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Advocacy News & Information

01

Background

Section 101(2) of Title 38, U.S. Code provides the basic definition of the term “Veteran” for purposes of benefits under laws administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The term “Veteran” is used repeatedly in Title 38, U.S. Code, to identify an individual “who is eligible for benefits by virtue of his or her service.” The Section 101(2) definition establishes a standard regarding the quality of active service which dictates eligibility for Veterans’ benefits.

Unfortunately, a problem exists whereby a Reserve Component member can successfully complete a military career but not earn the title of “Veteran of the Armed Forces of the United States,” unless he or she served on Title 10, U.S. Code, Active Duty for other than training purposes. However, these Reserve Component members, despite never being called to Title 10, U.S. Code, Active Duty, receive many of the same benefits as their full-time counterparts, placing them within the thinking behind the current definition of “Veteran.” Many of these Reserve Component members are already eligible for benefits such as TRICARE, GI Bill benefits, and Reserve Retirement Pay.

Importance (Examples of Reserve Component Missions)

Although Congress set the current Veteran definition to confer benefits to only those “deserving,” today there are many cases (outlined below) where Active Duty for training/domestic protection is a deserving service to the Nation.

  • OPERATION NOBLE EAGLE (ONE): Reserve Component members who served in Operation Noble Eagle supporting Federal and state agencies in the wake of 9/11 and/or under Title 32, U.S. Code orders would not qualify to earn the status of “Veterans of the Armed Forces” because the operation only grants “training” status.
  • SOUTHERN BORDER SECURITY: Guard members who served in Operation Jump Start and Operation Phalanx under Title 32, U.S. Code orders would not earn Veteran status for the same reasons as those outlined in ONE.
  • DISASTER RELIEF: Similarly, military personnel providing disaster relief and domestic protection during Hurricane Katrina under Title 32 would not be considered Veterans.

Reserve Component members in the aforementioned operations have performed countless tasks that contribute to the overall well-being of the populace. In addition, the U.S. Navy has orders often written for “training” due to funding reasons. However, the fact may be that the mission could be considered Active Duty. The men and women who have served in uniform for 20 or more years in the Guard or Reserve should be recognized as military Veterans. This group of people would include over 280,000 Reserve Component members and, in particular, over 45,000 Navy Reservists across the country.

Recommendation

The Association of the United States Navy (AUSN) recommends and supports passage of H.R. 679, introduced by Representative Timothy Walz (D-MN-01), and S. 629, introduced by Senator Mark Pryor (D-AR), to rightfully bestow the honor of Veteran to affected Reserve Component members. Both bills would rightfully grant full Veteran status to members of the Reserve Component who have served at least 20 years but have not been called for Active Duty required under the current definition. This legislation corrects this injustice at no cost to taxpayers as the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has scored. Additionally, this legislation has the potential to help combat high levels of unemployment among the Reserve Component community, providing “Veteran” status for them to be hired by employers that actively seek Veterans in the workplace.

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