Are the National Guard and Reserves considered veterans and what VA benefits do they qualify for?

Two of the great defense elements of the United States are the National Guard and the country's Army Reserve. Do you both qualify for veterans benefits?


The status of National Guard and Reserve members as veterans has been a topic of significant discussion and legislative changes over the years. Understanding whether these service members are considered veterans and the benefits they qualify for is crucial for those who have served or are currently serving in these capacities. This article explores the criteria for veteran status and the benefits available to National Guard and Reserve members.

Veteran status for National Guard and Reserve Members

Historically, National Guard and Reserve members were not automatically considered veterans unless they had served on active duty for a specific period. However, legislative changes have expanded the definition of a veteran to include more members of the Guard and Reserves.

  • Legislative changes: In 2016, the Honor America’s Guard-Reserve Retirees Act was signed into law, granting veteran status to National Guard and Reserve members who have served at least 20 years. This change recognizes the significant contributions of these service members, even if they have not been deployed on active duty for extended periods.
  • Active duty requirement: Previously, Guard and Reserve members needed to serve at least 180 days on federal active duty orders to be considered veterans. This requirement excluded many who served honorably but did not meet the active duty threshold. The new law ensures that long-serving members are recognized as veterans, regardless of their active duty status.

Benefits for National Guard and Reserve veterans

National Guard and Reserve members who meet the criteria for veteran status are eligible for a range of benefits provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). These benefits are designed to support their transition to civilian life and recognize their service to the country.

  • VA Disability Compensation: Veterans who have a service-connected disability may be eligible for disability compensation. This benefit provides monthly payments based on the severity of the disability.
  • VA Pension: Low-income veterans who are permanently and totally disabled or aged 65 and older may qualify for a VA pension. This benefit provides financial support to help cover living expenses.
  • VA Home Loan Guaranty: The VA home loan program offers favorable loan terms to veterans, including no down payment and competitive interest rates. This benefit helps veterans purchase, build, or improve a home.
  • VA Education Benefits: Veterans can access education benefits through programs like the Post-9/11 GI Bill, which covers tuition, housing, and other education-related expenses. These benefits support veterans in pursuing higher education and vocational training.
  • VA Healthcare: Veterans are eligible for comprehensive healthcare services through the VA healthcare system. This includes preventive care, primary care, specialty care, and mental health services.
  • VA Life Insurance: The VA offers several life insurance programs to provide financial security for veterans and their families. These programs include Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (SGLI) and Veterans’ Group Life Insurance (VGLI).
  • VA Employment and Job Training: The VA provides employment assistance and job training programs to help veterans transition to civilian careers. This includes vocational rehabilitation and employment services.
  • VA Burial Benefits: Veterans are eligible for burial benefits, including a gravesite in a VA national cemetery, a headstone or marker, and a burial flag. These benefits honor the service and sacrifice of veterans.

Eligibility criteria for benefits

Eligibility for VA benefits depends on several factors, including the length and type of service, discharge status, and specific benefit requirements. Generally, National Guard and Reserve members must have been discharged under conditions other than dishonorable to qualify for most VA benefits.

  • Active service: Eligibility for certain benefits requires a specific length of active service. This includes active duty under Title 10 or full-time National Guard duty under Title 32.
  • Service-Connected Disabilities: For disability compensation, the disability must be related to an injury or disease incurred or aggravated during active duty or training.
  • Income requirements: Some benefits, like the VA pension, have income and asset limits to qualify.

National Guard and Reserves veteran status and benefits

National Guard and Reserve members who meet the criteria for veteran status are entitled to a wide range of benefits that recognize their service and support their transition to civilian life. Understanding these benefits and the eligibility criteria is essential for accessing the support and resources available to veterans.

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