10 Things You Should Know About Attaining Honorary Veteran Status

National Guard members and members of the Reserves can attain honorary veteran status. Here is what you need to know about this designation.

After the terrorist attacks of September 11, more than 50,000 Guardmembers answered the call of the federal and state government to defend the U.S. both at home and abroad.

Would it surprise you to know that up until recently, many of the courageous men and women of the guard and reserves were not given veteran status?

Prior to the Jeff Miller and Richard Blumenthal Veterans Health Care and Benefits Improvement Act, the definition of a veteran was only soldiers who served in active duty for more than 180 consecutive days.

This left out a lot of soldiers who went through intense training to serve their country but never served on active duty for the required timeframe or at all. This included those who served in the National Guard. 

After many years of advocating to recognize the brave men and women in the National Guard and reserves, they were finally able to get honorary veteran status. Keep reading to learn more about this designation and its importance.

Who Can Earn Veteran Status?

On December 16, 2016, former President Barack Obama signed into law the Jeff Miller and Richard Blumenthal Veterans Health Care and Benefits Improvement Act of 2016. This act granted veteran status for National Guard soldiers, airmen, and reservists from all branches of service.

It was much harder to earn veteran status before this law passed. National Guard members had to serve for 20 years. They also had to spend 180 or more consecutive days on federal active duty.

This could not include a dishonorable discharge. If they fit this description, they were considered veterans

This left out men and women who served for many years but never went on active duty outside the country.

Today, the legal definition of a veteran for guardsmen and reservists has expanded. The 114th Congress now includes soldiers who served in the military for 20 years. It also includes soldiers who were not called for federal active duty. 

This simple decision was a huge step forward for thousands of U.S. veterans.

National Guard vs. Reserves?

The National Guard are citizens living and working in the U.S. while continuing their military training part-time. National Guard soldiers serve mainly their home state. They can be called to serve overseas by any state governor or even the President of the United States. 

Guard Soldiers and Army Reserve Soldiers have a similar training program. They both must train one weekend per month and two weeks every summer. The main difference is that Army Reserve Soldiers can be called to support the Army in overseas missions, but do not serve state missions.

Unlike the National Guard, the Army Reserves do not take on both state and federal missions. They will only serve the Army for federal combat missions. The National Guard serves both the federal and state level missions as needed. This could mean being called by the state governor to help your community after a disaster.

For those soldiers who are serving on Active Duty, it is a full-time job. This will often require them to live on a military base. Active Duty requires a soldier to serve 24/7 until the end of their enlistment.

The National Guard members attend regular training but have more flexible time in-between training where they are able to gain an education and have a career.

Why is This Act Important?

As mentioned earlier, someone who had served for over 20 years in an Active Guard or Reserve status, may not have been considered a veteran. The title was based on serving federal orders and not state orders.

Despite the life-threatening acts of bravery these soldiers made while serving their country on home turf. That's right, the federal government did not consider these men and women veterans, even though they had years of service under their belt.

Then the government made it official. By Legally recognizing them as veterans, they got the status they deserve for their dedication to their country and the citizens living in it.

The National Guard Association of the United States (NGAU) had pushed this law to be passed for six years. They wanted to honor the men and women who served the country without leaving the U.S.

It had been passed in the House of Representatives in every session. But the Senate halted it. They feared it would increase the costs of veterans benefits and accommodations.

The solution to this was to prevent these 200,000+ guardsmen and reservists from receiving full veterans benefits. The act only provides the honorary title to be given.

Still, A Long Way to Go

Even though this was a strong victory for those who served as guardsmen and reservists, they are still not eligible for many veterans benefits. 

For example, guardsmen and reservists are not allowed care at state veterans home unless they have had 90 days of active duty military service. They are also not allowed to be buried in a veterans cemetery. They can only be buried if they served two consecutive years on active duty, died while in the line of duty, or retired from the guard or reserve.

This leaves many men and women without the same care as other veterans, even though they served the U.S. for many years.

Many guardsmen and reservists went through rigorous and sometimes dangerous training in order to be ready to serve the nation. Throughout history, the National Guard and Reserve have been a key component in the protection of the U.S. Their training requires them to be prepared to defend the country at a moment's notice.

How Can You Honor That Veteran in Your Life?

Veteran status is more than just a title, it is an honor that is not taken lightly. These dedicated men and women deserve much more than status. Hopefully one day soon they will receive further benefits and accommodations for their valued service.

You can provide your own appreciation for that special veteran in your life. We offer a variety of custom military apparel, including these military accessories.

Learn more about our small shop and the quality work we provide for the honorary veterans of this great nation.