Know your rights: Veteran's benefits

When you are looking into obtaining veterans' benefits, you need to know if you qualify. The first things to understand are the basic eligibility requirements. First and foremost, if you served as an active service member and separated from the military, you may be able to seek veterans' benefits. The only situation that disqualifies you is if you were dishonorably discharged.

Members of the National Guard or Reserve may also be able to obtain these VA health benefits as well. However, if you were in the Reserves or a member of the National Guard with active duty only for training, you do not qualify based on federal guidelines.

Current laws state that those who enlisted after Sept. 7, 1980 and were participating in active duty by Oct. 16, 1981 must have served for 24 consecutive months or for their entire active duty period to be eligible for VA health benefits. However, the minimum time limit doesn't apply if the military service member was discharged due to a disability that was suffered or aggravated in the line of duty. It doesn't apply for those who leave due to hardship or in early out circumstances. It also does not apply to those who served before Sept. 7, 1980.

If you had to leave the military because you were disabled during active duty, you should be able to seek veterans' benefits immediately. If you are denied benefits you believe you are owed, it's wise to look into your legal options so that you can appeal the decision and get the benefits you deserve to be receiving.

Source: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, "Veterans Eligibility," accessed Jan. 26, 2017

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