underwent considerable changes after the Civil War (U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, 2015b). It was necessary to provide people with homes and regular care due to the destruction and betrayal of the war. Mental complications, personal challenges, and financial needs bothered many Americans at that moment. During the next two centuries, several wars took place. People had to deal with the outcomes of the Civil War, the Indian Wars, and the war between Spanish and Americans (U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, 2015b). There was no appropriate place to live for many participants of the war actions. Soldiers and their families had to return to their ordinary lives with several lost opportunities. In addition to the necessity to live somewhere, people had to think about their future jobs and develop the skills to meet the expectations of their potential employers.
Veterans were not the old people, who needed medical or financial help. There were many young veterans, who returned home and asked for new opportunities to live and support their families. The government was the only source of information and support for such people. Not many organizations were eager to deal with past soldiers. Veterans were accepted as those disabled or challenged people, who had to cope with some personal concerns and memories. It was hard for veterans to find new jobs, to get an education, and to demonstrate their true skills and potentials. Therefore, the role of the Veterans’ Administration was re-evaluated. The conditions under which the Armed Forces worked changed with time. Congress developed a new system where veterans got access to numerous programs such as the compensation based on people’s disabilities, the necessity of rehabilitation, and insurance (U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, 2015b).
Historical Impact on Structural Changes in the VA System
When World War I began, the American soldiers faced numerous challenges and threats that influenced their health considerably. The enemy used mustard gas and other types of chemicals during the war (U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, 2015b). Thus, veterans required significant compensations. Veterans had to improve their health, cope with their mental challenges, and understand how to solve their financial concerns.
People could address three different agencies regarding their needs and expectations: “the Veterans Bureau, the Bureau of Pensions of the Interior Department, and the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers” (Healey & Evans, 2014, p. 419). Each agency had its goal and used different sources to assist veterans in improving their lives. The union of those three agencies created the basis for the DVA that people know today. Still, the American Government did not take any legal approval. It was necessary to check how these agencies could work and assist people. Congress authorized the V.A. in 1930 as an organization that could affect the lives of war veterans and controls the activities of hospitals and other companies that dealt with veterans. The three agencies were combined into one administrative unit to promote the development of the VA health care system, financial compensations, and new opportunities for veterans regarding their age, statuses, and past properties (Healey & Evans, 2014). In a short period, the DVA became a crucial governmental body that helped veterans and their families to become appropriate parts of American society.
Roles of Different People on the Development of the VA System
The development of the DVA is closely connected with the decisions made by the political leaders, like Lincoln, Ford, and Carter, different organizations and their policymakers, who take responsibilities for the creation of benefits for veterans, and ordinary people, who are eager to share their attitudes on war and the life of people after the war. The investigations by Lifton (1985) show that veterans may have a specific attitude to those people, who try to develop their thoughts about war and its possible impact on society, and believe that such people “didn’t care about the war… They just weren’t as ambitious or dedicated” (p. 174). Lifton’s thoughts were perfectly developed in the story where veterans were defined as neither victims nor executors. Veterans create a group of people who can criticize the existing system from different aspects. On the one hand, veterans are ordinary citizens, who observe how the President proclaims “Peace with Honor” and explains the reasons why the country needs more people for military service (Lifton, 1985). On the other hand, veterans can compare the activities of the President as the one, who try to achieve peace, and the one, who develops the skills crucial for a war period and for capturing the enemy and its weapons using other people’s lives. The book of Lifton is a kind of revelation of veterans about their fears, achievements, and victims that could not be avoided.
However, it is also wrong to believe that ordinary people cannot take care of veterans and use their connections and knowledge to cover the changes caused by the war and other military activities people must participate in. The creation of the DVA proves the fact that different people could influence and improve the lives of veterans in different ways. People, who come back from wars, cannot stay the same they were before those wars. Post-traumatic stress disorders, mental health problems, brain traumas, and injuries – all this could change human lives and even lead to suicidal attempts being made (Rowan, 2016). Therefore, in case ordinary people or political leaders can help veterans and support them, all changes should be used because the impact of veterans’ work is huge indeed.
Impact of Lincoln on the Veterans’ Administration Missions
The role of the 16th President of the United States cannot be ignored while discussing the impact of the DVA on veterans’ lives. The mission statement developed by the chosen organization contains the promises introduced by President Lincoln many years ago: “People believe that in the necessity of “serving and honoring the men and women who are America’s veterans” (U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, 2015a). Lincoln’s main idea was that it was enough to take care of a veteran, who came back home after several completed missions and tasks. Lincoln underlined the necessity to provide veterans and their families with any kind of help and support (U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, 2015a).
The representatives of the VA perform their mission using three organizations, which are the Veterans Health Administration, the Veterans Benefits Administration, and the National Cemetery Administration (Pryce, Pryce, & Shackelford, 2012). In these administrations, different people work and pursue different goals. Such variety proves the fact that veterans could ask for different types of help, and an appropriate organization may find the solution to their problems and needs. For example, the Veteran Health Administration (VHA) introduces a significant health-care system that could be offered to American veterans and their relatives. There are 21 integrated service networks where primary and specific health care is offered (Pryce et al., 2012). Some networks are semiautonomous so that cost-effective services could be developed. Besides, there are several private medical centers and clinics where veterans could ask for help. However, in most cases, the DVA agencies are funded by the budget process, and the government investigates new opportunities to improve care for veterans.
The Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) and the National Cemetery Administration (NCA) will be discussed later in this paper because of its impact on veterans, their opportunities, and the future.
Politics in the VA System
The role of political leaders is great as well. Lincoln is not the only leader, who demonstrated his respect for veterans and identified the governmental mistakes made in regards to veterans. For example, President Ford introduced his pardon to all Vietnam veterans, who had to pay for their war activities, on his last day. For a long period, Ford was not able to grant amnesty to the participants of the military activities. His last day as the President of the United States was the day when he admitted his weakness as a veteran and proved the necessity to focus on veterans’ honor in the country with clemency discharges.
Another example of the political amnesty in regards to American veterans was observed during the presidency of Jimmy Carter. In 1977, President Carter focused on the Vietnam veterans and the conditions when Americans refused induction via the war period and asked for forgiveness by erasing the felony-level offenses (Rowan, 2016). These examples show that people find it necessary to make attempts and change their attitudes to veterans. Even if misconduct took place, and certain mistakes were made, it is never too late to ask for forgiveness. It is better when people could identify and accept their mistakes to create good grounds for a better future. However, the time spent on making such decisions cannot be neglected or stopped. Very often, veterans cannot witness such days because of death, stresses, or psychological disorders they suffer from. Presidents or other political figures need to make fast decisions and comprehend their role in the lives of American veterans. The DVA is the organization that helps people to comprehend their roles and possible impacts on veterans. Therefore, it is necessary to clarify the regulations of the DVA, identify the challenges, and learn the benefits that could be offered to American veterans.
Existing Challenges and Regulations
The representatives of the DVA develop and improve the regulations according to the standards that have been developed during the ages. Each year, new ideas help to evaluate the current state of affairs and explain what kind of help veterans of the United States could ask for. Besides, it is also possible to investigate what has been already done, and what ideas have already been implemented. In other words, the evaluation of the achievements helps ordinary people understand if the work of the DVA is effective and if all needs and demands of veterans are taken into consideration. In regards to the missions and regulations of the DVA, veterans, as well as their families, have the right to ask for help and support.
Nowadays, it is possible to use the official site of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and find out the changes that have occurred recently. For example, in 2016, the DVA introduced and discussed 42 regulations. Some of them were improved shortly after being introduced, and some of them are still under discussions because additional explanations and regulations have to be developed. Since the discretionary budget process turns out to be a crucial factor in the organization, it is necessary to promote communication with all three agencies and explain all levels of prioritization among veterans (Pryce et al., 2012). The DVA agencies have to collaborate to identify the financial aspects of the operations they could offer to veterans. At the same time, the DVA needs money and financial support from the outside. Therefore, the three agencies have to discuss the conditions under which new stakeholders and promoters could be invited to stabilize the situation and reduce costs on unnecessary or insignificant activities.
All types of services and support depend on several conditions. It is not enough for a person to say that he/she is a veteran or a member of a veteran’s family. It is also important to introduce information about the experience got and the conditions which make a veteran disable or just unable to continue living without additional support. For example, it is necessary to clarify if veterans are those with service-connected disabilities if they are the prisoners of war if they have the Purple Heart for injuries if the disabilities are catastrophic or not, what the income level is if veterans meet specific criteria and if there are any reasons to deprive a veteran to be a part of a high priority (Pryce et al., 2012). Among the current VA regulations, it is necessary to allow the veteran transportation services and the payments for emergency medication. However, even such services should be offered to veterans in regards to the criteria mentioned above.
All these statements prove the fact that the government takes care of its veterans but never gives clarifications and guarantees that are crucial for the elderly. Therefore, it is recommended to focus on the explanations and clarifications that have to be offered to veterans so that they could understand what kind of help they may ask for and what information they should present.
Regulations in VA Organizations
As it goes with the title, the Veterans Health Administration aims at integrating healthcare-related services and offers introduced to veterans regarding their levels of prioritization. There is a group of people, who take responsibility for deciding if veterans meet the criteria and need the help they ask for. The VBA investigates what service could be offered to a particular veteran and a particular family, introduces the conditions, and explains the outcomes. There are many services the VBA is responsible for. For example, there are compensation services when veterans may ask for disability compensation or pension services when the Administration re-evaluates the incomes of a veteran and protects the benefits of a whole family. Finally, there are insurance services, which maintain life insurance and introduce certain financial benefits and peace.
In addition to the creation of appropriate healthcare services, care homes, and financial benefits, veterans should also think about the last place where they must be, a cemetery. It is not an easy task for many people to be buried close to the native ground close to relatives and friends. The DVA takes care of the quality of services offered at cemeteries and the attitudes demonstrated to the clients. The National Cemetery Administration is the organization that deals with 131 national cemeteries, and such connection provides veterans with guarantees and high-quality services (U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, 2015b). There are also cases when veterans’ families do not have direct access to their veterans’ bodies. Still, there is a tradition to bury a person and have a place to visit and honor the memory. Therefore, the NCA should take care of such situations and deprive people of the necessity to search for a new place or to ask for understanding and support. The NCA has to consider such cases and develop the system under which all veterans and their families may rest in peace.
When people discuss the importance of DVA in the US Government, people must underline the presence of benefits veterans could get. There are many different situations veterans could find themselves in. It could happen that they cannot find appropriate answers or effective solutions. Therefore, they address the benefits system the DVA provides them with. The benefits usually touch upon different aspects of human life including health benefits, financial benefits, employment suggestions, and psychological help. Sometimes, veterans do not know how to use the offered benefits or how to make the right choice. People say about the significance of the DVA and support offered by this organization. Besides, the existing VA system helps veterans to comprehend all their opportunities and benefit with the help offered. However, it is hard to be sure that every veteran is aware of the possibilities and could use their grants, pensions, and benefits properly.
Veterans may want to continue their education and ask for some education service (U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, 2015a). At the same time, such benefits could apply to family members. Still, many veterans are simply not aware of such an exchange of benefits and believe that they have already got everything possible from the government after their military services. There are special programs that veterans could use and improve their lives. However, some veterans fail to understand their opportunities. Therefore, the DVA must take care of such cases and avoid misunderstandings or neglects that could be inherent to veterans. Sometimes, it is important to speak to veterans directly and explain all challenges and benefits. Sometimes, it is expected to communicate with family members and make them realize what benefits the services of their relatives bring. Many types of benefits and help could be offered to veterans and their families. Their identification and clarification include the latest achievements and contributions made by the representatives of the DVA.
Employment benefits include those entire rehabilitation plan issues with the help of which veterans could develop their abilities and improve their attitudes to the current environment (Pryce et al., 2012). Sometimes, it is not easy to ask for help. It is better to create the conditions under which a veteran’s life is like a normal one. VA’ Education and Career Counseling is the program available to veterans who want to get guides for their possible career paths and achieve their goals. Besides, sometimes, veterans believe that their employment benefits help to improve the lives of all family members. The possibility to find a good job and earn money after military services is a questionable issue today. Though the DVA takes care of its veterans, it is impossible to make all public and private organizations accept veterans as their employees. Some judgments, misunderstandings, prejudices, and even fears prevent the development of good relations between veterans in the roles of employees and ordinary people, who may offer a job. Therefore, the employment benefits system has to be developed and improved regarding the current state of affairs observed in today’s companies.
Healthcare and Life Insurance Benefits
The DVA aims at providing valuable life insurance benefits with the help of which it is possible to support veterans and their families. For example, there are many Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance plans that promote payments to people, who suffer losses or have disabilities (blindness or amputation) in service. There are different conditions why people may apply to such insurance, and the plans depend on these differences (U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, 2012). However, many hospitals admit that it is hard to work with veterans because of the necessity to make reports, consider the opportunities, and cover losses, which are hard to predict. Health care benefits may vary considerably. Some veterans may need a psychologist’s help only, and some veterans have to combine numerous surgeries and therapies at the same time. The benefits of this system undergo numerous changes, and veterans have to know what they could ask when they or their family members address to hospitals. The DVA has to control the work of hospitals and investigate the cases when veterans use their rights and benefits to improve their health.
Some people mistakenly believe that veterans do not need education benefits and opportunities. This group of people has already completed their duties and offered it’s country the best services any person could. However, there are many young veterans, who do not want to lose their opportunities for a happy and educated life. Therefore, nowadays, veterans can choose among different schools to continue their education or to provide their children with an opportunity to study at such schools.
For example, there is a Dependents’ Educational Assistance Program (DEA) that helps veterans get their degrees and benefit from training (U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, 2012). The program usually lasts up to 45 months for veterans or their children. It happens that veterans are not required to receive an education. Still, they want to believe that the government supports the safe future of their children. The education benefit system has its peculiarities, and the DVA has to consider the age of a veteran and the presence/absence of children in a veteran’s family. Only in case such details are recognized and evaluated, a fair system may be supported.
State and Social Compensation Benefits
There are situations when veterans do not come back home. Some of them are defined as missing, and some of them die far from home. In such cases, the government offers a certain compensation system. For example, there is a Dependency and Indemnity Compensation benefit that includes a monthly tax-free payment to the parents, spouses, or children of a dead veteran. As a rule, money and other benefits and opportunities are defined regarding the conditions under which a veteran dies and the actual composition of a family. A group of the DVA workers investigates each case and develops an appropriate system of benefits. The same compensation is offered to veterans, who are disabled. The organization defines the amount of payment after medical certificates and reports are investigated. Therefore, it is wrong to believe that all veterans can get the same benefits to disregard their physical conditions.
Finally, there are survivors’ pensions, one of the main financial benefits for American veterans. As a rule, pensions introduce monthly incomes based on tax-free benefits. Veterans, as well as their spouses or children, may ask for such financial benefit in case they introduce enough grounds for this demand (U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, 2012). It is hard to predict a minimum or a maximum of veterans’ pensions because each situation is a unique combination of family status, past incomes, and recent military achievements. Still, each veteran can address the agency of the DVA and ask what kind of help, compensation, or pension is available at the moment.
Home Loans for Veterans
In addition to these benefits, there are also such offers as home loans to provide veterans with a chance to buy or construct a house. This benefit could also be used as an opportunity to improve a home or refinance a mortgage (U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, 2012). These loans could be provided by private lenders and public organizations. Besides, the DVA includes the possibility of such stakeholders as banks or mortgage companies. Such loans are possible when veterans cannot afford other loans or want to reduce their interest rates. These loans are free from additional fees (U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, 2012). Spouses and children of veterans may also ask for such benefits only some new conditions and peculiarities may be taken into consideration.
Significance of the DVA
It is wrong to judge the work of the Veterans Affairs Administration without balancing its backgrounds, facts, and possible effects on people. Veterans have already made many important things in their lives. They protected the whole nation and devoted their lives to provide millions of Americans with a chance to live free and happily. Unfortunately, many people understand the importance of honoring veterans only on Veterans Day. It is the day when the Americans discuss the ideas of patriotism and courage in terms of the achievements demonstrated by their veterans. However, such respect and recognition should not be a one-day activity. Therefore, the work of the DVA remains crucial in the American Government and society today.
More than 22 million veterans live in America now (Portman, 2015). More than seven million people are veterans of the Vietnam Era. There are also approximately 7.5 million veterans of the Gulf War. Besides, about 800,000 veterans of World War II still live in the USA and ask for help from time to time. It is necessary to remember the veterans of the Korean Conflict and its current number of 1.7 million. Finally, the DVA provides veterans, who get their statuses during peacetime only. There are more than 5.5 million of such veterans nowadays. Most of them suffer from certain health disabilities and must continue living and cherishing a hope that the government and the people they must live with could sometimes appreciate their actions and decisions.
Veterans understand that their “proud personal courage”, “genuine naiveté of mind”, and “a lively sense of honor” played an important role several years ago, (Lifton, 1985, p. 375). Nowadays, their enthusiasm has gone away because of the necessity to deal with new challenges and requirements society establishes. Only 25% of all veterans admit that they have already used all their benefits successfully and have never regretted their decision to participate in the war and to join the army. The DVA is the hope for millions of veterans and their families that some benefits and compensations could improve their lives and achieve the results they strive for. The DVA is the governmental achievement that can never be neglected.
Conclusions and Recommendations
Management of care for veterans is a crucial aspect of the discussion in many countries. In the USA, the DVA performs the functions of the major policy-maker and advocate for veterans. Besides, this organization promotes several services and support to veterans and their families. There are different conditions under which people must live. Many veterans do not have the same opportunities ordinary citizens have. Therefore, the activities of the agencies of the DVA must be developed and improved regularly.
First, it is recommended to observe the health care system and the services offered to veterans. In the United States, not all citizens could get free health care and ask for services at any time they need. Veterans may face the same challenges. Therefore, a certain attention to veterans who address hospitals and medical centers should be paid because these people have already made their contributions to the country. Now, the country must take care of them.
Second, public awareness should undergo certain changes. It is not enough to remember the achievements of veterans one day per year. People must learn how veterans live or what they have done for their country. As soon as neighbors learn their veterans, such values as respect, pride, and dignity could be promoted in society. The Veteran Day should not be the only day in the year when people remember about veterans and their contributions. Sometimes, it is possible to demonstrate the movies about the war, its effects on people, and the outcomes that cannot be neglected. Veterans’ experience cannot be compared with anything because the emotions are hard to predict, the memories are impossible to control, and the actions are difficult to forget.
Then, the government must focus on the work of the DVA and consider its possibilities to influence the lives of veterans. As soon as the government starts respecting its veterans not only on paper but also by actions, the rest of the population could do the same. It is wrong to ignore veterans and their achievements. The benefits the DVA offers to them should be improved and developed regarding the health and personal needs of veterans and their families.
Finally, it is suggested to focus on the activities of the DVA to attract the attention of veterans and make them aware of the opportunities and benefits. Veterans and their families have to know what they may ask from their government, and the DVA has to think about the methods of how to inform people and spread the facts carefully.
In general, not many American people know about the existence of the DVA, and few recognize its actual goals and value for the country. However, a certain system has been already developed and introduced. There are many people, who work for the government and use one of the most comprehensive benefit systems in the whole world. Their activities cannot be ignored or misunderstood but must be appreciated and promoted regularly.
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