FAQs

Who qualifies as 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.”
 

Active Duty

All active duty service members are issued a DD Form 214 when they separate from active duty.   If you did not receive a DD Form 214 when you left the service, you should contact your last unit if you separated recently.  You can also contact your branch of service admin headquarters.
 

Reserve/National Guard

Former or current members of the National Guard or Reserves are not considered to be veterans unless they had prior or subsequent service with an active component of the Armed Forces (activated to federal service).   Since the DD Form 214 is issued to those leaving the active military as well as to members of the National Guard and Reserves completing their initial active duty for training, possession of this document does not necessarily mean the Service Member is a veteran.
 
Service Members who serve in the National Guard and Reserve without a federal deployment are usually not eligible for veterans benefits, unless they were injured during their basic or advanced training or while on weekend drill or two-week training. They must have reported the injury, filed a claim with the VA, and been rated as disabled for that injury. 
 
* Guard and Reserve members who complete their term of service, without ever being activated to federal service, are issued a DD Form 256 (Honorable Discharge Certificate), DD Form 257 (General Discharge Certificate)  or a NGB form 22 (Report of Separation and Record of Service) upon completion of their term.

 

Other

Other types of people considered veteran are those who served as a commissioned officer of the Public Health Service, the Environmental Science Services Administration or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or its predecessor the Coast and Geodetic Survey. These individuals would have a document similar to a DD-214 as proof of this service.

 

Types of Discharge

 

Honorable Discharge

If a military service member received a good or excellent rating for their service time, by exceeding standards for performance and personal conduct, they will be discharged from the military honorably. An honorable military discharge is a form of administrative discharge.
 

General Discharge

A General military discharge is a form of administrative discharge. If a service member’s performance is satisfactory but the individual failed to meet all expectations of conduct for military members, the discharge is considered a General Discharge, Under Honorable Conditions.  To receive a General Discharge from the military there has to be some form of nonjudicial punishment to correct unacceptable military behavior or failure to meet military standards. The discharging officer must give the reason for the discharge in writing, and the military member must sign paperwork stating they understand the reason for their discharge. Veterans may not be eligible for certain veterans benefits under a General Discharge, including the GI Bill.
 

Other Than Honorable Conditions Discharge

The most severe type of military administrative discharge is the Other Than Honorable Conditions.  Some examples of actions that could lead to an Other Than Honorable Discharge include security violations,  use of violence, conviction by a civilian court with a sentence including prison time, or being found guilty of adultery in a divorce hearing (this list is not a definitive list; these are only examples).  In most cases, veterans who receive an Other Than Honorable Discharge cannot re-enlist in the Armed Forces or reserves, except under very rare circumstances.  Veteran’s benefits are not usually available to those discharged through this type of discharge.
 

Bad Conduct Discharge (BCD)

The Bad Conduct Discharge is only passed on to enlisted military members and is given by a court-martial due to punishment for bad conduct.  A Bad Conduct discharge is often preceded by time in military prison.  Virtually all veteran’s benefits are forfeited if discharged due to Bad Conduct.
 

Dishonorable Discharge

If the military considers a service members actions to be reprehensible, the general court-martial can determine a dishonorable discharge is in order.  Murder and sexual assault are examples of situations which would result in a dishonorable discharge.  If someone is dishonorably discharged from the military they are not allowed to own firearms according to US federal law. Military members who receive a Dishonorable Discharge forfeit all military and veterans benefits and may have a difficult time finding work in the civilian sector.
 

Officer Discharge

Commissioned officers cannot receive bad conduct discharges or a dishonorable discharge, nor can they be reduced in rank by a court-martial. If an officer is discharged by a general court-martial, they receive a Dismissal notice which is the same as a dishonorable discharge.

Entry Level Separation (ELS)

If an individual leaves the military before completing at least 180 days of service, they receive an entry level separation status.  This type of military discharge can happen for a variety of reasons (medical, administrative, etc.) and is neither good nor bad, though in many cases, service of less than 180 may prevent some people from being classified as a veteran for state and federal military benefits.
 
 

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Staff