Legislation enacted in 1925 established a Veterans Service Officer, the predecessor of the Department of Veterans’ Services. Current statutory authority is found at A.R.S. §§41-601 through 41-612.
The Department of Veterans’ Services (Department) provides direct services to veterans and helps veterans connect with their VA benefits. The Department operates two skilled nursing homes for Arizona veterans in Phoenix and Tucson, and manages and maintains three veterans’ cemeteries in Sierra Vista, Marana and Flagstaff. In addition, the National Memorial Cemetery of Arizona is in Phoenix.
The Department is authorized to provide conservator and guardian services for incapacitated veterans and may act as the personal representative of the estate of a deceased veteran or family member. The Department may award the Arizona Gold Star Military Medal to an individual killed in action on or after February 14, 1912.
In addition, the Department provides critical, state-wide coordination and technical assistance to services and organizations serving veterans, which may include coordinating services across private and public sectors, serving targeted populations such as veterans experiencing homelessness and women veterans and building community capacity to address veteran employment and higher education.
The Arizona Veterans’ Service Advisory Commission provides policy advice to the Governor and Director regarding veterans’ issues. The Commission consists of nine members, appointed by the Governor to three-year terms.
The Department administers several funds including the State Home for Veterans’ Trust Fund; the State Veterans’ Cemetery Fund; the Arizona State Veterans’ Cemetery Trust Fund; the Military Family Relief Fund; the Post 9/11 Veteran Education Relief Fund; and the Veterans’ Donations Fund.
Arizona has provided services to Arizona veterans since 1925, when it created the position of a Veterans’ Service Officer to represent honorably discharged veterans or their survivors and secure any claims or benefits to which the veteran was entitled. This position was abolished by Laws 1951, Chapter 107 and replaced by the five-member Arizona Veterans’ Service Commission. The Commission was authorized to appoint the Director of Veterans’ Affairs.
Laws 1972, Chapter 142 created the Department of Economic Security, which combined a number of state agencies into one department. Among those integrated into the new DES was the Veterans’ Service Commission. Other entities included the Employment Security Commission, the State Department of Public Welfare, the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, the State Office of Economic Opportunity, the Apprenticeship Council, the State Office of Manpower Planning, a section on Aging and a section of Rehabilitation for the Visually Impaired. The purpose statement explained the “purpose of the act is to provide an integration of direct services … that would reduce duplication of administrative efforts, services and expenditures… and provide the means by which people with multiple problems might find the solution… in a single department’s coordinated service.”
Primarily at the request of various Veterans’ organizations, the Governor reestablished the Commission as a separate entity in 1982. The purpose statement of Laws 1982, Chapter 87 stated “The goals and objectives of the Arizona Veterans’ Service Commission are to assist in certain interests and affairs of veterans and their surviving spouses and children who are currently residing in this state.” The Commission consisted of five members appointed by the Governor to three-year terms. The Commission appointed a director of veterans’ affairs who also served as the executive officer of the Commission. The measure transferred personnel, equipment and funds from the Department of Economic Security to the Arizona Veterans’ Service Commission, effective July 1, 1982.
In 1999, the Legislature created a separate Department of Veterans’ Services headed by a governor-appointed director and established the Commission as an advisory body. The measure transferred all matters, property, records, personnel, and unexpended or unencumbered appropriated monies from the Commission to the Department. See Laws 1999, Chapter 164.
Laws 2009, Chapter 31 established the Arizona Gold Star Military Medal and outlined criteria for its award. Laws 2014, Chapter 191 required the Department to establish an application process and revised eligibility requirements.
The Legislature appropriated $9.2 million in 2015 for the state’s share of expenses to construct a veterans’ home in Yuma. The 2017 budget appropriated $10 million for a similar facility in Flagstaff. An additional $4 million was appropriated for each home in 2019. According to the Joint Legislative Budget Committee FY 2020 Baseline Book, the Department applied for funding from the federal government to cover the balance of the estimated cost of construction, and received a commitment from the federal government in 2018. See JLBC FY 2020 Baseline Book, page 466.
Laws 2019, Chapter 78 authorized the Department to construct and operate more than one veterans’ home facility in Arizona. Current law allowed construction and operation of one such facility.
Laws 2019, Chapter 104 requires the Department to provide data and health information regarding veteran suicides to the Department of Health Services for the purpose of compiling an annual report on veteran suicides in Arizona. Information and records are confidential and are not subject to subpoena, discovery or introduction into evidence. The first report is due in 2020. The 2019 budget appropriated $1.2 million from the state general fund to the Department for veteran suicide prevention, outlines criteria, and requires JLBC review prior to spending monies in the special line item. See Laws 2019, Chapter 263.
- Arizona Revised Statutes §§ 41-601 et seq.
- Session Laws
- Laws 1925, Chapter 84
- Laws 1951, Chapter 107
- Laws 1972, Chapter 142
- Laws 1982, Chapter 87
- Laws 1999, Chapter 164
- Laws 2009, chapter 31
- Laws 2014, Chapter 191
- Laws 2019, Chapter 78, Chapter 104 and Chapter 263
FY 2020 Baseline Book, Joint Legislative Budget Committee
Department of Veterans' Affairs website
Related Collections at Arizona State Archives
- Record Group 096 – Arizona Vietnam Veterans Memorial Board, 1984-1987
- Record Group 145 – Arizona Veterans’ Service Commission, 1951-1999
- Record Group 179 – Korean War Memorial Commission, 1985-1991
- Record Group 208 – Arizona State Veteran Home
- Record Group 214 – Arizona Department of Veterans’ Services
- Manuscript Group 015 – Council of Abandoned Military Posts