The Tennessee Department of Veterans Affairs is a Cabinet-level agency within the Tennessee state government, headed by the Tennessee Commissioner of Veterans Affairs, who is currently Many-Bears Grinder. The Department is responsible for administering programs of veterans benefits for Tennessee's veterans, their families, and their survivors.
The Department manages state veterans cemeteries for members of the Armed Forces of the United States who died while on active duty, and for veterans who served on active duty in the Armed Forces that were discharged or released before September 7, 1980. They also manage free license plates for 100% service connected disabled veterans, ex-prisoners of war, and recipients of the Medal of Honor, the Distinguished Service Cross, the Navy Cross, and the Air Force Cross. Owners of free license plates receive parking privileges, and certain veterans receive special or memorial license plates.
Other state benefits include management of state veterans homes, property tax relief for 100% disabled veterans and their surviving spouses, $10 hunting and fishing licenses for 30% or more service connected disabled veterans, scholarships for eligible dependent children, exception to the motor vehicle privilege tax for 100% disabled veterans, reemployment rights of public employees, discounts in state parks, preference for veterans in state employment, and credit for military service in state employment. By statute, the Department of Veterans Affairs is prohibited from in any way assisting the implementation or operation of the Tennessee Tomorrow Program, which was transferred to the Tennessee Department of Education by executive order, or any youth-in-public-service program.
According to the Tennessee Blue Book, an Ex-Serviceman's Bureau was established in 1921, but the small agency was unable to provide adequate service for the influx of veterans after World War II. As a result, the General Assembly created the Department of Veterans Affairs to provide statewide services in 1945. In 1959, the department was placed under the governor's office as a staff division headed by a director, but the General Assembly once again established it as a department in 1975. In 1987 the General Assembly authorized the department to establish state veterans cemeteries, and in 1988 legislation was passed that established state veterans homes under the direction of a board of directors appointed by the governor. In 1991 the department was authorized to train and accredit county-employed veterans service officers.