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Who is a veteran?

David A. Anderson, Wadena County Veteran Service Officer

Many veterans still do not know they are veterans. If you are a former or retired member of the United States Armed Forces, you may qualify for benefits from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs defines "veteran" in Title 38, United States Code, Section 101, as "a person who served in the active military, naval, or air service, and who was discharged or released from under conditions other than dishonorable." Being a veteran does not mean being male, or having served in combat, or even having served in wartime. Former and retired members of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Commissioned Corps, as well as some other groups with World War II Service, qualify for benefits from the VA. Some examples of those with World War II service are the Women Airforce Service Pilots or "WASPS", Merchant Mariners, and Filipino veterans who served with U.S. forces.

The definition of "active military, naval, or air service" is not as clear as one would think. Guard and Reserve members may still qualify for veteran status if disabled by injury or disease during active duty for training or inactive duty for training. Former and retired members of the Guard and Reserve still qualify for some benefits including educational benefits and home loan guaranty from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs even if not labeled a veteran under Title 38. Some benefits from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs require a certain amount of time on active duty, a discharge under "other than dishonorable conditions", or wartime service. Most State Departments of Veterans Affairs also offer benefits to veterans, and may have different definitions of a veteran for benefits eligibility. If you are unsure of your veteran status, check with a Veterans Service Organization or Military Service Organization. Gather any documentation you have of your service. Every veteran has a different experience of his or her time in service to America. But they all share a common characteristic: a veteran is someone who, at one point, wrote a blank check made payable to The United States of America for an amount of 'up to and including their life.'

As always please see your local County Veterans Service Officer if you have any questions. You can contact your local VSO at (218) 631-7617 or by email at and as always have a great week.