Liaison’s Ledger: What Makes a Person a ‘Veteran’?

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Many veterans don’t think they did enough while serving to earn the status of “veteran”.  It is important that veterans realize that it is their willingness to follow all lawful orders and to risk their well-being while serving their country that makes them a veteran and which is likely the reason so many people say, “Thank you for your service,” when they meet you.

One of the first questions I was asked after assuming the role of Veteran Liaison was, “How do I know if I am a veteran?” The answer is not as simple as it may appear.  Many serve in the military but, legally, they are not veterans until they complete their service and receive a DD214 (since 1950) which is a formal record of their active duty.  So, if you have the DD214, you are a veteran.  There are many types of discharge including honorable, general, and dishonorable, among others.  While your eligibility for certain veteran benefits may change based on the type of discharge, you are a veteran if you receive the DD214.  

Some veterans have expressed concern about identifying themselves as veterans because they were never engaged in direct combat, never wounded, never served internationally or their military job was administrative in nature.  I ask them two questions:  Did you freely take an oath and obligation to serve your country and were you willing to go anywhere you were sent and to put your life at risk while meeting that obligation?  They all say yes, and I remind them that it is this willingness to serve and the completion of the obligation that makes them a veteran and not what they did while serving. 

Yale University appreciates your military service as well and asks those who have served to voluntarily complete their employees profile in the Workday system to include their status as United States military service veteran.  Please do not hesitate to call me a with your questions and comments on how we might support those who have served.

Contributor Contact: 
Jack Beecher, Yale Veteran Liaison
T: 203-432-0879 
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