Qualifications for Veteran Status

Qualifications for Veteran Status

Veterans smiling in uniform and casual clothing
Veterans posing for a portrait after retirement. Tim Bieber / Getty Images

Honorable service in the military typically makes you a veteran for life. To be eligible for the variety of veteran benefits depends upon many elements from time in service, permanent injury.

What is a "veteran"? Title 38 of the Code of Federal Regulations defines a veteran as “a person who served in the active military, naval, or air service and who was discharged or released under conditions other than dishonorable.” This definition explains that any individual that completed a service for any branch of armed forces classifies as a veteran as long as they were not dishonorably discharged.

Types of Veterans

There are different types of veterans, but regardless of the type, they are all veterans. The types of veterans below offer different awards and benefits from home loans, retirement and medical/dental. Other offered benefits allow for retired veterans to have base access and store privileges and all veterans are offered the GI Bill if they opted in at some point in their career.

War Veteran - Any active duty or reserve military member who has been in the area of conflict in another country or surrounding waters in support of activity against a national enemy. 

Combat Veteran - Active duty or reserve military members who experience any level of combat for any duration resulting from offensive, defensive or friendly fire military action involving an enemy in any foreign theater. 

Retired Veteran – Retired veterans serve a minimum of twenty years of active duty or reserve duty. Medically retired veterans receive injuries that prevent them from remaining active duty and are thereby retired regardless of years of service. Retirees are eligible for supplementary federal benefits, privileges, and access to military installations, and some VA services.

Disabled Veteran – Any former active duty or reserve military member who was injured through combat action or peacetime accident while serving on duty and is permanently injured. 

The National Importance of Veterans

In 1954, President Eisenhower officially changed the name of the holiday from Armistice Day to Veterans Day. Every President has honored our military members in some fashion since George Washington who wisely stated:

"The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive the Veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their nation." --George Washington

“Honor to the soldier and sailor everywhere, who bravely bears his country's cause. Honor, also, to the citizen who cares for his brother in the field and serves, as he best can, the same cause.”
-- Abraham Lincoln

“I can imagine no more rewarding a career. And any man who may be asked in this century what he did to make his life worthwhile, I think can respond with a good deal of pride and satisfaction: 'I served in the United States Navy.” –John F. Kennedy

 “Some people live an entire lifetime and wonder if they have ever made a difference in the world, but the Marines don’t have that problem.” -- Ronald Reagan

Why We Recognize the Veteran

A popular veteran phrase often seen on Veteran’s Day:
"A veteran whether active duty, discharged, retired, or reserve is someone who, at one point in his or her life wrote a blank check to their government for an amount of “up to and including his or her life."

Another classic veteran quote that demonstrates the many freedoms that we have the veteran is responsible for defending - even with his/her life if necessary.

"It is the soldier, not the reporter, who has given us freedom of the press. It is the soldier, not the poet, who has given us freedom of speech. It is the soldier, not the organizer, who gave us the freedom to demonstrate. It is the soldier who salutes the flag, who serves beneath the flag and whose coffin is draped by the flag, who allows the protester to burn the flag." --Father Dennis Edward O’Brien, USMC

We Sleep Peacefully At Night - Thanks to the Veteran

We sleep soundly in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm. --George Orwell