By Keith King
Here are just a few examples of the statements we hear when we ask someone to list their qualifications needed to be recognized as a veteran (and the true answer):
- Anyone with an honorable discharge? NO
- Must have been overseas? NO
- Must have served during a period of war? NO
- National Guard and Reserve members? Maybe, under specific conditions.
- Anyone who has a DD-214 form? NO
- If they served, they are a Veteran? NO
The key is understanding the person’s service record: Did he or she serve in a campaign or expedition for which a campaign badge or medal was authorized. Was he or she awarded the campaign badge or medal? Just serving during the time period does not qualify most reservists or guardsmen or women.
To devise a way to recognize our troops serving in a “war,” the Department of Defense (DoD) created designated periods of conflict that if you serve in an area of hostility and are awarded a campaign medal, you are considered a veteran. We use, “180 days of active duty not counting training or 1 day in a combat zone,” as our rule of thumb to determine if a person is a veteran or not. This is a much higher standard than what the Veteran Affairs (VA) uses for benefit awards.
To be a veteran, a service member must have:
— 180 days of consecutive active duty (not counting training)
— Or one day in a combat zone: served on Active Duty during a period of war or in a campaign or expedition for which a campaign badge was authorized.
— Served in the National Guard or Reserve for 20 years and retired under honorable conditions. (passed 2016)
The form no one tells you about is, in many cases, more important than the one everyone thinks they know (DD214). The DD 256 and 257 are issued when the person has not met the active duty requirements to be considered a veteran by the DoD. But having a DD214 form doesn’t automatically mean you are a veteran! What is truly bothersome is that people who have served but don’t qualify as a veteran can request a DD214. To the untrained eye, this person has a DD214 and in most cases their character of service is honorable, so people think that person is a veteran. But they’re not!
In a recent report, the DoD admitted that data is collected from 30 different sources to “build” a DD-214. The truth about a DD214: it takes a highly trained person who understands veteran laws and exactly what the information is showing them to determine if that person meets the standards to be called a veteran.
The National Veteran Business Development Council (NVBDC) uses: Title 38 U.S. Code § 4211 as our standard to determine the definition of a veteran. The applicant must have received an Honorable Discharge (HD) or Discharge Under Honorable Conditions (UHC).
The NVBDC does not accept DD214’s from the applicant. Why? One word: Photoshop. The most downloaded Federal form is the blank DD-214. It shouldn’t come as a big surprise that the amount of fraud in the Federal purchasing programs, especially the VA, is estimated at over $500 million per year per government estimates.
Keith King is the founder and CEO of the NVBDC as well as a 40-year veteran advocate with heavy legislative experience and a strong record of success in writing, lobbying for, and getting passage of laws to benefit all veterans. He is an expert in veteran law and VA claims, and the difference between them.