Certain VA benefits are available to veterans who served on active military duty during wartime that are not available to veterans who served during peacetime. Recognized periods of war are defined by acts of Congress or by a presidential decree.
A veteran’s entire period of service does not need to have been entirely within a designated period of war. Even if only part of the veteran’s service occurred during an official period of war, that veteran would be considered to have had wartime service.
For some VA benefits, qualifying wartime service does not mean that a veteran has to have served in a combat zone. Rather, his or her service simply must have occurred during one of these designated periods of war. Other benefits, however, require that the veteran served in a theater of military operations.
For example, benefits available to veterans with wartime service include:
VA nonservice-connected pension benefits are available for veterans who are totally and permanently disabled (regardless of whether the disability is related to military service), and who served for at least 90 days of active duty under other than dishonorable conditions, with at least one day of service during a period of war.
Extended VA health care.
The VA provides free health care for veterans who served in a theater of combat operations on or after November 11, 1998, for any illness possibly related to that service. If discharged from active duty on or after January 28, 2003, coverage will last for five years from the date of discharge. If discharged from active duty before January 28, 2003 and not enrolled in the VA health care system as of January 28, 2008, coverage will last until January 27, 2011. An award of service connection is not required in order to receive extended VA health care for in-theater veterans.
Congress has designated the following as periods of war:
Indian Wars: January 1, 1817 through December 31, 1898.
The veteran must have served thirty days or more with U.S. forces against Indian tribes or nations.
Spanish American War: April 21, 1898 through July 4, 1902.
This period also applies to service during the Philippine Insurrection, the Boxer Rebellion and the Moro Province hostilities through July 15, 1903.
Mexican Border War: May 9, 1916 through April 5, 1917.
The veteran must have served at least one day in Mexico, on the border thereof or in the waters adjacent thereto.
World War I: April 6, 1917 through November 11, 1918.
This period was extended to April 1, 1920 for those who served in the Soviet Union. Service after November 11, 1918, through July 2, 1921, qualifies for benefits if active duty was performed for any period during the basic World War I period.
World War II: December 7, 1941 through December 31, 1946.
This period was extended to July 25, 1947, where continuous with active duty on or before December 31, 1946.
Korean Conflict: June 27, 1950 through January 31, 1955.
Vietnam Era: August 5, 1964 through May 7, 1975. Veterans who served in the Republic of Vietnam from February 28, 1961 through May 7, 1975, are considered to be Vietnam Era veterans.
Vietnam Era: August 5, 1964 through May 7, 1975.
Veterans who served in the Republic of Vietnam from February 28, 1961 through May 7, 1975, are considered to be Vietnam Era veterans.
Note: Congress has not established formal periods of war for participation in U.S. operations in Lebanon, Grenada or Panama. Service in these theaters alone does not qualify as wartime service. A veteran who did not serve during one of these designated periods is considered to have had peacetime service.
Persian Gulf War: August 2, 1990 through a date yet to be prescribed by Presidential proclamation or law.
This period includes Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom.