What is a veteran?

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One of the misconceptions we, Veteran Service officers, often hear is, " I'm not a veteran, but I served in ... at ... during ..."

We would like to offer some clarifications.

Who is a veteran?

We need to repeat informational columns like this, because time and time again we visit with former members of the U.S. military who think they are not veterans because they didn't go off to war in some far corner of the world.


Wartime not necessary

Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, very few VA benefits are limited to veterans who served during wartime. However, membership in most veterans organizations, such as American Legion and VFW, as examples, do require wartime military service.

Many VA benefits, including the popular VA Healthcare program, are available to veterans who have been discharged for or released from active military service under other than dishonorable conditions -- in some cases, for as little as one day of active duty service, if the veteran served before Sept. 7, 1980.

And, that one-day active duty service may have nothing to do with wartime service.


Active service

Most VA benefits relate to active-duty service.

For instance, six months of military service for military reserve training purposes does not count toward active duty service in most cases. However, a veteran may qualify for benefits while in the military reserves, if he or she were called up to active duty and completed the term for which he or she were called and were granted an other than dishonorable discharge.

Veterans discharged early for a service-connected disability would also be exempt from active duty eligibility.

After Sept. 7, 1980, a veteran must have served for 24 continuous months of active military service, or have been released under special circumstances (under special VA or military policies and regulations).


VA eligibilities differ

An exception to the wartime military service requirement would be for a veteran's pension claim based on limited income. VA pensions are limited to those veterans who served during wartime.

However, a veteran did not have to actually be in combat, only that he or she served during a period of wartime. For instance, many veterans served in Europe or in the United States during a wartime period. They would still be eligible for most wartime VA benefits.


Wartime periods

For most purposes, wartime periods are the following:

Persian Gulf War --The period between Aug. 2, 1990, through a date to be set by law or Presidential Proclamation.

Vietnam Era --The period between Aug. 5, 1964, (Feb. 28, 1961, for veterans who served "in country" before Aug. 5, 1964) and ending May 7, 1975.

Korean Conflict -- The period between June 27, 1950, through Jan. 31, 1955.

World War II -- The period between Dec. 7, 1941, through Dec. 31, 1946. If the veteran was in service on Dec. 31, 1946, continuous service before July 26, 1947, is considered World War II service.

Earlier periods also considered wartime were World War I, Mexican Border War, Spanish-American War and Indian Wars, but have very limited application to veterans or survivors living today.


Reliable information

Certainly VA benefits for any veteran may be based on individual circumstances of military service, or the specific rules for the VA benefit, which vary from benefit to benefit.

Often well-meaning fellow veterans, friends and family members offer advice on VA benefits on which they may not be fully informed. I would urge all veterans to check with their nearest county veterans service office for the latest and correct information.

A salute to military

I would ask all citizens of Craig and Moffat County to get behind the Craig Daily Press's efforts to locate, list and recognize all the men and women serving from this area in the Armed Services over this Holiday Season. The deadline to turn in information is 5 p.m. Friday.

It doesn't matter what branch of the Armed Services they are in, where they are stationed or whether they are in National Guard or Reserve units. If they are on active duty and in harm's way, they should be recognized and honored for their sacrifices along with the sacrifices their families are making at this time also.

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