State Veteran Benefits

United States MapCredit: cory stophlet via MS PowerPoint, 2014

Don't forget the State where you reside: State definitions of a veteran (Vet) will vary. State definitions are strictly for the purposes of State veteran benefits and considerations and are not binding to or supersede federal law and VA requirements. If you are concerned about State Vet benefits or recognition check with your state government. The state information is most likely already available on the web. In some states like Tennessee, they have broad standards for inclusion of Regular Active Military, Active Guard Reserves and Inactive Guard Reserves; while other States limit the definition of a Vet to only those military members that served in wartime. AGRs and all National Guard and Reservists should check their own state policy on who is or is not a Vet for in-state benefits.


Veteran Status - Final Words

As you can see whether or not you are count as a "veteran" truly depends on why you are asking or what you expect to gain from that label of Vet. Keep in mind that active duty for training such as basic training (also known as "boot camp") and initial or individual specialty skills training (for the Army this is called AIT or Advanced Individual Training and Tech-School for Air Force or Technical School) service does not count as time towards being a Vet unless that time in service is in conjunction with a service-members continuation of active federal service or Title 10 active duty time. Just completing Basic and AIT does not make you a veteran.

As to VA qualifications and benefits, whether you were active military or reserve military (Army and Air National Guard, Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps or Coast Guard Reserves) let the VA and or one of the various Vet organizations veterans service organization (VSO) such as the Disabled American Veterans (DAV), Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), American Legion help determine your actual status as to meeting the definition of a veteran. The various Vet organizations can also act as your representative for any claims you file with the VA as well as help you work through some of the VA legal issues. Additionally, often times you can go right to a local VA clinic and ask about getting a physical that can be used to help support any medical claims you have, especially since it's the VA who will put you through a battery of medical exams to identify or validate any service-connected medical conditions you claim that warrant long-term VA medical care. The VA has latitude in determining what evidence, conditions of service, and other related circumstances of service in determining whether or not a former service-member meets the definition of a veteran and for what benefits coincide with those conditions.

First Lieutenant Baldomero Lopez Scaling SeawallCredit: Image from the collections of the Naval Historical Center, 1950

Bottom Line

Veteran status for VA and federal law purposes is contingent on whether or not you served in an “active duty/federal service,” or the specified active duty time, and were discharged under conditions other than dishonorable.  If you served in the regular military, also called active federal service, or in a Title 10 status and completed the assigned duration of service, you are a veteran. If you served in an AGR (Title 32) status and retired with 20 or more years, under VA rules, you are a veteran. If you, as a NG or Res were federally activated (not to be confused with State Active Duty – a different animal altogether) and you completed the assigned duration of active federal service, or your were injured or became ill with a service connected condition, you are a veteran.