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Veterans Advantage Financial™

We Speak Veteran™

Certified Medicare Insurance Planner™* | Retirement Income Certified Professional®*

Medicare | Retirement | Life Insurance | Veterans Only

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How Many Years Do You Serve To Be A Veteran?

Did you know that there are different levels of military service? And depending on your level, you may be called a veteran. Here is the number of years you must serve to be considered a veteran. 

According to the VA, a veteran is someone who has served at least 180 days of active service. A Service member must receive an honorable discharge to be eligible for veteran’s benefits, except for medical purposes that are service-connected.

Veterans make tremendous sacrifices for our country, for which we are eternally grateful. But how long do you need to serve to be called a veteran? Let’s take a look at the definition of a veteran and find out.

What Qualifies You as a Veteran?

The VA defines a veteran as someone who served in the active military, naval, or air service for more than 180 days and was dismissed under non-dishonorable conditions. Unless you were medically discharged due to your service-related injuries, VA wouldn’t recognize service members with less than 180 days of service as veterans. The VA also considers what is written on your DD-214 discharge certificate when determining your veteran status. The DD-214 must state that you were honorably discharged to be eligible for VA benefits.

A Reservist called to Federal active duty or a member of the National Guard who was disabled from training-related injuries also meets the definition of a veteran.

If you are unsure of your veteran status or need help understanding VA benefits available to veterans and their families, contact an accredited VA representative at 1-800-827-1000 or visit VA.gov. VA representatives are always happy to provide veterans with the information and support they need to take advantage of VA programs.

Knowing your veteran status is essential for receiving VA benefits, so make sure you understand it before applying for them. Being aware of VA resources can also help veterans get their needed support. The objective of the VA is to care for veterans, so please contact the VA if you have any questions or concerns concerning your veteran status or VA benefits.

What are the 4 Types of Veterans?

VA recognizes four main categories of veterans: Active Duty Veterans, National Guard and Reserve Veterans, Retired Military Veterans, and Separated or Discharged Veterans.

Active Duty Veterans have served full-time in the United States armed forces for more than 180 days without being discharged or separated from service. They currently serve on active duty status or are members of the Ready Reserve awaiting to be called to active duty service. Additionally, National Guard and Reserve Veterans have either retired after at least 20 years of service or were honorably discharged earlier due to a disability connected with their military service.

Retired Military Veterans are individuals who have completed an extended tour of duty in the US military and then retired from active duty service. Separated or Discharged Veterans are those who have completed their tours of duty and were released from active duty with an honorable discharge. Veterans of all branches of the United States military, including the Coast Guard, Merchant Marines, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, are eligible for VA benefits (NOAA).

Regardless of your category, VA is here to support our veterans and provide access to benefits and services that ease the transition from military to civilian life. In addition, VA is committed to ensuring that all veterans receive quality care and access to the resources they need for a successful transition.

Does Boot Camp Count as Active Duty Time?

Active duty duration does not include training. Active duty begins for regular Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard members when they report to their first duty station after finishing basic training, officer training school, or tech school.

Are You a Veteran if You Only Served One Year?

A veteran is someone who has served in the military for more than 180 days, according to the VA. Unless the Service member is discharged for medical reasons that are connected to their service, they will not be eligible for veteran’s benefits if they serve anything less than the required time.

Can You Lose Veteran Status?

A dishonorably discharged soldier will no longer be considered a Veteran and, therefore, unable to receive benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs. VA will review the service records of all Veterans who apply for VA benefits to determine eligibility. A veteran must meet the VA’s definition, which includes having an honorable discharge or other than dishonorable conditions and having served a certain amount of time in active service, depending on their branch of service. Veterans who do not match the VA’s requirements are ineligible for VA benefits and services. VA can also revoke veterans’ status if they commit serious offenses such as fraud or abuse of VA benefits.

Additionally, veterans may lose their status if they can no longer receive VA benefits due to financial hardship, disability, death, or other reasons beyond their control. Veterans must stay informed about the requirements associated with maintaining veterans’ status so that they can continue to receive VA benefits. VA provides resources and assistance to veterans to help them understand their eligibility requirements and other important information related to veterans’ status. Veterans are encouraged to contact the VA if they have any questions or concerns regarding retaining their veteran status. VA is here to serve those who served our nation.

How Do I Prove I Am a Veteran?

If you are a veteran, you should have a DD-214 discharge certificate that states you were discharged honorably. To prove that you are a veteran, you will need to provide your DD-214 to the VA or another organization as proof of your service. The National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) houses military service records from World War I veterans to the present. The National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) is in charge of preserving and maintaining a wide range of records, including Official Military Personnel Files (OMPF).

Among other things, the Report of Separation (DD Form 214) indicates a veteran’s complete service history and can include the following:

  • The dates of when someone signs up for duty and leaves their position.
  • One’s duty station is the specific location where they are deployed to perform their assigned duties.
  • Exemplary training and qualifications
  • Awards and recognition
  • Corrective measures that were taken during service
  • Length and type of service, i.e., active duty, reserve or guard service
  • Date and location of active duty entry

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