If you have watched or read content about the military, then you probably have come across the term “veteran”. The big question is: what is the definition of a military veteran?
It is worth knowing what this word means, regardless of whether you are a civilian or a soon-to-be service member. As the former, the definition of a veteran will assist you in truly appreciating what military personnel does for the country. As the latter, you will not be lost or confused when your fellow troops discuss the definition of veteran status.
A veteran, in any field, is someone who has a lot of experience and expertise in what they do. But simply taking this at face value for a military veteran meaning is not enough.
The military veteran definition covered in this article will also be accompanied by other relevant information. We will look at the different factors that can affect a person’s veteran status, such as the type of service, duration of service, and time of service, and we will also explore the various types of veterans. So, make sure that you continue to read this article on army veteran definition until the very end.
Table of Contents
Official Military Veteran Definition
The military veteran definition as outlined in the 38 U.S Code – 101 is a person who has served in the naval, air, or space military service and was released or discharged honorably. But what is included in “naval, air, or space military service”?
It is active duty, active duty for training where the person has become disabled or has passed away, or inactive duty where the person has become disabled or has passed away because of an injury, infraction, or accident.
What Is Meant by Active Duty
Here, active duty refers to full-time personnel in the Armed Forces, which includes the U.S Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Coast Guard, and Space Force.
Other than that, you can be a commissioned officer from the Reserve or Regular of the Public Health Service, the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration, or the Coast & Geodetic Survey. Finally, you can also be a cader attending a U.S military academy or a midshipman.
More specifically, as a commissioned officer from the Reserve or Regular of the Public Service, you must have been delegated on or after the 29th of July in 1945 or before that with conditions providing you with complete military benefits.
The same applies to a commissioned officer from the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration or Coast & Geodetic Survey. For cases before the 29th of July in 1945, you must have been on transfer to one of the military branches, assigned to a project duty during wartime, or on the 7th of December in 1941 at the Philippine Islands.
Active duty for training applies to all military members in the Armed Forces and Reserve Training Corps that are ordered to duty for training purposes but does not include those carried out by temporary members of the Coast Guard Reserve.
What Is Meant by Inactive Duty
The inactive duty includes:
- Duty outside of full-time duty, for members of a reserve component of any of the Armed Forces and the Reserve Corps of the Public Health Service, given by the Secretary concerned.
- Special “extra” duties, for members of a reserve component of any of the Armed Forces and the Reserve Corps of the Public Health Service, given by an official of the Secretary concerned.
- Training outside of active duty for training for a member of, or an applicant of the Senior Reserve Officer Training Corps.
However, it does not include:
- Any study or work connected to correspondence courses
- Any study or work at an educational institution that is inactive
- Any duty carried out as a temporary Coast Guard Reserve member
Here is another interesting take on “What does it mean to be a veteran?” from students veterans at the University of Oregon.
To determine if you are a veteran, there are a few essential factors to look at, including the type of service, duration of service, and time of service. We will not explore each in detail!
Who Qualifies as a “Military Veteran”?
The Type of Service
Generally, there are two types of service: full-time service and part-time service. This is dependent on your specific job description.
Full-timers are those who are on active duty as a member of the Armed Forces, which includes the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Coast Guard, or Space Force, while part-timers are those who are in the National Guard and Reserves.
This matters because not every member in the National Guard and Reserves satisfy the following requirements to be considered a veteran:
- Deployed under federal orders, which is needed to place a person on active-duty status. More specifically, the deployment must satisfy the minimum requirements that are delineated for active-duty service members.
- Separated from service because of a disability linked to any mandatory training. The disability must have been reported to the VA for a valid disabled status as well.
Nonetheless, you are given veteran status if you have served for 20 years or more in the National Guard or Reserve.
The Duration of Service
If you have been on active duty for 30 continuous days before you are discharged for a disability in line of service, 90 days on or after the 10th of September, 2001 before you are discharged honorably, or 2 years before you are discharged under honorable conditions, then you are granted a valid veteran status.
When you are considered a veteran, you are eligible to receive certain benefits from the military. In particular, if you have satisfied the:
- 90-day frame, then you can benefit from the Post 9/11 GI Bill
- 2-year frame, then you can benefit from the Montgomery GI Bill
The Time of Service
Here, the time of service refers to whether a person was in service during peacetime or wartime. For the former, you will need to have been on active-duty service for at least 180 days unless you have sustained a service-related injury and were discharged honorably.
On the flip side, for the latter, you will need to have been on active-duty service for at least 90 days. You are only exempted if you have sustained a disability because of your service or have received the Purple Heart and were discharged honorably.
The final exception is if you have passed away because of service. What this means is, regardless of whether it was peacetime or wartime, you will be considered a veteran.
The Type of Veteran
Even though up until now, we have referred to “veterans” as a single group, there are actually a few different types of veterans.
It will be useful to know the type of veteran that you are because it can determine your eligibility for certain benefits once you return to the civilian world.
1. War Veteran
War veterans are active-duty or reserve military members who have been in an area of conflict with another nation or in the surrounding waters to support activities against a national enemy.
2. Combat Veteran
Combat veterans are active-duty or reserve military members who have encountered any degree of combat for a period of time in a foreign space because of an offensive, defensive, or friendly-fire action with a national enemy.
3. Retired Veteran
Retired veterans are any military members who have served for a minimum of twenty years in an active-duty or reserve position. Members who are medically retired because of injuries sustained during service are also considered retired veterans, regardless of their number of years in service.
4. Protected Veteran
Protected veterans are written under the 38 U.S Code – 4212 as “safeguarded” from discrimination. There are four subcategories for a protected veteran: disabled veteran, recently separated veteran, campaign badge veteran, or service medal veteran.
- Disabled Veteran
- As you may have guessed from the name, a disabled veteran is any military member who has been injured during combat or because of peacetime incidents while serving and from then, permanently injured.
- Recently Separated Veteran
- Somewhat explanatory from the name, a recently separated veteran is any military member who has been released or discharged within the last 3 years from active duty.
- Campaign Badge Veteran
- This is also referred to as an active duty wartime veteran. Any military member who has served during a period of war or a campaign or expedition where a campaign badge is issued by the DoD or Department of Defense is considered a campaign badge veteran.
- Armed Forces Service Medal Veteran
- Any military member who has been awarded an Armed Forces Service Medal while on active duty service and the medal is listed on the DD214 form, is considered an Armed Forces Service Medal Veteran.
You now have the complete answer to “What is the definition of a military veteran?”. In addition, you have gotten elaborated information on the factors that can affect a person’s veteran status and the different types of military veterans.
Hopefully, this was informative and interesting. Do you want to add anything else? Do you have any questions? If yes, let us know in the comments below. Also, feel free to share this article with other readers!
I am Everett Bledsoe, taking on the responsibility of content producer for The Soldiers Project. My purpose in this project is to give honest reviews on the gear utilized and tested over time. Of course, you cannot go wrong when checking out our package of information and guide, too, as they come from reliable sources and years of experience.