The Definition of the Word “Veteran”

The Definition of the Word Veteran

By Military Connection Staff Writer Joe Silva.

Recently, a Veteran contacted Military Connection with a serious problem. He was a former E-8 in the U.S. Army Reserves, with 27 years of service to his country. He separated from the Army Reserves with a signed Honorable Discharge from then-president Bill Clinton. But he claimed to have never received a discharge form DD-214, due to the fact that he was never deployed or had been active for more than 90 consecutive days during his 27 years of service. His question was, “Am I still a Veteran?”

My heart sank as I read this Master Sergeant’s question. I only served for five years and my Veteran status isn’t in question. This man spent 27 years of his life as a member of the Army Reserves. My first inclination was to answer with absolute certainty that he was a Veteran. But I needed to answer another part of his email, where he asked for help in obtaining proof of service documents. This is not really what we do at Military Connection, but feeling compassion for my distressed elder, I wanted to help him out.

I spent a good part of the morning researching the matter for my fellow Veteran. I sent him forms and information about obtaining his proof of service documents. But I was astonished to find that there was no clear-cut definition for “Veteran” provided by the VA or the DOD. What I was able to find really upset me. The term “Veteran” is legally defined in Title 38 of the U.S. Code, which establishes pensions, bonuses and Veteran relief:

Veteran means a person who served in the active military, naval, or air service and who was discharged or released under conditions other than dishonorable” 38 U.S.C § 101(2); 38 C.F.R. § 3.1(d).

So, by definition, this Master Sergeant is not a Veteran? This does not sit right with me.

While he was never called to 90 days of active duty, or called to combat, the possibility for deployment was present every day for 27 years. If he had been called to active duty he would have performed his ordered duties an American soldier. If he had been called to active duty, his E-8 rank would have had clout, even among the full-time active duty soldiers. If he had been called to serve just 90 days, he would be considered a Veteran today. Yet, as it stands, 27 years in uniform and he and his service are not being recognized.

Also in my research, I found that last year The Honor America’s Guard-Reserve Retirees Act of 2013 was introduced in both the House (H.R. 629) and the Senate (S. 629). The bills call for the legal definition of “Veteran” to include reservists, while not providing any extra pay or compensation that Reservists weren’t otherwise entitled to. Essentially, the bills are allowing Veterans like our Master Sergeant to legally call themselves “Veterans.”

Please contact your local congressional representative and senator and tell them that you their constituent wish that all Veterans be recognized for their service and you want them to support bill 629.

As for our Master Sergeant, I told him that he was a Veteran… and don’t let ANYONE tell him differently.