What is a Veteran? What are the Veteran Qualifications as determined by the VA?
You make think that’s a pretty simple question, but it can actually be pretty complex. There’s obviously the common usage of the term “veteran” that we use in everyday conversation. But I want to specifically discuss how the VA defines a Veteran. This is important to consider when talking about Veterans benefits like Disability Indemnity Compensation (DIC) and VA Aid & Attendance (also known as VA Pension). Recall from a previous blog that the big differences between DIC and VA Pension are that DIC involves some type of in-service injury while VA Pension provides compensation to assist with the activities of daily living.
General Veteran Qualifications
In general, the VA defines a Veteran as somebody who served in the armed forces. This would include the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard. If you served in either of those branches of the military, you can apply for Veterans benefits such as DIC or VA Pension. The big thing to note here is the “active duty” part of the military service. If you were active duty, you definitely qualify.
Do Reservists Qualify for VA Benefits?
But what if you were in the Reserves for any of those branches of the military? Does that qualify you as a Veteran in the eyes of the VA? As a general rule, the Reserves aren’t considered “active duty” military service. But that isn’t an absolute rule. There are instances where members of a military Reserve unit can be considered a Veteran under the VA’s definition.
The exception here depends on whether you were called to active duty while in the Reserves. This call has to be by the Federal Government, such as when George W. Bush called active Reservists to serve in Afghanistan. If the Federal Government calls a Reservist to serve, they now have completed some level of “active duty” and are then eligible for VA benefits. If a Governor calls Reservists to serve in times of natural disaster, that is not considered active duty military service. It’s only considered active duty when that call is made by the President of the United States.
Other Exceptions for Veteran Qualifications
What if you attended one of the military academies such as the US Air Force Academy or Coast Guard Academy? Does that meet the definition of a Veteran set by the VA? It actually does! If you were a cadet at any of the major military academies, you are considered to have had military service and can apply for VA benefits.
So we can already see that Veteran qualifications may be a little more complicated than you may have originally thought. Now let’s complicate it a bit more. Did you know that commissioned officers in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are considered a Veteran by the VA? In addition to that particular organization, commissioned officers in Public Health Service and the Environmental Science Services Administration (ESSA) are also considered a Veteran and eligible for VA benefits.
Furthermore, there are additional exceptions with regards to things that happened during World War II. Now according to the VA, only 240,000 of the 16 million individuals that served in WWII are still alive today. So this doesn’t apply to a huge percentage of the population, but it still matters as far as VA benefits are concerned. Individuals that served in the government of the Commonwealth of the Philippines are considered Veterans. In addition, service in the Women’s Auxiliary Corps and the Merchant Marines also qualifies someone for Veteran status.
Hopefully that helps bring some clarity to what may seem like a simple question on the surface. But as you can see, it’s quite complicated and there are many exceptions to Veteran qualifications within the VA. The VA rules can often times seem like a maze. But we are here to help you cut through the red tape and determine if you are able to qualify for disability compensation or receive financial assistance with the activities of daily living.
Contact Us So We Can Help
If you have any additional questions about VA benefits qualification for yourself or a loved one, don’t hesitate to give us a call at (229) 226-8183, email us at [email protected]. You can also COMPLETE THIS FORM and we’ll contact you to schedule an appointment. If you’d like to see this blog in video format, you can watch it below. Please be sure to SUBSCRIBE to our YouTube channel and click the bell notification button so that you’re notified each time we publish a new video.