The history of veterans' benefits and services in the United States is reviewed; it demonstrates their responsiveness to dominant political, economic, military and medical interests. The ideological position that social services must be "deserved" is also seen to be an important influence on the V.A. system. The consequent inaccessibility of V.A. medical care to most veterans and almost all non-veterans raises questions about the appropriateness of the V.A. system as a model for national health care.

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