Am I a Veteran, or War-Time Veteran, for VA Purposes?

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I speak with people every day who wonder if they qualify for veteran’s benefits because there can be significant assistance from the Department of Veteran’s Affairs through various programs for veterans who qualify.

The first step in evaluating potential programs is determining whether someone is actually considered to be a veteran. Like many matters pertaining to the VA it is not as straightforward as one might think.

General Eligibility

Eligibility for most VA benefits is based on discharge from active military service under “other than dishonorable” conditions. Active service means full-time service, other than active duty for training, as a member of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps or Coast Guard or as a commissioned officer of the Public Health Service, Environmental Science Services Administration or National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration or its predecessor, the Coast and Geodetic Survey.

Generally, men and women veterans with similar service may be entitled to the same VA benefits.

Dishonorable and bad conduct discharges issued by general courts-martial may bar VA benefits. Veterans in prison and parolees must contact a regional VA office to determine their eligibility.

In addition, VA benefits will not be provided to any veteran or dependent wanted for an outstanding felony warrant.

Wartime Service Benefits

After eligibility as a veteran is established, the next step is whether the veteran is considered a “wartime veteran.” Certain VA benefits require service during wartime. Under the law, VA recognizes these war periods:

  • Mexican Border Period: May 9, 1916, through April 5, 1917, for veterans who served in Mexico, on its borders or in adjacent waters.
  • World War I: April 6, 1917, through Nov. 11, 1918. For veterans who served in Russia, April 6, 1917 through April 1, 1920. That period is extended through July 1, 1921 for veterans who served at least one day between April 6, 1917, and Nov. 11, 1918.
  • World War II: Dec. 7, 1941, through Dec. 31, 1946.
  • Korean War: June 27, 1950, through Jan. 31, 1955.
  • Vietnam War: Aug. 5, 1964 (Feb. 28, 1961, for veterans who served “in country” before Aug. 5, 1964), through May 7, 1975.
  • Gulf War: Aug. 2, 1990, through a date to be set by law or Presidential Proclamation.

Hope you all have a wonderful Fourth of July!

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Karen Marshall has more than 17 years of legal experience and is an attorney with The Peterson Firm. She has been contributing to The Mesothelioma Center since 2011 and writes about asbestos-related legal issues and blogs for

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