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. However, with regard to applicable benefits, other considerations are important and will be covered in later sections.
Understanding the Difference Between Types of Military Service
There are a larger variety of services an individual can be a part of than is generally believed. The following are descriptions of each to help you steer your way through:
Active-duty service is simply full time. Active-duty members are available for duty 24 hours per day, 7 days a week, with the exclusion of leave (vacation) or pass (authorized time off). Active-duty members fall under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Department of Defense and can serve in the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard.
If an individual served active-duty service, it is credible toward length-of-service requirements when qualifying for veterans benefits.
Performing duties one weekend per month, plus two weeks of training per year, members of the Reserves and National Guard are considered part-time, though since the Gulf War in 1990, they’ve spent exponentially more time called to full-time active duties. In fact, National Guards and Reserves generally spend two years of their six-year enlistment performing full-time active duty.
The objective of the Reserves is to deliver supplementary support to active-duty forces, when obligated. All of the different military services have a Reserve branch under the patronage of the Department of Defense: Army Reserve, Air Force Reserve, Navy Reserve, Marine Corps Reserve, and Coast Guard Reserve.
Though it doesn’t count as active-duty time for most veteran’s benefits, when an individual joins the Reserves, they attend basic training and military job school full time. After completion of basic training and military job school, those considered Reserves resume civilian life, except for training called inactive duty training (IDT) which takes place one weekend per month.
Reserves, however, do complete 14 days of full-time training once a year. The training is categorized as active duty for training (ADT). Neither IDT nor ADT counts toward service requirements for veteran’s benefits.
The president and secretary of defense can request those in the Reserves to active duty at any time in order to increase efforts on certain military projects. Approximately 65,000 Reserves are performing active duty in support of military contingency operations at any given moment.
This type of active duty counts toward veterans benefits.
The foremost difference between the National Guard and the Reserves is that the federal government is in charge of the Reserves, while the National Guard units predominately belong to individual states.
There are two National Guard types: the Army National Guard and the Air National Guard. National Guard members attend basic training and military job school full time under ADT (active duty for training), similar to the Reserves.
They resume daily civilian life but train one weekend per month (IDT) in addition to 15 full-time training days per year. This type of IDT/ADT time doesn’t count toward veteran’s benefits.
State governors can call National Guard members to active duty if a state emergency arises. Such emergencies include relief or protection of property and people outside the authority of local law enforcement. This form of state duty is known officially as “Title 38 Call-up” and doesn’t count toward veteran’s benefits either.
Like the Reserves, the president and secretary of defense can call upon the National Guard in provision of military contingency operations, known as “Title 10 Call-ups” or federal duty. This type of duty counts toward service requirements for veteran’s benefits.
In the span of a month, an estimated 40,000 members of the Air and Army National Guard are performing federal duty overseas.
A program called the Active Guard/Reserves (AGR) includes members of the Reserves and National Guard that take part in full-time active duty. To make sure that National Guard and Reserve units are ready to mobilize at all times, AGR members provide daily operational support.
For veteran’s benefit service requirements, AGR duty is the similar to full-time active-duty service.
Individual Ready Reserve
A military service contract spans a minimum of eight years total and the time that isn’t spent on active duty or in the Guard/Reserves must be spent in inactive reserves, known as the Individual Ready Reserves (IRR).
Generally, after serving four years, a member is transferred to the IRR for their remaining four years. IRR members don’t take part in weekend drills or annual training, but unfortunately, they don’t get paid either.IRR members can be recalled into active duty when necessary, in order to support military projects.
During IRR status, the time spent inactive doesn’t count toward veteran’s benefits unless the member is recalled into active duty.
Roughly 15,000 IRR members have been recalled into active duty, largely for the Army and Marine Corps, every year since 2004.