This benefits system dates back to 1636. In 1917, Congress established a new system of veteran benefits when the United States entered World War I. Included were programs for disability compensation, insurance for servicepersons and veterans and vocational rehabilitation for the disabled.
The VA health system has grown from 54 hospitals in 1930 to today include 171 medical centers; more than 350 outpatient, community and outreach clinics; 126 nursing home care units; and 35 domiciliaries. The facilities provide a broad spectrum of medical, surgical and rehabilitative care, while the responsibilities and benefits programs of the VA grew tremendously during the past six decades. World War II resulted in an increase not only in the veteran population, but also in a large number of new benefits enacted by the Congress. Today, the VHA is the largest integrated health system, with a medical care appropriation of more than $47 billion.updated February 15, 2012