In most cases, if you served in the United States Armed Forces or as a National Guard or Reserve member for the required amount of time, you are eligible for VA benefits. This includes access to health care benefits, education and training opportunities, employment preference, and mortgage assistance.

For example, according to the VA website, Minimum Duty Requirements for Basic Eligibility for VA health care are as follows:

"Veterans who enlisted after Sept. 7, 1980, or who entered active duty after Oct. 16, 1981, must have served 24-continuous months or the full period for which they were called to active duty in order to be eligible. This minimum duty requirement may not apply to Veterans discharged for hardship, early out or a disability incurred or aggravated in the line of duty."

What exactly is a veteran?

Obviously, you need to be a veteran to take advantage of the veteran benefits provided by the VA and other sources, but what exactly does that mean? Are you a veteran if you completed 10 weeks of basic training? What if you served on active duty only briefly before getting hurt and discharged?

As defined by Title 38 of the United States Code, a veteran is "...a person who served in the active military, naval, or air service, and who was discharged or released therefrom under conditions other than dishonorable." It also states that "active duty" in this case means full-time duty in the U.S. Armed Forces and does not include training.

So, if you completed basic training and went on to active service, whether or not you receive benefits would depend on your length of service as well as the circumstances surrounding your injury. Of course, you would also need to have been discharged under honorable (or anything other than dishonorable) conditions.

What is entry level separation?

Individuals who separate from the U.S. military before completing 180 days of service, often because of medical reasons, are given an entry level separation (ELS). This is considered an uncharacterized discharge and will be noted under "Character of Service" on your DD214. In most cases, ELS does not qualify for veteran benefits.

Before you apply for benefits, make sure you have your DD214.

Your DD214 is one of the most important documents you possess, especially in terms of applying for veteran benefits, primarily because it lists your Type of Separation, Character of Service, and Narrative Reason for Separation. If you never received your DD214 or can't locate it, you will need to order a copy before you start applying for benefits, since it's one of the first things you will be asked for.

Veteran-owned DD214Direct helps you get the documents you need, when you need them.

Our cutting-edge technology platform and keen knowledge of government protocol and procedure allow us to deliver your documents faster than you could get them on your own. First, we digitize both your request and the returned documents, using electronic signatures to avoid extra time with the postal service. We also integrate email and fax throughout our entire process, while many agencies do not. 

To further expedite the process, our team ensures your initial request is filled out properly the first time and includes the necessary supporting documentation so that it doesn't bounce back. In addition, we break up multiple requests (DD214, OMPF, etc.) so that each piece is handled separately and one does not delay the other. 

Once your request is processed, DD214Direct becomes your personal advocate, working directly with the agency that holds your records (currently there are about 75 independent agencies) and immediately responding to any agency issues on your behalf. In many cases, DD214Direct is able to advance your request to a higher-priority workflow. Finally, we have team members at many locations to drop off and pick up documents. 

Much like paying a small fee to have your taxes done by a professional, DD214Direct provides the service and convenience you’ve been hoping for, plus we make it a lot easier. Once we locate your DD214, we can email you a copy immediately—a service not offered by the government. And tracking your request through us is simple, so you never have to worry about long hold times and inconclusive answers.

Ready to get started? Click here to begin the order process.