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What is the VA’s Official Definition of a Veteran?

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What is the VA’s Official Definition of a Veteran?

Your classification as a veteran is what entitles you to recover VA disability benefits. Although our firm does not talk about this criterion often because it largely goes without saying, to recover VA disability benefits, you must be a veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces. That, then, begs the question: What precisely is a veteran of the U.S. armed forces?

In this article, we will answer that question.

Who qualifies as a veteran?

There are three criteria for determining whether or not an individual is a veteran. The first is obvious. You must be able to establish that you served in the U.S. Armed Forces. This includes the Coast Guard, National Guard, and even commissioned officers who fulfill civilian roles in the healthcare industry. In some cases, civilians who worked alongside the military will also qualify as a “veteran.” Lastly, those who attended a military academy will qualify as a veteran.

Nonetheless, there is a second criterion. You must not have been dishonorably discharged. Those who were dishonorably discharged cannot qualify for VA benefits. 

Lastly, you must be able to establish that you were “active duty” military at the time of your injury. In other words, if you fall out of bed on your way to the coffee maker while acting as a reserve, the VA disability fund will likely not honor that claim. Active duty means full-time duty. Reservists will qualify after they have been called to active duty. Training exercises will also likely be considered active duty. There is limited leeway for those who are not on active duty to file claims if they are injured during exercises or as part of their military duty. 

Was your discharge “other-than-dishonorable”?

The term “other than dishonorable” does not tell you much about what prevents veterans from seeking VA benefits. To simplify, there are discharge conditions that will disqualify an individual from VA benefits. Those are:

  • Discharge as a conscientious objector who refused to perform military duties
  • Discharge as a consequence of general court-martial
  • An officer who resigns for the good of the service
  • Discharge as an alien during a time of hostility
  • Discharge as a result of AWOL for at least 180 days

Further, a veteran who accepts an undesirable discharge to avoid court-martial will likely not qualify for benefits. These can include mutiny or spying, or an offense involving moral turpitude. It used to be that homosexual acts also could disqualify a veteran for benefits, but that provision has since been rescinded. 

Talk to a Chicago Veterans’ Disability Lawyer Today

The Comerford Law Office, LLC helps U.S. veterans apply for VA disability benefits. Call our office today to set up a free consultation and we can begin discussing your next steps immediately. 

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