The Definition of a War Veteran

War Veteran

The Definition of a War Veteran

A majority of the Americans, especially those that aren’t in the military service, don’t understand who veterans are. Often, they perceive veterans to be person either killed or severely wounded in battle.

However, according to the U.S federal law definition, veterans are persons that have served in any branch of the armed forces in the U.S. for a certain time-frame. Some of the uniformed services are:

  • S. Army
  • S. Air Force
  • S. Navy
  • S. Marine Corps
  • S. Coast Guard
  • Commissioned Corps of the Public Health Service
  • Commissioned Corps of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association

However, war veteran are specifically those persons who were ordered by any USAF branch to foreign waters or soils to take part in non-direct or direct support activities against a United States enemy. Combat veterans, on the other hand, are those that serve in any USAF branch and experience hostilities of any level or take part in an action of enemy combatant for certain duration as a result of friendly, defensive, or offensive fire military action that involves a perceived or real enemy in a post- or pre-determined combat proceeding. Members serving in the Air National Guard or the National Guard and reservists are also referred to as veterans and are entitled to certain benefits, depending on the service locality and service length (especially those that served in combat status for an active duty).

Another common myth that revolves around is that a person qualifies to be a veteran if he or she takes a military retirement. Although military retirees are also veterans, that doesn’t mean that they became veterans only when they retired. In most cases, persons become veterans at the time they enter the military as opposed to when they retire. However, apart from military retirees, many other guards, reserve and active duty members are also veterans. Even those who served the military forces under their contracted time and were discharged either by general conditions or honorable conditions still fall into the veterans’ category.

Typically, in the case of military retirees or career military, this qualification is simple. However, the qualification becomes more complex for single-term guard members, reservists, and enlistees. Hopefully, you will discover that there are various categories of veterans such as retired veterans and disabled veterans who are entitled to different veteran compensations and benefits, depending on the veteran status. Unfortunately, in some cases, a person might receive no entitlements or benefits at all. The VA doesn’t provide any veteran “cookie-cutter” definition that simply translates into veteran’s entitlements. Keep in mind, that it’s your burden to prove and showcase your veteran status when working with the veterans’ affairs (VA) department.

Efficient obtaining not only requires you to be patient but also have the copies of your health and service records, your discharge papers (i.e. DD-214) coupled with other significant personnel paperwork. Often, the “red tape” is frustrating and long. It might take several weeks or even months for you to see any significant action taken on the benefits package you claim, more so, depending on the entitlements or compensation you’re trying to get. Therefore, it important to practice patience; it will pay up. A majority of the VA benefits are given routinely in relatively simple and expeditious manner and it’s easy to obtain.

Many VA benefits have been released for many years; therefore, the eligibility standards are simple and easy to understand. Others are a bit complex and can change depending on the congressional regulations provided under the status for honorable conditions or by honorable discharge. Also, they can change as a result of the enacted laws through the process of legislation.

  • Patrick White
    Posted at 12:11h, 18 May Reply

    I would like to simply comment, I envy the standing of our war heroes in this country, I am an ex South African Sapper, a veteran of wars this country never recognized.
    I have many veteran friends who like me fought and put their country first and I live with the awful tinnitus and PTSD from defusing landmines on my belly with a bayonet in the bush outside katima mulilo, Angola and Mozambique. Our enemy was the Cuban, Russian and Chinese who provided training and weaponry to the ANC, FNLA, and other militants who wanted to destroy the “apartheid” government, which with the help of the world they achieved, Look at the blessing that was to South Africa – with hindsight and we see Iraq – War never solves things, it just leaves the wounded and disenfranchised. At age 20 I had 3 years of conscripted duty and yearly camps that destroyed my training and career starting prospects bullet holes, booze and the seat of my car was my recovery for many years thereafter. When 911 occured and a week later as the world mourned I stood on a green in Maidstone, Kent, England and proudly held my wonderful American Flag high as we all held a silence and when it was done I realized I was surrounded by so many others who had stopped their cars and joined me that day. Today I am a proud citizen of this great country and I came here the hard way, I have a small IT Company and I pay my taxes – I am proud of what this country has allows me to be, deep inside I am a Veteran who will die for my country and my home, God Bless America.

  • Joseph Brauchle
    Posted at 14:02h, 09 April Reply

    Please refrain from taking the easy and lazy way out by referring to the United States Armed Forces as USAF. That is the acronym for United States Air Force.

    Secondly, a servicemember becomes a veteran after they are discharged, not while they are serving. If they receiveca dishonorable discharge, they lose their benefits and may or may not be referred to as veterans.

  • Cindy brown
    Posted at 00:00h, 08 April Reply

    My husband Daniel j brown ( massachusetts) was a wartime Vietnam vet ( always my hero) he got a bronze metal and a Purple Heart, he passed away on February 4th 2012 he was being paid for 100% unemployability for 7 years before he passed , he always thought his illnesses had something to do with Agent Orange, I have yet to put in 4 anything through the VA , wld I be, automatically eligible, I don’t qualify for the income-based one

  • Philip Gomez
    Posted at 20:12h, 05 April Reply

    How do I get the KDSM medal issued to me and put on my DD 214. I served in Korea on 1967 and also was sent to the DMZ where we came under attack by the North Koreans. Am I considered combat veteran. I was in an Infantry division up there.

    Posted at 15:59h, 05 April Reply

    Veterans are former active duty members who SERVED. Active duty members that are still serving ARE NOT veterans. That is according to the Department of Veterans Affairs(VA). You can’t get any benefits from VA while on active status. Please stop saying active duty are veterans. They will veterans once they complete their time.

  • John Michel
    Posted at 22:43h, 06 March Reply

    What is the military status of all veterans that were enlisted 1950-1954, during the Korean Conflict but were not sent to Korea. Are we not to be considered Korean Era Vets since tour mission became one of support? Some of the Vets that were stationed in Korea never saw action or in harms way, yet they are considered Korean Combat Vets. Many of us were eligible to be sent; just weren’t. So what kind of Vet are we since we are not considered Korean vets. We were also in the active military during the Cold War. Can they claim us. We did our jobs faithfully, so what type of Vet are we?

  • Richard Tyrell
    Posted at 18:51h, 29 September Reply

    some of them, while in the service, were useless, trouble makers and no one would want to have to depend on them in battle. But now that they are out of the service, they want money??Really? REALLY?

  • Shawn G
    Posted at 23:28h, 12 August Reply

    So I serbed in 2md MP Co. Camp Stanley, Korea 1979-1980 I am eligible for the KDSM. From the VFW we are considered combat veterans. Still at war with an actibe enemy but in a ceasefire. I guess the war officially was ended about 2 months ago.

  • Bill klaus
    Posted at 00:03h, 29 June Reply

    When I was discharged I have no dental work done and it was noted that I was eligible for Lifetime Dental because of accidents that happened basically malpractice the VA will not honor my DD-214 what do I do

  • Michael Panetto
    Posted at 01:16h, 01 June Reply

    I served with the USAF IN South Korea from 1969 to 1970. I’m 71 years old and have many health problems. Is it true that Korea veterans in those years are eligible for agent orange disabilities.

  • James Martin
    Posted at 01:30h, 01 March Reply

    Does anyone know if Department of the Army Civilians (DACs) or Military Technicians (MilTech) considered veterans? Thanks.

  • Tony Secatero
    Posted at 22:30h, 18 November Reply

    I was drafted into the army for the Vietnam war. I served with the 101st. Airborne Division, A Company of the 187th infantry. Everything i did in the military was by force, even in combat. When you are a native American they call you chief and often say Indian are good hunters so you take the point. I did what I was told and ended up being shot up, shrapnel wounds, ptsd and whatever the hell else. Right now I am 100% service connected disable and not some to enjoy. Being disable among the public is shocking the way the people look at you, some with insults, some don’t give a damn ready to piss on you. VA hospital were so ill prepared, poor personnel, 6 months to a year for appointment and end up with only a Tylenol and tell you to go home there’s nothing we can do. I have face so much rejection it is pitiful and disgusting.

    • Frank de la Puente
      Posted at 19:07h, 08 April Reply



      Pal, when you write this garbage “Being disable among the public is shocking the way the people look at you, some with insults, some don’t give a damn ready to piss on you.” you are lying and you know it.

      Do you crave sympathy so bad that you have to lie in an effort to get it.

  • Mark
    Posted at 21:26h, 09 November Reply

    Les, the simple answer is yes you are. Additionally, if you carried an infantry mos 11b etc and at any time engaged enemy forces you are also entitled to a CIB. Check with your local VFW for more details. One last thing, if you were stationed anywhere near the DMZ you are also on the ” presumed ” list for Agent Orange, Angent Pink etc etc. God willing your not suffering from related medical conditions but it’s best to be checked out. Good luck.

  • R Stickroth
    Posted at 18:31h, 09 November Reply

    The word entitlement should be considered with caution, unless it means a service member is entitled to the US government honoring the contract when the enlistment was signed. Recruiters make smooth promises, saying the government will take care of their needs in and beyond the enlistment. And oft times the veteran is abandoned after he/she is discharged.

  • Latisha
    Posted at 04:53h, 09 November Reply

    Is a military member supposed to be automatically denied VA benefits because of a bad conduct discharge? On the VA website, there are certain situations that disqualify a veteran that has been discharged with a bad conduct character of service, but there are also exceptions to where that veteran could receive their benefits. Any clarification on the matter would be greatly appreciated!

  • Steve
    Posted at 15:36h, 06 October Reply

    In “71” a N.A.S.A. tug and tow with rocket parts was captured by the Cubans after coming through the Panama Canal and enroute to the Cape. We (U.S. Coast Guard) were sent out of Key West to retrieve the captured vessel .While negotiations were taking place between the two governments. We were harassed by two weapons ready gun boats at 50 yds from our ship. After 3 days of this, we received our captured vessel and escorted it to Miami. All on board we’re threatened with court marshal if it was leaked as to what took place. No national incident was every reported. What do you think ?

  • Sherrie
    Posted at 21:34h, 21 June Reply

    I was in Georgia air national guard in 1967-1973 as a load master We did drop supplies off in Vietnam
    does that entitle me to any VA benefits

    • Jeff
      Posted at 14:37h, 28 September Reply

      To be eligible for VA benefits you only have to have been discharged under honorable conditions. That includes general discharges. The key is how much you are in titled to. You can get medical benefits and have a co pay or if you were injured in service and can prove it you can get compinsation. Injured in service doesn’t have to mean in combat or a combat zone. You can get compinsation for an injury that you received as the result of a auto accident in Idaho on leave and you had never been deployed. As long as you were in active duty then you qualify. Your injury just has to happen while in service. Even if you were injured in basic training and it resulted in you not graduating basic training you are eligible for VA benefits/compensation. Now just because your eligible for VA benefits or compensation it doesn’t mean your a veteran if you didn’t graduate basic training. You are not a soldier, Marine, sailor, or airman until you complete basic training. So thier are non veterans receiving full 100% VA compinsation just because they received a serious injury in basic training but before completing basic training.

    • L. Daniels
      Posted at 02:13h, 06 April Reply

      Yes it does
      It was a combat zone.

  • jerry
    Posted at 10:08h, 10 May Reply

    The wars starting with Vietnam have had more people directly do a major part for the war. airman in Guam Thailand and Okinawa worked long hours during the Vietnam keeping the B52s going to Vietnam and are Vietnam war vets

    • Glenn Boudreaux
      Posted at 21:34h, 26 June Reply

      I am a USAF POL vet the served @ Kadena AFB from Feb 70′-Dec 72′ (Operation Rolling Thunder) an am considered a vietnam veteran,BUT have never been authorized a Vietnam Campaign Ribbon……….WHY ???

      • Paul Lee
        Posted at 02:33h, 06 April Reply

        Will be on your dd214 or discharge papers
        It’s your responsibility to take care of your papers although if not in the St Louis fire you can get a copy

  • les hancock
    Posted at 23:38h, 24 January Reply

    I served in the U.S ARMY from Sept. 69 to Nov. 71 and was Honorably discharged at the rank of Sgt. E-5. I served 13 months in Korea during that time. Am I considered a wartime vet ?

    • Matt Terry
      Posted at 19:38h, 23 April Reply


      Were you in a “combat zone” or did you receive “hazardous duty pay”? Those are usually the best indicators. I was in the Navy, never put boots on ground, but we directly impacted wartime missions from our carrier, so we were in a combat zone and received hazardous duty pay.


    • Thomas McGarry
      Posted at 11:43h, 28 September Reply

      Yes I believe you are considered a Vietnam War Era Vet

    • Jeff
      Posted at 14:23h, 28 September Reply

      Les did you earn a earn an AFEM (Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal) or a Viet Nam service medal? If you didn’t you are not considered a war time vet. The AFEM is awarded for any campaign where thier is an active enemy and no other campaign medal has been approved. If a campaign medal is approved for the period that you were deployed to that region then you can choose to wear the new campaign medal or the AFEM but not both. As for hazardous duty pay that does not signify combat or war time service. That just means you had a job that was hazardous in nature. Flying, fuels, munitions, flight deck ect… To be considered war time you need to have been awarded imminent danger pay, or hostile fire pay.

    • Jeff
      Posted at 15:03h, 28 September Reply

      Les did a bit of research. In 2002 president Bush in acted the Korea Defense Service Medal (KDSM). Most who served in Korea before 2002 don’t know they are eligible for this award. If you were in S. Korea for 30 consecutive days and you did 13 months so you are eligible for this newer campaign medal. Send in a request to update your dd 214 to recognize you earned this campaign medal. Contact the bmr of your service branch. By the way Bravo Zulu for making E5 in less than 2 years.

  • anthony Martinez
    Posted at 19:31h, 17 January Reply

    should the man or women that got in lottery of the Vietnam war be consider for a pension being they were being force into the service cuz of a war that we were being force into and away from are life ?

    • Jeff
      Posted at 14:46h, 28 September Reply

      Anthony are you 65 or older? You served in Vietnam? You earned the Vietnam service medal? If yes then you definitely are eligible for a VA pension. But are you meaning compensation? A VA Pension is a needs-based benefit for wartime Veterans with limited or no income who are age 65 or older or who have a permanent and total non-service-connected disability. VA compinsation is for those that have in service injuries that led to a disability. So either way if you served in Vietnam and we’re awarded the Vietnam service medal you are eligible to be considered for both pension or compinsation.

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