VA History: Miss Dorothy L. Starbuck became the first woman appointed as VA’s Chief Benefits Officer.


Dorothy Laureen Starbuck was born near Denver, Colorado, in 1917 and was one of 11 children. She graduated from the University of Denver and in 1942 joined the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC). She and three of her brothers enlisted for military service during World War II.  She graduated from the second officer’s class at Fort Des Moines, IA, and was later assigned to General Dwight D. Eisenhower in London, England. She had top secret clearance and part of her job was to hand carry “eyes only” documents—including those related to D-Day operations–between Generals Dwight Eisenhower, George Patton, Omar Bradley, and others. She left the service in March 1946 with the rank of Captain. She and her three brothers who served in the war all returned home safely. [1944 c. photo, left]

Her VA career began that same year when she was hired as a GS-4 adjustment clerk at the Chicago VA hospital. General Omar Bradley was Administrator at that time.  She never married and was a dedicated hard-worker.  In 1962 she was appointed as the first woman director of a VA regional office in Baltimore and by the late 1960s was field director for the western region which covered 13 states and Manila. She was awarded the  Federal Woman’s Award in 1969  and the AMVETS Silver Helmet Civil Servant of the Year Award.  Eight years later, in May 1977, she was appointed as VA’s Chief Benefits Officer—the first woman in that position.  She served as Chief Benefits Officer from 1977 until the end of December 1984 when she retired after nearly 40 years of VA service.  She wanted to leave VA quietly, without any fanfare, but her good work could not go unrecognized.  On February 20, 1985, the Committee on Veterans Affairs, chaired by Representative G.V. “Sonny” Montgomery,  held a special recognition celebration that honored her public service career.

Dorothy Starbuck died on July 19, 1996 and is buried at Ft. Logan National Cemetery in Denver.

1977_Dorothy Starbuck_Apptd Chief Benefits Director_NYT75072820


Information by Historian, Veterans Health Administration

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