Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare Joseph A. Califano Jr. said yesterday the president may propose including in his new Department of Education all the Veterans Administration education programs, as well as those in the Department of Defense, the entire National Science Foundation, the college housing loan program and several Labor Department job training programs.

It was the first time the administration has listed what Califano called "candidates for inclusion" in the proposed new department. It seemed sure to set off major legislative infighting. American Legion legislative director Mylio Kraja said in a phone interview. "We'd be opposed to adding the VA part. We'd fight it very hard. The VA understands veterans' problems."

Califano, testifying on his department's $184 billion fiscal 1979 budget request before a House Appropriations subcommittee, also said the administration favors a stronger curb on federally funded abortions than contained in existing law.

Califano said that he recommends retaining provisions allowing federal fimdomg pf abprtopms for low-income women where the life of the mother is endangered or in cases of rape or incest, but with the rape or incest required to be reported more promptly than under existing regulations.

However, he made clear he would favor dropping from existing law a provision allowing Medicaid abortions where there is possible "severe and long-lasting physical health damage" to the mother. This statement, also seems sure to set off another congressional fight over abortion, similar to last year's six-month battle in which the House wanted tighter curbs such as those favored by Califano, and the Senate insisted on writing in the added proviso on "severe" health-damage to the mother.

Although President Carter has talked of creating a separate cabinet-level Education Department, no formal proposal on which agencies to include has yet been made. The reluctance of some existing departments to give up control over multibillion-dollar educational agencies, as well as opposition by constituent groups comfortable with the current arrangements, has made a final decision difficult.

Yesterday, reading from a list that aides described as a proposal under study by the Office of Management and Budget, Califano said the proposed new Education Department might include not only the Office of Education and related agencies from HEW but also:

The veterans' educational programs, schools run by the Defense Department for servicemen's children overseas, Indian schools, the National Science Foundation, the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities, college housing loans now under the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Labor Department job training programs including parts of the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act, school nutrition (now in the Agriculture Department), juvenile delinquency (now in the Justice Department), the community Services Administration (now independent) and added HEW programs like daycare and Head-Start. Aides said the Smithsonian Institution also was being considered for inclusion.

Existing programs in HEW's division of education have outlays estimated at $10.4 billion in fiscal 1979. If it included all the "candidates" listed by Califano yesterday, the new Education Department would have a budget of two or three times that, one HEW official estimated.

Califano, describing how President Carter was looking at proposals for a new Education Department, said, "The president said he'd reach wide."

The OMB, according to several sources, also is considering a shorter list of agencies for inclusion.