Chapter Determining Veteran Status and Eligibility for Benefits


Minimum Active Duty Service Requirements



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4. Minimum Active Duty Service Requirements




Introduction

This topic contains information on the minimum active duty service requirements, including


  • the requirement for a minimum period of active duty

  • entitlement to VA benefits when the minimum active duty requirements are not met

  • exceptions to the minimum active duty service requirements, and

  • entitlement to benefits before the date of enactment of 38 U.S.C. 5303A.



Change Date

September 30, 2010



a. Requirement for a Minimum Period of Active Duty

The minimum active duty service requirement of 38 CFR § 3.12a(a) must be met, in accordance with 38 U.S.C. § 5303A, by all persons, including officers, who


  • originally enlisted in a regular component of the Armed Forces after September 7, 1980, or

  • entered on active duty after October 16, 1981, and

  • have not

  • previously completed a continuous period of active duty of at least 24 months, nor

  • been discharged or released from active duty under 10 U.S.C. § 1171.


Important: A Veteran may meet the minimum period of active duty without completing 24 months of active duty. 38 CFR § 3.12a (a)(1) defines the minimum period as

  • 24 months of continuous active duty, or

  • the full period for which a person is called or ordered to active duty.


Note: In the case of a delayed enlistment, the entry date for purposes of this provision is the date of entry on active duty, not the date of swearing in, which may have preceded actual entry into active duty.

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4. Minimum Active Duty Service Requirements, Continued


b. Entitlement to VA Benefits When the Minimum Active Duty Requirements Are Not Met

An individual who does not meet the minimum active duty service requirements is not eligible for any benefit under 38 U.S.C. or under any other law administered by VA except


  • benefits for, or in connection with, a SC disability or death

  • insurance benefits provided by 38 U.S.C. Chapter 19, and/or

  • refunds of a participant’s contributions to the educational benefits program provided by 38 U.S.C. Chapter 32.



c. Exceptions to the Minimum Active Duty Requirement

The table below outlines exceptions to the minimum active duty requirements.




Exception

Description/Restrictions

Discharge under 10 U.S.C. § 1171

Description:

Allows for an early-out discharge within three months of the expiration of the term of enlistment or extended enlistment.


Note: This discharge is not available to officers.




Restrictions for persons in the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps:

This discharge is not available to persons in the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps who are discharged with less than 33 months of service, as the minimum period of enlistment for these branches of service is three years.


Restrictions for persons in the Army:

This discharge is not available to persons in the Army who are discharged with less than 21 months of service, as the minimum period of enlistment is two years.


Acceptable narrative reasons on DD Form 214:

Most discharges under 10 U.S.C. § 1171 have one of the following narrative reasons for discharge on the DD Form 214:



  • Overseas Returnee

  • Expiration of Term of Service,” or

  • Completion of Required Service.”




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4. Minimum Active Duty Service Requirements, Continued



c. Exceptions to the Minimum Active Duty Requirement (continued)




Exception

Description/Restrictions

Discharge under 10 U.S.C. § 1171 (continued)

Accept a DD Form 214 with one of these narrative reasons and at least 21 months of service as proof of discharge under 10 U.S.C. § 1171 without further development. Any other narrative reason for discharge for an enlisted person who served at least 21 months requires development to determine if the discharge was under 10 U.S.C. § 1171.
Restrictions for Public Health Service (PHS) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) enlistments:

This discharge cannot be authorized by the PHS and NOAA as only officers serve in those branches.



Discharge under 10 U.S.C. § 1173

Description:

This discharge applies to an individual discharged for hardship.


Acceptable narrative reasons on DD Form 214:

A DD Form 214 issued for reasons of hardship must reflect a narrative reason for separation as follows:



  • Army: “Hardship” or “Dependency

  • Marine Corps: “Hardship” or “Dependency

  • Air Force: “Hardship

  • Coast Guard: “Hardship

  • Navy: “Hardship” or “Demonstrated Dependency.”


Note: “Demonstrated Dependency Not Meeting the Requirements of BUPERS Manual 3850/240” does not denote a hardship discharge qualifying an individual for benefits under the law.
Note: Develop for cases in which

  • DD Form 214 is unclear as to the reason for discharge, and

  • discharge for hardship is alleged, but not stated.

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4. Minimum Active Duty Service Requirements, Continued


c. Exceptions to the Minimum Active Duty Requirement (continued)




Exception

Description/Restrictions

Disability discharge

Description:

This discharge is for those individuals who



  • are discharged or released from active duty for a disability determined to be SC without presumptive provisions of law, or

  • at the time of discharge, had such a SC disability shown by official records which, in medical judgment, would have justified a discharge for disability.

Compensable SC disability

Description:

This discharge applies to individuals with a compensable SC disability.



Discharge from reserve status for disability

Description:

This discharge is issued to an individual who incurred a service-connected disability from an inactive duty training injury and is subsequently discharged or released from reserve status for that disability. The individual should be considered to have been discharged or released from active service.





d. Entitlement to Benefits Before Enactment of 38 U.S.C. 5303A

Entitlement to any benefit legally provided prior to the date of enactment of 38 U.S.C. § 5303A, October 1, 1981, based on minimum active duty service requirements in effect at that time, is not affected.
Example: An individual issued a certificate of eligibility for a VA home loan guaranty prior to October 1, 1981, continues to be eligible for that benefit even though his/her active duty service no longer qualifies him/her under 38 U.S.C. § 5303A.






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