Does the VA Need a New Mission Statement?

Should the VA’s mission statement be changed to be more gender neutral? Some in Congress think so and have introduced legislation to change it.

Recently introduced legislation would update the VA’s mission statement with one the bill’s authors promise would be more inclusive of women.

The current VA mission statement is a quotation from President Abraham Lincoln that reads: “To care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan.”

However, according to Reps. Kathleen Rice (D-NY) and Brian Mast (R-FL), the current mission statement “fails to recognize the service and sacrifice of the thousands of women in uniform who have served the United States.”

The bill would change it to read: “To fulfill President Lincoln’s promise to care for those ‘who shall have borne the battle’ and for their families, caregivers, and survivors.”

Rice is the sponsor of the legislation, the Honoring All Veterans Act (H.R. 7158). According to Rice, the number of women serving on active duty has grown substantially and to the point where a new mission statement for the agency is warranted. She cited some statistics in a press release on the bill which said that over 345,000 women have deployed since 9/11. Consequently, a record number of female veterans are expected in the near future.

“As women continue to play an increasingly vital role in our armed forces, they’ve become a larger and more prominent part of our veteran community,” said Rice. “But unfortunately, the Department of Veterans Affairs mission statement simply does not reflect that reality. The brave women who have worn our nation’s uniform and their families deserve to be equally embraced by the motto of the very agency meant to support them. This bill will finally give women veterans the recognition they deserve for their service and sacrifice – it’s long overdue and anything less is unacceptable.”

Mast added, “There’s no doubt that female veterans face unique challenges and healthcare needs that the VA has not yet been able to successfully address. Fixing this critical failure starts at the top and changing the mission statement is a needed first step.”

In addition to changing the mission statement, the bill will also require that within 30 days of enactment, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs publish a notification on the department’s website explaining the mission statement change, update each department website, and issue guidance and a timeline to the entire department for updating all previous mission statement references. Within six months, the Secretary will be required to submit a report to Congress on the department’s compliance.

Companion legislation is expected to be introduced in the Senate in the near future by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY).

Update: Gillibrand introduced the companion bill in the Senate (S. 3672) on November 28.

About the Author

Ian Smith is one of the co-founders of He has over 20 years of combined experience in media and government services, having worked at two government contracting firms and an online news and web development company prior to his current role at FedSmith.