By U.S. Law, Who Is A Veteran?
This is actually not as simple of a question as one might think. In fact, I did not know the answer to this question myself; I had to do a ton of research. Alright, strap in as this one is going to be a bumpy ride.
According to U.S. Law, the following is a Veteran:
Under Title 38 of the U.S. Code, a veteran is defined as a “person who served in the active military, naval, air, or space service, and who was discharged or released therefrom under conditions other than dishonorable.”
**FYI, there are actually eight different types of military discharges (Honorable, General, Entry-Level, Medical, Other Than Honorable, Bad Conduct, Dishonorable, and Dismissal (Officers).
However, it is not that cut-and-dry
If you are looking to seek Veteran Affairs (VA) services or disability, they actually look at your service record to make a determination. They consider the following factors:
- The length of active service,
- Time-period when that service occurred,
- Character or type of service, and
- The circumstances and the type of discharge
You must also have had “active military, naval, or air service” to be considered a veteran for most government purposes, the key is “Active”.
This means that if you were in the National Guard or a reservist and you had never been called to active duty status, then you are not a veteran in the eyes of the law. A reservist can only be called to active duty by the President of the United States or the Secretary of Defense. In addition, you must have been called upon to serve for 180 days or more. (Side note: If you are/were a reservist, you are a veteran to me)
However, even that is not cut and dry. In 2016, President Obama signed into law the Miller-Blumenthal Veterans Health Care and Benefits Act that gave a National Guard member who served 20 years or more veteran status. This means, “Anyone who has reached 20 years of service, even if they were never activated on a federal order for more than 180 days outside of training, will now be considered a veteran“. Notice the word federal in that statement. This means that if a National Guard member is called up by the State Governor that time will not count as being Federally recalled. Something like that would occur in a local disaster, such as a tornado or a wildfire.
This means that for the over 400,000 current members (443,543 at the time of this post) and a portion of the reserve components that had never been on active duty (Army Reserve = 274,518; Air Force Reserve = 95,079; Navy Reserve = 101,223; Marine Corps Reserve = 98,952 and Coast Guard Reserve = 7,724) who have not served 20 or more years are not considered Veterans. *** The reserve numbers are total reserve forces, I was not able to find good numbers of those that have not been on active duty as there are some that are Prior Military Serve (PMS) and some that have been recalled for more than 180 days. Also, the Space Force does not currently have a reserve component).
I am happy that I have been able to clear that up for you, it is now clear as mud.