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VETERANS’ AFFAIRS, ADMINISTRATIVE COMMITTEE ON
[Authorized: NDCC Chapter 37-18]

Direct state involvement in veterans' affairs began in 1905 with creation of a Bureau of Pensions within the office of the Adjutant General. The purpose of the Bureau was to assist veterans with filing for federal pensions. Later, the State Legislature appropriated funds in 1913 and 1915 to help elderly veterans attend the Grand Army of the Republic conventions and to support the Grand Army of the Republic Department of North Dakota.

In 1927, the State Legislature established the office of the Veterans' Service Commissioner who was appointed for a two-year term by the Governor from a list of five candidates provided by the State Executive Committee of the American Legion. The Veterans' Service Commissioner was responsible for representing veterans and their widows or heirs in claims or appeals against the federal government for compensation, pensions, or other benefits (S. L. 1927, Ch. 281).

In 1943 the Veterans' Aid Commission was created to administer the Veterans' Aid Fund (S. L. 1943, Ch. 269). The Commission consisted of three members appointed by the Governor. The Veterans' Service Commissioner served as the executive secretary of the Veterans' Aid Commission. The State Legislature appropriated $75,000 for the Veterans' Aid Fund to provide temporary assistance to veterans while relief from other sources was pending.

The office of county veterans' service officer was authorized in the 1944 Special Session of the State Legislature (S. L. 1944, Ch. 30). An officer was appointed in each county by the Board of County Commissioners and served under the supervision of the Veterans' Service Commissioner. The county veterans' service officers assisted area veterans in applying for veteran's benefits and helped veterans return to civilian life.

In 1945, the Department of Veterans' Affairs was established and was headed by the Veterans' Service Commissioner (S. L. 1945, Ch. 237). The functions of the Department of Veterans' Affairs included coordinating services from agencies or institutions providing benefits to veterans, assisting veterans with filing claims, assisting and supervising county veterans' service officers, as well as offering other programs and benefits required by law. In addition to creating the Department of Veterans' Affairs, the State Legislature expanded the membership of the Veterans' Aid Commission to five members, appropriated $125,000 for the Veterans' Aid Fund, and created an advisory committee ranging from seven to fifteen members to advise the agency and the Veterans' Aid Commission about veterans' issues and needs.

In 1971, the Administrative Committee on Veterans' Affairs was established to replace the Veterans' Aid Commission and the advisory committee. The membership of the Administrative Committee on Veterans' Affairs consisted of the Adjutant General, the center director of the Veterans' Administration, the Director of Institutions, and the executive director of the Employment Security Bureau (later called Job Service North Dakota). Twelve other members were appointed by the Governor from lists of candidates provided by the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Disabled American Veterans, and Veterans of World War I, USA. Committee members served three-year staggered terms and vacancies were filled by the Governor.  A chairman and secretary were selected by the Governor from the voting membership and meetings were held at the call of the chairman or upon written request of four voting members. Two committees were created; one was responsible for appointing the Commandant of the Soldiers’ Home and providing guidance for the administration of the Home. The second subcommittee was charged with supervising the Department of Veterans’ Affairs and appointing the Commissioner of Veterans' Affairs (S. L. 1971, Ch. 344). The Administrative Committee on Veterans' Affairs was also responsible for assisting veterans and their dependents in obtaining benefits, coordinating county veterans' service programs, and administering the veterans' loan program, all of which was accomplished through the Department of Veterans' Affairs. 

In 1985 the name of the Soldiers’ Home changed to the Veterans’ Home (S. L. 1985, Ch. 397) and legislation changed the voting membership to fifteen. Candidates for committee membership were selected by the following groups: American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Disabled American Veterans, Veterans of World War II, Korea, and Vietnam (AMVETS), and Vietnam Veterans of America. World War I veterans no longer served among organizations submitting names of candidates to the Governor for this committee (S. L. 1985, Ch. 400). The responsibilities of the two subcommittees remained the same but the requirement for how many members were to serve on a committee was eliminated (S. L. 1987, Ch. 421).  

In 1991 the Director of Institutions functions were transferred to the Office of Management and the Budget (S. L. 1991, Ch. 592), and in 1995 legislation reduced the number of ex-officio members to three. They included the Adjutant General, the center director of the Veteran’s Administration, and the executive director of Job Service of North Dakota (S. L. 1995, Ch. 54).

In 2003 the chairman and secretary of the Administrative Committee on Veterans’ Affairs appointed a seven member Governing Board who managed the administration of the Veteran’s Home, established the length of service by a Board member, and appointed an administrator for the Home. The administrator could also serve as Commandant if honorably discharged. Board members were subject to ratification by the majority of voting members serving on the Administrative Committee on Veteran’s Affairs (S.L. 2003, Ch. 301).  

There were no changes to the subcommittee for the Department of Veterans’ Affairs who were charged to keep North Dakota veterans and their dependents informed of benefits available from the US Veterans' Administration in the areas of compensation, pension, hospitalization, education, home loans, and death. Supported by department efforts, veterans received state benefits such as educational opportunities for dependents of MIAs and POWs, tax exemptions for the disabled, job reinstatement, and veterans' preference in public employment. In addition, the department administered the veterans’ aid program. The network of county veterans' service officers were trained, supervised, and advised by the department to secure benefits for veterans of the state. 
 
The Governing Board of the Veteran’s Home and the subcommittee for the Department of Veterans’ Affairs were required to give annual performance reviews for the administrator and the Commissioner, and to create and implement a strategic plan for the Veterans’ Home and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. The results were sent to Administrative Committee on Veteran’s Affairs and a report was submitted to the Governor. The Department of Veterans’ Affairs is located in Fargo.
 
CHRONOLOGY
1889       Grand Army of the Republic recommended that a Territorial Soldiers’ Home be built in Hot Springs, Territory of Dakota (T.L. 1889, Ch, 114).

1889       After statehood, all territory lying north of the seventh standard parallel became known as North Dakota (S. L. 1889, Ch. 99).

1890       The North Dakota Soldiers’ Home was built in Lisbon, providing a permanent home and subsistence for honorably discharged disabled soldiers, sailors, and marines.  A Board appointed by the Governor selected a Commandant as administrator of the Home.  The chief officer of the Grand Army of the Republic served as Board chairman (S. L. 1890, Ch. 165). 

1893       Widows or wives of soldiers became eligible to live at the Home (S. L. 1893, Ch. 121).

1897       The Board governing the Soldiers’ Home was known as the Board of Trustees (S. L. 1897, Ch. 132).
 
1905       The Legislature required the Adjutant General to maintain a Bureau of Pensions to assist veterans with filing for federal pensions (S. L. 1905, Ch. 12). Legislation provided for the care and disposition of estates of deceased residents at the Soldiers’ Home, and directed the State Auditor to “pay over” funds belonging to the Soldiers’ Home in Lisbon to the institution treasurer (S. L. 1905, Ch. 163; Ch. 164).

1911       Board of Trustee members consisted of six members, four gubernatorial appointees who were veterans, and two individuals who lived in the county of the Soldiers’ Home (S. L. 1911, Ch. 278).

1923       Legislation required the Commandant of the Soldiers’ Home to be a veteran (S. L. 1923, Ch. 245).

1927       The office of Veterans’ Service Commissioner was established.  The Commissioner was appointed by the Governor from a list of five names furnished by the State Executive Committee of the American Legion (S. L. 1927, Ch. 281).

1933       The Board now included two members of the Spanish American War, two members who served in World War I, and a member from the Grand Army of the Republic (S. L. 1933, Ch. 200).  

1943       Two funds were created by the legislature including a Veterans’ State Post-War Rehabilitation Reserve Fund and the Veterans’ Emergency Fund.  The Veterans’ Aid Commission was also created (S. L. 1943, Ch. 180; Ch. 269; Ch. 270).

1944-1945  The Legislature required that the Adjutant General of the State of North Dakota become the administrator for Camp Gilbert C. Grafton located in Ramsey County (S. L. 1944-1945, Ch. 234), and it authorized the Veterans’ Service Commissioner to be the supervisor of the Board of County Commissioners who in turn appointed, employed, and paid a county veterans’ service officer to assist returning members of the armed forces (S. L. 1944-1945, Ch. 236).  The Department of Veterans’ Affairs was created (S. L. 1944-1945, Ch. 237).

1949       A legislative amendment required the Commandant to be a veteran of either the Spanish American War, World War I, or World War II (S. L. 1949, Ch. 235).

1959       In order to serve as a Board member a veteran who served in the armed forces during a time of conflict had to be honorably discharged from active service (S. L. 1959, Ch. 279).

1969       There were additional qualifications regarding the Commandant who had to be honorably discharged from active service while the nation was in a period of conflict (S. L. 1969, Ch. 325). 

1971       The Administrative Committee on Veteran’s Affairs was created to replace the Veterans’ Aid Commission (S.L. 1971, Ch. 344).

1979       Legislation created Job Service North Dakota to replace the Employment Security Bureau (S. L. 1979, Ch. 522).

1985       The Soldiers’ Home was renamed the Veterans’ Home, and the classification for “veteran” and “war-time veteran” were redefined (S. L. 1985, Ch. 397). The Administrative Committee on Veterans’ Affairs increased to fifteen voting members with  four ex-officio members.  Names of the remaining eleven veteran members were provided by the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Disabled American Veterans and those who had served in World War II, Korea, or Vietnam (AMVETS) and Vietnam Veterans’ of America Incorporated (S. L. 1985, Ch. 400).

1987       The two subcommittees no longer required a specific number of members, and additional requirements for admission to the Veterans’ Home were listed (S. L. 1987 Ch. 421).

1991       The Director of Institutions functions were transferred to the Office of Management and the Budget (S. L. 1991, Ch. 592).

1995       Legislation reduced the number of ex-officio members for the Administrative Committee on Veterans’ Affairs to three (S. L. 1995, Ch. 54).

2003       Changes to the subcommittees required that one subcommittee be replaced by a seven-member Board to govern the Veterans’ Home, while the other subcommittee governed and supervised the Department of Veterans Affairs (S. L. 2003, Ch. 301).

2005       The Administrative Committee on Veterans Affairs was to designate an honorably discharged veteran to manage the affairs of the Veterans’ Home and the Commandant could also fulfill the role of administrator (S. L. 2005, Ch. 312).

2009       The Veterans’ Home Board was authorized to purchase third party telephone service for veterans and to accept applications and fees of residents (S.L. 2009, Ch. 303).

SERIES
31013 Veterans’ Aid Commission Minutes.
31014 General Ledger.
32094 Selective Service Department. Draft Registration Cards.

SOURCES
Department of Veterans’ Affairs Website.
Gray, David P.  Guide to the North Dakota State Archives, 1985.
Laws of Dakota Territory.
North Dakota Century Code.
North Dakota Secretary of State Blue Book.
North Dakota State Legislature Session Laws.

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