Agency Primer: Department of Veterans Affairs

Agency Primer by IRG:

Wisconsin’s Department of Veterans Affairs

The Department of Veterans Affairs and the State of Wisconsin have a long history of serving veterans. Services for veterans in Wisconsin started after the Civil War when in 1887, the Grand Army of the Republic was formed and established the nursing home at King. In 1919, the legislature would act again to provide care to veterans of World War I. The Service Recognition Board would provide cash bonuses to veterans and start a fund to assist wounded veterans. In the intervening years between World War I and World War II, other benefits would be made available to veterans through the Soldiers’ Rehabilitation Board. In 1945, the Department of Veterans Affairs was created by the legislature through the consolidation of all the state’s veteran assistance programs. As the programs were essentially supported through separate funds, the Department took over their responsibilities and consolidated the funds into the Veterans Trust Fund in 1961.

There are roughly 350,000 veterans living in Wisconsin today and the department is charged with the responsibility of administering its various programs to the eligible veterans across the state. The department operates three nursing homes, three memorial cemeteries, and offers assistance to veterans. DVA offers housing assistance, mental health programs, workforce training, programs offered through Wisconsin’s G.I Bill, and assistance with other grants and credits that veterans may be eligible for. The department also operates the Wisconsin Veterans Museum which is located in Madison near the Wisconsin State Capitol building.

Today, the Department is headed by a Secretary who must be a Veteran and is appointed by the Governor with advice and consent of the senate. Under the direction of the Secretary, services are administered through six divisions. In addition, the agency is guided by the board of veterans affairs composed of 9 members appointed by the governor with senate approval. Similar to other boards, members serve staggered 4-year terms. All board members must be veterans, as defined by statute, and must, through their combined makeup, represent all of Wisconsin’s congressional districts. The Department of Veterans Affairs is located just west of downtown Madison.

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