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Who is a Veteran?

To be eligible for most Veteran Affair (VA) benefits, the claimant must be a veteran or, in some circumstances, the
survivor or the dependent of a veteran. By statute, a veteran is defined as a “person who served in the active military, naval, or air service, and who was discharged or released there from under conditions other than dishonorable. An applicant must have “active military, naval, or air service” to be considered a veteran for most VA benefits.

In general, active service means full-time service, other than active duty for training, as a member of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, or 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.

The determination of whether a claimant has met the “active service” requirement may not be a simple process. It is possible that the claimant and the VA may have to scrutinize the claimant’s service record(s) to determine whether the claimant’s service fits into one of the many categories of active service, or whether an exception has been made for his or her service, so that it is considered to be active service for the purposes of veterans’ benefits.

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