Changing the Veterans Administration into the Department of Veterans Affairs may be relatively cheap as government programs go, but officials say it will still cost upwards of $9 million over the next decade.

Much of that money will go for new signs and stationery for the government's fifth-largest agency, according to the VA and the Congressional Budget Office.But "given the relative size, the cost impact isn't expected to be significant, particularly in any one given year," said Nina Shepard, the CBO analyst who helped develop the cost projections.

When the new department comes into being next March 15, it will be little different from the current VA, according to Bonner Day, a spokesman for the agency.

"I don't think much has to be done before March 15. The essential duties have not been changed. The biggest difference is that the head of the agency will now be a member of the Cabinet," he explained.

The agency won't move from any of its more than 500 buildings around the country, nor will its operations be greatly affected.

"Really, except for the different name and what that requires, we'll be the same as we are now," he explained. "I don't think you will see changes day to day."

What is required by the name change are new signs - thousands of them - along with stationery with the new name.

The VA has a $30 billion annual budget, much of which is disbursed in payments to the nation's veterans. There are about 27 million veterans and 49 million dependents of veterans or survivors, although only about 2.5 to 3 million use VA services on a regular basis.

The bill creating the Department of Veterans Affairs as the 14th seat in the Cabinet was signed by President Reagan on Oct. 25, shortly after it had been given overwhelming approval by both the House and Senate.