A veteran is anyone who has previously served in the armed forces. Veterans organizations support individuals who meet their qualifications, which are sometimes specific, such as service in a particular conflict. The basic requirements include previous service in any branch of the armed forces and having received an honorable discharge at the end of that service.
Veterans may be from any military branch including the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force or Marine Corps. Certain veterans associations focus on providing services to those who served in certain branches or specific wars, while others provide more generalized support to anyone who qualifies as a veteran. Additionally, some veterans services are provided by the government, particularly the Veterans Administration (VA) while nonprofits or independent businesses provide other services.
An honorable discharge can be obtained either by leaving the military upon completion of a tour of duty or by retirement. And, those separated from the service early for health reasons such as an injury or disability, still qualify for an honorable discharge. However, any service person who is not honorably discharged, including those who receive a dishonorable discharge, do not qualify as veterans and will not be eligible for related benefits.
Are all Veterans groups government-run?
No, not all veterans organizations are government-run. The VA is a government agency. However, the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) is a non-profit organization. Numerous charities focus their efforts on the needs of veterans including but not limited to the Wounded Warrior Project, Hope for the Warriors, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America and the USO.
Do you have to serve in a war to be a Veteran?
No, you do not have to serve in a war to be a veteran. To be considered a veteran, you must have served as a member of the U.S. Armed Forces and have been honorably discharged.
If I am on active duty, am I a Veteran?
No. Veterans are those who have served and already received an honorable discharge. Active-duty military members are not currently considered veterans. However, if your tour of duty ends with an honorable discharge or you retire with an honorable discharge, you will become a veteran.