Salem VA Medical Center: The history and future of “a great monument”

Salem VA Medical Center celebrates 85 years since its dedication by President Franklin Roosevelt


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On October 19, 1934, President Franklin Roosevelt arrived in Roanoke County, Virginia, to dedicate a new 445-acre Veteran’s hospital complex. TOver 25,000 people crowded he incomplete sixteen-building campus, nestled within the Blue Ridge Mountains, to hear the President’s dedication.  Then then-named Roanoke Veterans Administration Hospital was designed to be a self-sufficient Veterans rehab community. Though 50 Veteran Administration hospitals were built between 1920 – 1946, Salem VA Medical Center was the only one to be dedicated by a sitting President (and still is). Upon opening, the Salem VA Medical Center ensured-

President Franklin D. Roosevelt arrives in Roanoke, Virginia on October 19, 1934 to dedicate the new Roanoke Veterans Administration Hospital.

“that [America’s] disabled and sick Veterans shall be accorded the best treatment which medical and surgical science can possibly supply.”

Over the years, Salem VA Medical Center has grown and adapted to changes in medicine, technology, and needs among Veterans. In the 1960s, it expanded from a single-focus of neuro-psychiatric care and introduced greater general-medical and surgical care.

Ann Benois, current Chief of Customer Service at Salem VA Medical Center, has watched the facility grow over the last four decades. “When I came to VA [in 1975], we had 727 inpatient beds and only about 68,000 Veterans seen as outpatients. Thanks to so many advances in medicine, we see well over 400,000 Veterans on an outpatient basis.”

Salem is a place “where we honor the men and women who have put their lives on hold for a period of time to allow us the freedoms we enjoy today” says Benois. “They depend on us now to help them and as a nation, it is our responsibility.” For Benois and her co-workers, working at Salem VA Medical Center is not a mere job, it’s an honor.

Salem VA 1934 Dedication Speech by President Franklin D. Roosevelt

As the medical center celebrates 85 years of delivering exceptional care this October, Benois and the medical center has a vision for the future. “It is an exciting time for us! We will continue to grow our modernization at Salem. The significance of telehealth and technology available to connect providers and Veterans in their home is phenomenal and certainly the way of the future.”

Salem VA Medical Center is currently expanding and renovating the Dialysis and Emergency Department Units, with many other goals in sight. “Within the front walls of 1930s buildings, we have modern technology and state of the art equipment.”

These new developments continue to fulfill a promise made by America preceding Salem by seven decades:

“to care for those who have borne the battle.”

For Benois and other members of the Salem VA family, this core mission is essential to the spirit of Salem. “How many companies or businesses have such an honorable and humbling mission as to serve America’s heroes?”


Sophia Tragesser is a Virtual Student Federal Service Intern with Salem VA Medical Center. She is a student at The University of Saint Thomas, MN.

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VAntagePoint Contributor

— VAntage Point Contributors provide insight and perspective on a wide range of Veterans issues. If you’d like to contribute a story to VAntage Point, learn how you can submit a guest blog at http://www.blogs.va.gov/VAntage/how-to-submit-a-guest-post/

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