It was Abraham Lincoln who said the purpose of the VA was to "care for him who shall have borne the battle." But the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have pushed the VA further behind in that mission, and today there are a million veterans waiting for the VA to handle their disability claims.
That has led some to latch onto another motto making the rounds for how the VA operates: "Delay, Deny and Hope That I Die."
"When I hear that, I will tell you that it really troubles me. As somebody who has devoted 35 years of my life to this organization, and to serving veterans, it's extremely troubling that there are veterans who feel that way," the VA's Deputy Undersecretary for Benefits Michael Walcoff, told 60 Minutes correspondent Byron Pitts.
Last year, $30 billion dollars - one third of the VA's total budget - was paid in disability compensation to nearly three million veterans.
To receive a disability benefit, a veteran has to be honorably discharged.
"They have to have a current disability, and provide evidence that it was service related?" Pitts asked Walcoff.
"That it's connected to their service, right," he replied.
"Why, then, is the claim form 23 pages long?" Pitts asked.
"A 23-page application form I think is probably, goes beyond just what is required. And one of the things that we're looking at is to try to simplify the process," Walcoff said.
That process has been strained by a flood of disability claims - everything from combat wounds to injuries off the battlefield, illnesses and psychological disorders. Since 2003, 400,000 claims have come from veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, hundreds of thousands more from aging veterans of earlier conflicts.
Add to that the recession, which is forcing more veterans to turn to the VA for help. Paul Sullivan was an Army scout during the Gulf War in 1991 and later spent six years working at the VA, analyzing trends in disability claims.
"All of those things have resulted in the Veterans Benefits Administration facing a backlog of one million claims," Sullivan told Pitts.
Sullivan said the system is "absolutely overwhelmed." He is now executive director of Veterans for Common Sense, a group that champions veterans issues.
"Veterans wait on average about six months to receive an initial answer on a disability claim. If a veteran disagrees with VA's decision, the veteran waits another four years. That is a crisis," Sullivan said.
And that's how Army veteran Joe Devins sees it. In late 2003, he was on patrol in Baghdad when he says an IED exploded near his truck.
Remembering the blast, he told Pitts, "I'd say for the first few seconds afterwards, I wasn't really sure if I was dead or alive."
Devins left the Army in 2004 and now receives $704 a month for a back injury and for migraine headaches that he says were caused by the IED. Devins also claims to suffer from sleeplessness, anxiety and anger. "I haven't had a single night's sleep without either over-the-counter or prescription medication since probably December of '03."
Yet it wasn't until two years after his discharge that a VA counselor told Devins he had PTSD (Post-traumatic stress disorder) and should apply for benefits. So he did.
Ten months later, the VA rejected his claim.
Asked why they denied the PTSD claim, Devins told Pitts, "Because they said I had to prove, show them proof that the incident with the IED actually happened."
But Devins was already getting benefits for the migraines he says were caused by the IED. Asked if that doesn't prove he was there, Devins told Pitts, "I would think so, but apparently that wasn't enough proof for them."
"What do you think they were saying about you, though?" Pitts asked.
"That I was making stuff up," Devins said. "That I was just out to get money."
The VA doesn't say that Devins is making up his claim, only that he can't prove it. He gets benefits for migraines, simply because they started while he was in the Army. But there is no mention of an IED explosion in his military records.
Devins' situation is not uncommon. It can be difficult to pin down a particular cause of PTSD. So the VA says it is changing the rules for these claims, and veterans will no longer have to prove a connection between specific incidents and their Post-traumatic stress disorder.