For us VA employees it is a common sight. We see it every day as we enter our workplace. It is prominently displayed in VA lobbies, executive offices and conference rooms. One sees it in front ofthe podium whenever there is a VA speaker. This month it celebrates its 25th birthday. It is the VA seal.

On Oct. 25, 1988, President Ronald Reagan signed the Department of Veterans Affairs Act to establish the Veterans Administration as an executive department.

The legislation called for the act to take effect on March 15, 1989. With the elevation to cabinet status, the new department now needed a seal to replace the old Veterans Administration seal. And time was of essence because this needed to be done in about four months.

A call went out to VA employees nationwide to put their creative skills to work and submit designs that best represent the newest cabinet department. One hundred and eighty-seven (187) VA employees, including Jan Northstar, Atlanta OPA Director, submitted entries for consideration. To review all these designs and drawings, VA set up a committee to review the entries and select the winning design.

I was a part of that 10-member panel. We reviewed all the submissions and narrowed it down to a select few and then, after much discussion, agreed on the entry submitted by David Gregory, a medical media production specialist at the Indianapolis VA Medical Center.

Once the selection was made, the proposed design needed to be sent to the Institute of Heraldry, the government’s overseer of official seals, decorations, medals, insignia, badges, and other items authorized for official display or wear by government personnel or agencies.

The heraldry made only two changes to the submitted design. It added the five stars that we see above the eagle and it spelled out United States of America at the bottom of the seal instead of USA.

Now I know many of you have become very familiar with the VA seal. We can easily identify it. But do you know what the seal represents?

Well, Mr. Gregory, the designer explained it in his entry. He said he focused on traditional American symbols and his own innovative symbolism to visually convey VA’s special mission. Gregory was a Veteran who served in the Army Reserve, Naval Reserve, and Army National Guard. After his military discharge, he worked for DoD as an illustrator prior to coming to VA in 1985.

VA Secretary Edward J. Derwinski presents David Gregory an award for the newly selected and approved official VA seal.

The VA seal features five key elements. The primary element is the bald eagle, the official symbol of the United States since 1789. The mature eagle is a powerful representation of the United States symbolizing both the American people and the freedoms they enjoy.
The two flags in the eagle’s talons symbolize America’s history from the thirteen colonies to the present fifty states. A golden cord symbolic of those Americans who have fallen in service to their country binds the flags. The cord is also held by the eagle to perpetuate the memory of those Veterans who have sacrificed for the nation. The seal’s colors are derived from the American flag and the natural colors of the earth, representing the nation’s commitment to its Veterans.

The circle of five stars above the eagle, added by the Institute of Heraldry, represent the five branches of the U.S. military – Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard, which produce the Veterans VA serves.

For his winning entry, Mr. Gregory, who died in 2004, received a cash award and a trip to Washington, D.C. where he was honored by Edward J. Derwinski, the first secretary of Veterans Affairs.A bigger reward for him, however, was seeing the wide display and recognition of his work and design.

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Published on Mar. 16, 2014

Estimated reading time is 3.3 min.

Views to date: 260


  1. Usmc Girl March 17, 2014 at 9:33 am

    I bet he’d be mortified to know these days most vets can’t stand seeing that logo due to how the VA operates is incompetent & does everything in their power to deny a claim especially of rape survivors even against title 38 exclusion for pre existing conditions (b/c according to all branches rape survivors have personality disorders.) (Which VA says is pre existing DENIED law broken VA laughing all the way to the bank with the money they saved not caring how them breaking the law effects the vet)

    Battling for Veterans’ Benefits New data show unfair treatment at the VA for survivors of sexual assault in the military –

  2. Todd Proffit March 17, 2014 at 1:58 am

    Congratulations VA and happy birthday! The new zeal featured its key elements wonderfully, depicting the valiant works of the veterans. Jo well done!

  3. Anthony J. DeCarlo March 16, 2014 at 9:35 pm

    Rather than messages like this, I’d rather have the VA expend energy on developing a C&P system that does not require veterans to hire lawyers to get benefits they should have gotten without getting a lawyer. Got to be something wrong with the system.

  4. Timothy Holmes March 16, 2014 at 6:42 pm

    Still proud to serve under our seal.

  5. Steve Grogan March 16, 2014 at 5:24 pm

    When Veterans See The Seal, It is a symbol to us of the Commitment that has been made by the President of The United States of America that we will be taken care of when and if we return home and leave the Service that we have so faithful given so much to defend this great nation. We know the promise was made and we are so ever grateful to fulfill our part. A lot of veterans today are struggling to get by after returning home and for them they see a tarnished Seal. That should never happen on any President’s watch.

  6. Daniel L. Russo March 16, 2014 at 5:01 pm

    Thank you for that wonderful history of the seal of the Department of Veterans Affairs. I knew that the Department evolved from the Administration, but I did not realize that the creation of a department would require the development of a seal.

    Thanks to this article I will appreciate the seal more and I thank Mr. David Gregory for his beautiful creation. If it is not now included, it would be nice if a display of the seal in each facility could recognize his creation with a small plaque or some other means.

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