Who qualifies as a veteran?Current and former members of the Reserves or National Guard who were called to active duty (other than for training only) by a federal order and completed the full period for which they were called or ordered to active duty may be eligible for VA health care as well.
Editor’s note: Ray Kallstrom with the Douglas County Veteran’s Service Office has been fielding a lot of questions lately on who qualifies as a veteran. He provided the following information:
Minnesota Statutes (197.447) define a veteran as a citizen of the United States or a resident alien who has been separated under honorable conditions from any branch of the armed forces of the United States after having served on active duty for 181 consecutive days or by reason of disability incurred while serving on active duty, or who has met the minimum active duty as defined by Code of Federal Regulations, title 38, section 3.12a.
The active military service must be certified by the United States secretary of defense as active military service and a discharge under honorable conditions must be issued by the secretary.
CFD, title 38, section 3.12a defines minimum period of active duty as either 24 months of continuous active duty or the full period for which a person was called or ordered to active duty. The minimum 24 months is waived for those who were injured while on active duty or released for a hardship or an early out.
The change to the 24 months occurred on September 8, 1980 for enlisted personnel and October 16, 1981 for officers. The 2012 Department of Veterans Affairs Health Care Benefits Overview states that if you served in the active military, naval or air service and are separated under any condition other than dishonorable, you may qualify for VA health care benefits.
Current and former members of the Reserves or National Guard who were called to active duty (other than for training only) by a federal order and completed the full period for which they were called or ordered to active duty may be eligible for VA health care as well. The Federal Benefits for Veterans handbook uses the same general eligibility criteria in their book.
We do have Reservists and National Guard personnel receiving benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs. They generally qualify by having met the full period for which they were called to active duty or they were injured while on training for their Reserve or Guard unit and have been awarded a service-connected disability by the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The only other benefit would be a burial flag for those who have completed at least one enlistment in the Reserve or Guard. For those who retire from the reserve or guard, they also are eligible for a Department of Veterans Affairs marker and burial at a National VA Cemetery or the Minnesota State Veterans Cemetery in addition to the flag.
As for qualifying for membership in veterans organizations, they have their own specific criteria. For the American Legion, it is generally having served during a war time. For the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), it is having served in a war and received one of the medals as outlined in their membership eligibility.
The VFW recognizes more than the major conflicts and has an extensive list of conflicts that would qualify veterans to be eligible for membership.
The Vietnam Veterans of America generally requires having served during the Vietnam War. They also have associate memberships.
The Disabled American Veterans membership is based on having a service-connected disability rated by the Department of Veterans Affairs.
For more detailed information on joining a particular organization, contact a local post or member of the organization.
If you have any questions about veterans benefits, contact our office. We are still in our temporary location at 1500 Irving Street in Alexandria. Our telephone numbers are (320) 219-7781 (Ray) or (320) 219-7780 (Sandy). We will be in this location until sometime next year.