The Department of Veterans Affairs announced a new mission statement Thursday, replacing male-specific language with a more inclusive motto.
The modified statement now reads: “To fulfill President Lincoln’s promise to care for those who have served in our nation’s military and for their families, caregivers, and survivors.” Scrubbing the original quote from plaques, stationery, and signs will cost just under $2 million, Military.com reported, citing department estimates.
Adopted 64 years ago, the original statement comes from President Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural address: “To care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan,” Stars and Stripes quoted. (RELATED: Lloyd Austin Authorizes New Names For Confederate Military Bases)
We at VA proudly serve all who served. That’s why, today, we’re launching our new mission statement:
“To fulfill President Lincoln’s promise to care for those who have served in our nation’s military and for their families, caregivers, and survivors.” https://t.co/pOC0LMxB4v
— Secretary Denis McDonough (@SecVetAffairs) March 16, 2023
The VA originally resisted pressure to change the statement after Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) described the quote as “sexist and outdated,” Stars and Stripes reported in 2018. “They’re missing the point that women don’t feel comfortable at the VA,” IAVA Executive Director Allison Jaslow told Stars and Stripes. “We want to be respected and appreciated as much as male veterans are, and the motto is symbolic of overall challenges,” Jaslow said.
Former VA Secretary Robert Wilkie opposed changes to the motto, telling Congress in 2019 that his respect for Lincoln’s words would not allow modification, according to Military.com. Failed attempts to nix the motto came through bills introduced in 2019 and 2021 that would have required the VA to change its language, Military.com noted.
The motto returned to the spotlight when current VA Secretary Denis McDonough vowed to review the statement after taking office in 2021. “We want all Veterans, their families, caregivers, and survivors to know that VA is here for them – and that begins with our mission,” McDonough tweeted Thursday.