Department of Veterans Affairs Announces New Mission Statement
The Department of Veterans Affairs has updated its mission statement to better reflect its’ 21st century goals to care for all who have served, their families, care providers, and survivors. The VA serves well over 600 thousand women vets, 600 thousand surviving family members, and approximately 50 thousand caregivers in addition to the rest of the veteran population.
Why the Change?
Some might wonder why the VA has gone through the time and expense to change its mission statement when there are pressing issues to consider, including the VA’s troubled electronic records system rollout and difficulties updating the records of those who must add or remove dependents from the VA rolls.
But in an era where culture war issues prevent lawmakers from performing routine chores like agreeing on a military spending budget in favor of arguing whether the DoD policy should have a say in “drag shows,” it seems that a clearly defined mission statement might actually be helpful in terms of context where VA services and benefits are concerned.
What can a veteran and her family expect when approaching the VA for promised benefits and services?
The New Mission Statement of the Department of Veterans Affairs
The new mission statement of the Department of Veterans Affairs goes as follows:
“To fulfill President Lincoln’s promise to care for those who have served in our nation’s military and for their families, caregivers, and survivors.”
What is the most telling thing about the VA mission statement? You don’t see a list of people who are excluded from it. The VA’s mission is to care for those who serve, their families and caregivers.
This sort of expectation management is an important factor for some; it lets people know upfront what they get when approaching the VA for benefits and services. It’s telling that the VA mission statement is publicly posted at VA facilities nationwide; for some, it really does matter.
The Old Mission Statement of the Department of Veterans Affairs
The original mission statement reads:
“To fulfill President Lincoln’s promise ‘to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan.’”
This statement is not an ancient piece of military history written shortly after the Civil War. The original VA mission statement was written in 1959 and reflected the attitude and culture of its times.
The 21st-century military looks radically different than in 1959; men and women serve together, racial discrimination is formally illegal in the ranks, and gay/lesbian troops may serve openly.
It is well worth noting that in each case mentioned above, there were plenty of arguments in the “we never did it that way before” line. Women being allowed to fly and fight combat missions, just one example, seemed absurd to some before rule changes allowed them to serve fully. In modern times we can’t understand why women were barred from combat in the first place.
The same goes for eliminating Jim Crow-type military policies, allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly, etc. None of the arguments against these progressive policies ever found traction in the real world.
It turns out that the old adage that new recruits are told when they hit basic training is true. The U.S. military really IS a microcosm of American society, including members of all the groups listed above formerly discriminated against in the ranks. Those prohibited from serving yesterday are today’s ground forces, leadership, and recruiters.
How the VA Wrote Its New Mission Statement
On the Department of Veterans Affairs official site, the agency notes that it conducted a survey of approximately 30 thousand veterans about a new statement.
“Among Veterans surveyed,” VA.gov says, “the new version of VA’s mission statement was chosen over the current version by every age group; by men and by women; by LGBTQ+ Veterans; and by white, Black/African American, Hispanic/Latino, Asian and American Indian/Alaska Native Veterans.”
The VA’s old mission statement was on public display in many VA centers. As it is replaced with the new one, it is a tangible commitment for the VA to serve “all of the heroes who have served our country, regardless of their race, gender, background, sexual orientation, religion, zip code or identity” according to VA.gov.
About the author
Editor-in-Chief Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter/editor for Air Force Television News and the Pentagon Channel. His freelance work includes contract work for Motorola, VALoans.com, and Credit Karma. He is co-founder of Dim Art House in Springfield, Illinois, and spends his non-writing time as an abstract painter, independent publisher, and occasional filmmaker.