"The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers a broad range of benefits to U.S. Armed Forces veterans and certain members of their families. Among these benefits are various types of financial assistance, including monthly cash payments to disabled veterans, health care, education, and housing. Basic criteria must be met to be eligible to receive any of the benefits administered by the VA. This report examines the basic eligibility criteria for VA administered veterans' benefits, including the issue of eligibility of members of the National Guard and reserve components. For a former servicemember to receive certain VA benefits, the person must have active U.S. military service for a minimum period of time, generally the lesser of the full period ordered to active duty or 24 months, and be discharged 'under conditions other than dishonorable.' Some members of the National Guard and reserve components have difficulty meeting the active duty and length of service requirements. However, a member of the National Guard or reserve components who is activated for federal military service and meets the length of service requirement is considered a veteran for purposes of VA benefits. The Secretary of Defense may determine that service for the Armed Forces by a group of civilians or contractors will be considered active service, allowing members of those groups to be considered veterans for purposes of VA benefits. Such determinations, authorized by the GI Bill Improvement Act of 1977 (P.L. 95-202), have been made only for groups involved in World War I and World War II."
CRS Report for Congress, R42324
Federation of American Scientists: http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/index.html