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Who is a veteran? Title prerequisites

SUN Columnist

Many veterans still do not know they are veterans.

If you are a former or retired member of the United States Armed Forces, you may qualify for benefits from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs defines “veteran” in Title 38, United States Code, Section 101, as, “a person who served in the active military, naval, or air service, and who was discharged or released there from under conditions other than dishonorable.”

Being a veteran does not mean being male, or having served in combat, or even having served in wartime. Former and retired members of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Commissioned Corps, as well as some other groups with World War II service, qualify for benefits from the VA. Some examples of those with World War II service are the Women Airforce Service Pilots (“WASPS”), Merchant Mariners and Filipino veterans who served with U.S. forces.

The definition of, “active military, naval, or air service” is not as clear as one would think. Guard and Reserve members may still qualify for veteran status if disabled by injury or disease during active duty for training or inactive duty for training. Former and retired members of the Guard and Reserve still qualify for some benefits, including educational benefits and home loan guaranty from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, even if not labeled a veteran under Title 38.

Some benefits from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs require a certain amount of time on active duty, a discharge under, “other than dishonorable conditions,” or wartime service. Most state departments of Veterans Affairs also offer benefits to veterans, and may have different definitions of a veteran for benefits eligibility.

If you are unsure of your veteran status, check with a Veterans Service Organization or Military Service Organization. Gather any documentation you have of your service. Every veteran has a different experience of his or her time in service to America. But, they all share a common characteristic: a veteran is someone who, at one point, wrote a blank check made payable to The United States of America for an amount of “up to and including their life.”

Further information

For further Information on VA benefits, please call or stop by the Archuleta County Veterans Service Office, located at the Senior Center in the Ross Aragon Community Center on Hot Springs Blvd.

I will be out of the office on the following days for regular scheduled meetings:

• Vets4Vets: Tuesday mornings, 0900-1200.

• Arboles Community Center, first and third Thursdays. Back around 1400.

• Pagosa Outreach Connection, 0830 to 1000 every Thursday.

The office number is 264-4013, fax number is 264-4014, cell number is 946-3590, and e-mail is raytaylor@archuletacounty.org. The office is open from 8 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. Monday through Friday. Bring your DD Form 214 (Discharge) for completing applications to VA programs or benefits for which the veteran may be entitled to, and a copy for filing in the Archuleta County VSO office. If the office is closed, I am out assisting veterans, leave me a message and phone number to contact you.

The following veterans groups meet in Pagosa Springs:

American Legion Post 108: second Wednesday of the month at 7 p.m., 287 Hermosa St.

American Legion Post 108 Ladies Auxiliary: second Tuesday of the month at 4 p.m., 287 Hermosa St.

Veterans for Veterans: Every Tuesday at 10 a.m., Quality Resort.

Women’s Group of Spouses of Veterans: Every other Monday, 6 p.m., St. Patrick’s Episcopal Parish Hall, 225 S. Pagosa Blvd. Contact Charlotte, 731-1025.

Point Man Ministries’ Breakfast for Veterans 8:30 a.m. each Tuesday at Buffalo Inn, 164 N Pagosa Blvd. Contact Vincent, (435) 618-0049 or Vfortunato777@gmail.com.

This story was posted on October 31, 2013.