The first step in determining whether a person is qualified for VA benefits is determining whether the person meets the VA’s definition of “veteran.” While this may seem like a simple question, there are some nuances that are important to understand. The VA defines the word veteran as “a person who served in the active military, naval, or air service, and who was discharged or released therefrom under conditions other than dishonorable.” Today, we will discuss the first part of this definition: what qualifies as “active military, naval, or air service.”
Military, naval, or air service includes not only Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Coast Guard service, but also a member of the Reserves, Air or Army National Guard, or military academies in certain circumstances. Military service also includes commissioned officers in the Public Health Service on full-time duty, commissioned officers of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration or Environmental Science Services Administration on full-time duty, and service by certain civilians whose work supported military operations during specific periods of conflict.
If your service qualifies as military, naval, or air service, the next step is to determine whether that service was “active” service. Active service means full-time duty. For Reservists and National Guard members, they must have been called up to active duty for federal purposes. Federal service includes periods during which a National Guard member is ordered into federal service by the President or to perform specified training exercises.
A Reservist or National Guard member may also be considered on active duty for training in certain circumstances. A period of active duty for training is considered active military, naval, or air service if “the individual concerned was disabled or died from a disease or injury incurred or aggravated in line of duty” during the period of active duty for training. Note, that the presumption of aggravation is not available during periods of active duty for training, so a veteran must be able to prove both that the pre-existing condition worsened during the period of active duty for training and that the worsening was caused by the active duty for training.
There are also circumstances in which a person qualifies as a veteran during “inactive duty for training,” such as if he or she was disabled or died from an injury incurred or aggravated in the line or duty or from an acute myocardial infarction, a cardiac arrest, or a cerebrovascular accident that occurred during training. Note that the word “disease” is not included in the requirements for inactive duty for training, which means that there is a more narrow set or circumstances in which a person is qualified as a veteran for inactive duty for training.
In Part Two, we will discuss the second part of the VA’s definition of a veteran and the requirement of a discharge under conditions other than dishonorable.