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National VA Chaplain Service


What Is a VA Chaplain?

The Chaplain Service of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs dates back to 1865. President Abraham Lincoln signed legislation that established the first VA hospital for recovering veterans – adding to what would later become known as VA disability benefits. By 1945, the VA had placed chaplains at all VA-administered medical facilities, recognizing the tremendous value chaplain service brings to recovering and disabled military members.

VA chaplains provide many different services to patients who are seeking medical care through VA Healthcare Systems, and they are considered part of the patient care alignment medical team (PACT)– even completing rounds with practicing physicians and recording spiritual care interventions in patients’ medical charts. In addition, every VA Healthcare System has a chapel prepared to accommodate the full range of religious traditions and is open for prayer, meditation, or simple, quiet meditation.

Today’s VA chaplains are trained to help with the religious, spiritual, psychological, and social needs of veterans, their families, and medical staff as part of the full package of veterans benefits. You can find VA chaplains in VA-administered hospitals, clinics, and nursing homes. 

While a VA chaplain may be formally associated with a particular faith, VA chaplains are trained, willing, and able to work with veterans and active-duty military personnel of all faith backgrounds. VA chaplains help ensure that every veteran patient has the opportunity to freely exercise their religion in a way that meets their specific needs. 

VA chaplains also protect veterans from having any specific religious viewpoint imposed on them while they receive medical care in a VA-administered facility. VA chaplains provide religious, spiritual, and pastoral care only at the request of, and with the consent of, individual veteran patients.