A veteran is one who has served in the armed forces and has an honorable discharge; a common misconception is that one has either been in combat and/or is retired from active duty to be called a veteran. Because of this widely held misconception, women have often been excluded from this equation. Each state (of the United States) sets specific criteria for state specific veterans benefits. For federal medical benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) hospitals, prior to Sept. 7, 1980 the veteran must have served at least 180 days of active duty, after the above mentioned date the veteran must have served at least 24 months. However, if the veteran was medically discharged and receives a VA service connection disability the time limits are not applicable.
Reservists who served on active duty establish veteran status and may be eligible for the full-range of VA benefits, depending on the length of active military service and a discharge or release from active duty under conditions other than dishonorable. In addition, reservists not activated may qualify for some VA benefits.
National Guard members can establish eligibility for VA benefits if activated for federal service during a period of war or domestic emergency. Activation for other than federal service does not qualify guard members for all VA benefits. Claims for VA benefits based on federal service filed by members of the National Guard should include a copy of the military orders, presidential proclamation or executive order that clearly demonstrates the federal nature of the service.