When Are You Considered a Veteran? Here is Your Answer!

Written by

John Cotton


Logan Miller

when are you considered a veteran

Serving in the military is an honorable duty to the nation. But when your turn to fulfill your service has finished, when are you considered a veteran?

Most people think soldiers become veterans if they have served in the military before and no longer do so. In other words, they are often considered retired military personnel.

However, this definition is very broad on its own, and a soldier needs to meet specific criteria set by the United States government to be considered a veteran. Read on for more valuable information.

Considering Your Status as a Veteran


According to Title 38 of the United States Code, a soldier qualifies to be a veteran if he is a retiree or former individual who took part in the active military, naval, or air service in a certain period.

This legal definition of military veteran seems extensive since it considers anyone who served in any military branch, regardless of the length of service or if they saw combat or not, to be a veteran, as long as they were not released dishonorably.

However, being a veteran is more than simply serving in the military. Several other factors would help in determining the veteran status of military personnel. This article will further answer the question of what classifies as a veteran.

Qualifications to Become a Veteran


The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) tackles issues concerning veterans and provides healthcare and other benefits to qualified veterans. They follow guidelines that help them determine who’s considered a veteran. The VA evaluates a person’s veteran status by reviewing their service record.

The VA goes beyond the established military veteran definition. They consider the following factors when examining a soldier’s eligibility for veteran status:

  • Time and length of a soldier’s active service
  • The period when they performed their service
  • The type or character of service
  • The circumstances and type of discharge

As mentioned earlier, a soldier must have performed active military, naval, or air service to get veteran status. But what does it mean? When you are drafted into the military, you could choose to perform two types of service: Full-time or active-duty service and part-time service.

We’ll discuss full-time service in the next section.

What is Active Service?

Generally speaking, active-duty soldiers means they serve in the military full-time. Full-time service comes in multiple forms, including service as a cadet in a military academy and travel to or from service.

Active-duty military members are under the jurisdiction of the US Armed Forces’ five main branches, which are the Coast Guard, Marine Corps, Navy, Air, and Army. They are available for duty 24/7, excluding leaves (vacation) or passes (authorized time-offs).

Service Duration


Another factor affecting a soldier’s eligibility for veteran status is how many years of service they have spent performing active duty in the military.

That being said, how long do you have to be in the military to be a veteran? It depends on the time when you were enlisted. If a soldier were enlisted on or before September 1980, there would be no minimum service length requirement to be considered a veteran.

But the requirements to be a veteran would differ for those who enlisted after September 1980 since they would need to serve a minimum of two years to be eligible for VA benefits. However, exceptions exist for soldiers who incur service-related disabilities.

Other Categories

Other types of service in the US government can also grant individuals veteran status and benefits. For instance, anyone who served as a scout for the Philippine Commonwealth Army from December 1941 to January 1947 may be eligible for veteran status.

In addition, those who served as a commissioned officer for the Environmental Science Services Administration, the Public Health Service, the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration, or the Coast & Geodetic Survey and hold a DD-214 as proof of service may qualify as veterans.

Veteran Benefits


Gaining veteran status is an honor of its own. But a veteran of the military could also gain access to various well-deserved assistance, opportunities, and benefits.

For instance, veterans are eligible for educational assistance through the Post-9/11 Bill and the Montgomery GI Bill. Educational programs for veterans are the most popular benefits for veterans today.

Veterans could also take advantage of healthcare programs provided by the Veterans Health Administration. The VA also offers insurance, compensation, and assistance for veterans discharged because of a service-connected disability.

Veterans could also buy residential properties through VA Home Loans Programs, and the US government has a veteran preference in hiring federal employees.

Types of Veterans

Every military personnel who meets the minimum service length requirement and gets discharged under conditions other than dishonorable or bad conduct would qualify for veteran status. Nevertheless, the benefits a veteran could access would depend on what type of veteran they are.

1. Combat Veteran

Combat veterans performed demanding tasks in their duties. They were in the conflict zone, and they did some of the most dangerous services in the military service. Typically, they were assigned to countries like Iraq and Afghanistan.

Due to the perilous journey they took while in the service, they are eligible for several VA benefits, which include long-term care and family caregiver support.

2. War Veteran

A war veteran is any military personnel deployed in foreign countries where combat is occurring and supports combat troops. These include doctors, nurses, mechanics, and clerical staff at risk during deployment.

3. Peacetime Veteran

A soldier would fall under the peacetime veteran if they served during peacetime and were not deployed to any combat area.

4. Protected Veteran

A safeguarded veteran is shielded from discrimination, especially during the hiring process, because they are protected by the Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act or VEVRAA.

Frequently Asked Questions


Am I a veteran if I was discharged during basic training?

Basic training is also considered active duty for training or ADT. As per the US Code definition, a person is a veteran if they have served actively in the military. However, this definition doesn’t differentiate between active service and active training.

If you were simply discharged from basic training, you’d need to ask VA or a Veterans Service Officer (VSO) for assistance in your case since this is an unusual circumstance.

If you were released from basic training dishonorably, you wouldn’t qualify as a veteran. However, you can be considered a veteran if you were released during basic training because of an illness or injury incurred while training.

Am I a veteran if I have a DD-214?

Yes, you can be considered a veteran if you are a DD-214 holder who fulfilled other veteran status requirements. The paper is widely considered a capstone documentation of a soldier’s completed military service, serving as verified proof of someone’s time in the military.

It is a document released to military personnel after their retirement, discharge, or separation from the US Armed Forces. The form contains many essential details, including a soldier’s character of service.

Am I a veteran if I’m currently serving in the military?

Another concern most military personnel have is whether current military members are considered veterans.

To answer this question, we need to go back to the official veteran status meaning that was set by Title 38 of the United States Code. This definition states that a person could be considered a veteran if discharged after service.

So, are active military considered veterans as per Veterans Affairs guidelines? The short answer is no. But as long as currently serving military personnel satisfy a minimum service duration requirement and get released without issues, they are eligible for veteran status.

Are National Guard members and Reservists not considered veterans?

Most servicemen would also ask if a 6-year Reservist is considered a veteran along with National Guard members.

Reservists and National Guards are eligible for veteran benefits if the federal government deploys them for a minimum of 180 days of active duty and receives a discharge higher than dishonorable or bad conduct.

But since 2016, they could also be eligible for veteran status if they serve for a minimum of 20 years and receive a discharge higher than dishonorable or bad conduct.


Being a veteran is a badge of honor. Serving in the military is never easy. Many sacrificed their lives and dreams to protect the country from external and internal threats.

While veterans face many issues today, several government agencies and private organizations provide assistance and benefits to military veterans, such as scholarships and financial aid.

Nevertheless, not all soldiers qualify for veteran status, and the Department of Veterans Affairs follows a specific guideline to determine when are you considered a veteran. If you are a veteran or know someone who served in the US Armed Forces, contact Veterans Affairs or a Veterans Service Officer (VSO) for assistance.

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