The idea of compensating veterans for the sacrifice they made to their country really began in the days of the Civil War. Abraham Lincoln, in his second inaugural address, first spoke of the matter to the American people.

“To care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan,” he was famously quoted as having said.

Obviously, the level of care available to United States veterans has come a long way since the 1800s. But there are still questions out there when it comes to eligibility for veterans who have served.

How Long Did You Have to Serve to be Eligible for VA Benefits?

One common question that comes up is “how long did you have to serve to be eligible for VA benefits? It’s a fair question, but what benefits exactly are being referenced will change how it is answered.

Length of Service and Disability Compensation

First, if disability compensation is the end goal of the questioner, it is fairly cut and dried on the actual qualifying factors. To be eligible for disability compensation, you must have served in the uniformed services on active duty or were active duty for training or inactive duty for training and were discharged under other than dishonorable conditions. Finally, you must have been found at least 10% disabled by an injury or disease that was incurred while you were actually enlisted.

One important note is that if it occurred during inactive duty or training, it must have resulted from injury, heart attack or stroke.

Where things get more complicated is the disabled amount that is determined. While you must be at least 10% disabled to receive any benefit, the percentage goes all the way up to 100%. Veterans often feel they have been wrongly diagnosed at their percentage level, or have been denied benefits altogether. We have more here about this topic, but it’s important to note – this is the time to get an attorney involved.

Length of Service and Pension

If your question on time served to be eligible for VA benefits is concerning a disability pension, there are qualifying factors. You may be eligible for pension if you were discharged under non-dishonorable conditions, and you served 90 days or more active duty with at least one day during a period of war time, and you are permanently and totally disabled, age 65 or older and your family income is below a yearly limit set by law.

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Length of Service and VA Medical Benefits

As for VA Medical care thresholds, as in access to full VA medical facilities, there are thresholds there as well. Length of service may come into play for this benefit, with some caveats.

Length of service does not come into play for former enlisted servicemen or women who started active duty before Sept. 8, 1980 or former officers who first entered active duty prior to Oct. 17, 1981.

Other veterans are required to have 24 months of active duty to be eligible for full VA medical benefits.

Like many veteran situations, there are exceptions. Contact the Department of Veterans Affairs if you have further questions on eligibility requirements. If you or someone you know has been denied benefits or is disputing their disability findings, have them contact our offices for a free consultation.

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