Wisconsin has earned a distinguished reputation nationally for instituting programs and services that meet the needs of its residents who served in the U.S. armed forces and their families.
The state’s proud tradition of providing assistance to veterans and their families began soon after the Civil War. Most of this early assistance was intended to alleviate the suffering of destitute veterans and their families.
In 1887, the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), a prominent organization representing Civil War veterans, founded the Grand Army Home at King. This facility near Waupaca was eventually turned over to the State of Wisconsin and became the Wisconsin Veterans Home at King.
In 1901, the state honored Civil War veterans by establishing a GAR headquarters and museum in the State Capitol. In 1989, the Legislature authorized the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs to build a new museum, honoring veterans from all wars, across the street from the Capitol. The award-winning Wisconsin Veterans Museum opened in 1993.
In 1919, the state issued its only wartime bonus to Wisconsin veterans of World War I. In 1945, rather than issue a wartime bonus with little lasting value, the Legislature created programs that offered long-term benefits for state veterans and their families.
The Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs was created by Chapter 580, Laws of 1945, to ensure that the state’s veterans receive the state benefits to which they are entitled and to assist them in securing their federal veterans benefits.
The department was given the administrative responsibility for the Grand Army Home at King, the GAR Memorial Hall in the Capitol, the state’s economic and education assistance benefits for veterans, and other programs. It also assumed responsibility for segregated funds for veterans that were combined in 1961 to form the Veterans Trust Fund. In August 2001, the Wisconsin Veterans Home at Union Grove opened. In February 2013, the Wisconsin Veterans Home at Chippewa Falls.
Today, the WDVA provides an array of benefits and services to eligible state veterans and their family members.