Chapter Determining Veteran Status and Eligibility for Benefits



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M21-1MR, Part III, Subpart ii, Chapter 6

Chapter 6. Determining Veteran Status and Eligibility for Benefits

1. Determining Veteran Status




Introduction

This topic contains information on determining eligible Veteran status, including


September 30, 2010
Change Date



a. Definition: Veteran

A “Veteran” is a person who


  • served in the active military, naval or air service, and

  • was discharged or released under conditions other than dishonorable.


References:

  • For more information on the definition of the term “Veteran” for purposes of compensation, Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) and death pension, see 38 CFR § 3.1(d).

  • For a list of groups approved for Veteran status, see M21-1MR, Part III, Subpart iii, 2.K.78.

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1. Determining Veteran Status, Continued

b. What Constitutes Active Service?

“Active service” includes


  • active duty, or

  • any period of active duty for training during which a person is disabled or dies from

  • any period of inactive duty training during which a person is disabled or dies from an

  • injury incurred or aggravated in the line of duty, or

  • acute myocardial infarction, a cardiac arrest, or a cerebrovascular accident that occurred during such training or while proceeding directly to, or returning directly from, such training.


References: For

  • 38 U.S.C. § 101(24)

  • 38 U.S.C. § 106 (d)

  • 38 CFR § 3.6(a), and

  • 38 CFR § 3.6(e).



c. Primary Eligibility Criteria

The primary factor in determining basic eligibility to Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits is Veteran status.
Eligibility for


  • live benefits is based on the claimant’s Veteran status, and

  • death benefits is based on the claimant’s status as the spouse, parent or child of a deceased Veteran.

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1. Determining Veteran Status, Continued

d. Secondary Eligibility Criteria

If initial review of the evidence available establishes potential Veteran status, consider the secondary eligibility criteria listed below.


  • Are the active service dates and character of discharge verified?

  • If the evidence does not show a discharge under conditions other than dishonorable, has VA made a determination of character of discharge?

  • Have the benefit-specific eligibility criteria been met?


References: For more information on

  • verification of service dates and character of discharge, see M21-1MR, Part III, Subpart ii, 6.5 and M21-1MR, Part III, Subpart ii, 6.6

  • benefit-specific eligibility criteria, see M21-1MR, Part III, Subpart ii, 6.7.



e. Service Department Findings Binding on VA With Respect to Service

In Spencer v. West, 13 Vet. App. 376 (2000), the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC) held that active service dates certified by the military are binding for the purpose of making determinations on entitlement to benefits.
In the Spencer case, the Veteran was discharged as “an alcohol abuse rehabilitation failure” on February 14, 1983. Because of problems with the urine specimen that formed the basis for the discharge, a military correction board corrected his records to show continuous active duty service until August 15, 1985. The CAVC held that service connection could be established for a disability incurred between February 14, 1983, and August 15, 1985.



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