Who is a Veteran?

Defining a Veteran
A Veteran is defined as a person who served in the active military, naval, or air service and who was discharged or released under conditions other than dishonorable. The term “active service” is defined in 38 Code of Federal Regulations as being:
  • Active duty;
  • Any period of active duty for training during which the individual is disabled or dies from a disease or injury incurred or aggravated in the line of duty; or
  • Any period of inactive duty training during which the individual was disabled or died from an injury incurred or aggravated in the line of duty.
Active Duty
“Active Duty” is defined in 38 Code of Federal Regulations as being full-time duty in the (regular) Armed Forces. However, the following are also considered to constitute “active duty” for purposes of achieving veteran status:
  • Merchant Marine Seamen, who served under the Coast Guard, Naval Transportation Service, or Army Transportation Service in active, oceangoing service during the period from December 7, 1941 to August 15, 1945;
  • Full-time duty by commissioned officers of the Public Health Service;
  • Full-time duty by commissioned officers of the Coast and Geodetic Survey and its successor agencies, the Environmental Science Services Administration and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration;
  • Service as a cadet or midshipman at any of the service academies; and
  • Attendance at an Academy preparatory school by persons who have a binding commitment to regular active duty if they were to be dis-enrolled from the school.
Although it is not a common occurrence, it does happen with some regularity that a Reservist or a member of the National Guard (or occasionally some other agency or organization) will file (or ask for assistance with filing) a claim for VA benefits of some kind. In these cases, the first point is to consider whether or not the claimant (or person on whom the claim is based) has, or can achieve Veteran status. If the answer is “yes”, the claim can go forward as with any other VA claim. If the answer is “no”, then the claim must be denied at that point and on that basis, without ever considering the substance or merit of the claim.