National Home For Disabled Volunteer Soldiers - 1916-1930


In 1916, the Board of Managers believed that membership had begun to decline. Considering the Civil War participants to have been between 13 and 43 years old in 1860, the youngest of the remaining Civil War veterans would have been 69 years old and the oldest 99, in 1916. As the death rate for the older members increased and fewer younger veterans entered the Home, membership would decline. However, on April 6, 1917, the United States entered World War I. By the time of the armistice on November 11, 1918, almost five million Americans had entered the armed forces. On October 6, 1917, an amendment to the War Risk Insurance Act, originally enacted in 1914 to insure American ships and cargo against risks of war, extended eligibility for National Home membership to all troops serving in the “German War” and, most importantly, made the provision that all veterans were entitled to medical, surgical and hospital care.

Prior to the 1917 amendment, the only veterans entitled to such medical care were the members of the National Home who had access to the Home hospitals. All other veterans were dependent on civilian medical services. The 1917 amendment meant that all veterans were eligible for the same medical care as the members of the National Home. Clearly, there were not sufficient hospital facilities at the ten Home branches to care for the potentially high number of World War I veterans.

After the Armistice, the Bureau of War Risk Insurance did not have the resources, particularly medical facilities, to meet the needs of World War veterans. In 1919, the responsibility for veterans’ services was distributed among several agencies: the United States Public Health Service took over the provision of medical and hospital services; the Federal Board for Vocational Rehabilitation assumed the task of organizing vocational rehabilitation programs; and the War Risk Insurance Bureau managed compensation and insurance payouts. The burden on government hospitals, administered by the Public Health Service, was so great that it began to contract with private hospitals to provide health care for veterans.

On March 4, 1921, in response to the need for more hospitals serving veterans, Congress appropriated funds to the Secretary of the Treasury to construct additional hospitals for veterans covered by the War Risk Insurance Act amendment. In addition, Congress required the Bureau of War Risk Insurance to make allotments to the National Home to fund alterations or improvement to existing Home facilities for the purpose of caring for War Risk Insurance beneficiaries.

Immediately after the war, the National Home made several changes in its organization to accommodate the large number of returning veterans by 1) transforming the facilities of two branches into hospitals and categorizing them for specialized care (Marion for neuropsychiatric cases and Mountain for tuberculosis), 2) modernizing existing facilities and establishing tuberculosis wards (Central and Pacific); and 3)building entirely new hospitals (Northwestern), using funding from the Treasury Department.

In August 1921, Congress acted to consolidate all veterans’ benefits into a single independent agency, the Veterans Bureau. On April 29, 1922, this agency assumed responsibility for fifty-seven veterans’ hospitals operated by the Public Health Service as well as nine under construction by the Treasury Department. By 1926, the Board began to see a new trend in veterans’ use of the National Home. For the most part, the World War I veterans were receiving medical treatment and returning to civilian life rather than entering the domiciliary program for the Home. The Board noted that hospital care costs were almost three times the cost of domiciliary care and required large capital investments in hospitals, medical equipment, and professional staff. By 1928, the Board concluded that it was not capable of managing the National Home as a national medical service. In June 1929, the president of the board of Managers was named to the Federal Commission for Consideration of Government Activities Dealing with Veterans’ Matters; the work of this commission resulted in the creation of the Veterans Administration.

On July 21, 1930, the Veterans Bureau, the Bureau of Pensions, and the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers were consolidated into the Veterans Administration, with the National Home being designated the “Home Service.” In 1933, President Franklin Roosevelt’s relief program put a temporary hold on funding for Veterans Administration construction projects. Two years later, in August 1935, plans were announced for a $20,000,000 building program for the Veterans Administration. Several of the former National Home branches received funding for new medical treatment buildings, domiciliaries, storage buildings, and garages for staff quarters.

On December 7, 1941, another war brought a new period of change to the former National Home when an even larger number of citizens were called upon for military service. To meet the demand for services after World War II, and later the Korean and Vietnam Wars, the former branches of the National Home were expanded and adapted once again to serve veterans.

On July 5, 1884, Congress approved the Board’s recommendation to change the eligibility requirements for admission, allowing veterans disabled by old age or disease to apply without having to prove any service-related disability. In effect, the Federal

During its life, the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers was also known "officially" as the National Military Home and colloquially as the Old Soldiers Home. The formal organizational name was not changed by statute, but the mailing address for most branches became National Military Home, the city and state. In the early days the designation of "old soldier" had no bearing on an individual veteran's age. The appellation was use for all former members of the Union forces from their teens to their seventies.

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