U.S. Guard and Reserve Members are Officially ‘Veterans’

Posted in Uncategorized on February 9, 2017
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How do you define a veteran? It’s a question many of us probably never considered. But for millions of retired National Guard members and Army Reservists, it is a matter of great honor. Up until recently – December 2016 to be exact – they couldn’t officially call themselves “veterans” unless they had served at least 180 days of active duty on federal orders. Regardless of how much time you devoted to honorably supporting the Armed Forces, how many U.S. Guard and Reserve Members are Officially ‘Veterans’hours of training or deployments they experienced, there always remained a delineation line between full-time soldiers and reservists.

For many reservists, this felt like a bit of a slight, since they had willingly volunteered countless hours of their lives to prepare to serve if needed, to fill any empty roles left when full-time servicemen and women were deployed, and to basically complete any task asked of them. It was understandably strange to have dedicated so much of one’s life to the U.S. Armed Forces, and yet not be entitled to call oneself a veteran.

All this changed at the end of 2016, when President Barack Obama signed into law the Miller-Blumenthal Veterans Health Care and Benefits Act, a bill aimed at improving veterans’ access to health care, disability benefits, education, and homelessness assistance, among other important benefits for U.S. veterans. One measure included in the bill changed the guidelines for who could be officially called a “veteran,” expanding the government’s definition to include Guard and Reservists who have honorably served for at least 20 years.

While there is no financial benefit associated with this change – retired Guard members would already be collecting their reserve component retirement benefits after 20 years of service – many feel this change exhibits the government’s understanding of and appreciation for the role that Nation Guard members and reservists play in supporting the larger infrastructure of the U.S. armed forces.  Additionally, long-serving reservists and Guard members no longer have to worry about whether or not they can officially call themselves “veterans,” but instead accept this gesture as confirmation of how important their roles have been in global conflicts for decades.

The National Guard of the United States is composed of National Guard military members or units of each state and territory in the United States. Members are citizen-soldiers who train part time, close to home, until needed, typically maintaining civilian jobs during the work week. The Guard is under dual control from state and federal governments, and mobilizes to protect U.S. domestic interests in times of conflict or natural disaster. Members may be deployed internationally alongside full-time troops as needed. Today's National Guard consists of approximately 384,422 troops.

The U.S. Army Reserve provides operational capability and strategic depth to the larger Army, accounting for 20% of the Army’s maneuver support and delivering significant Army mobilization and expansion capability. When not on active duty, reserve soldiers typically perform Battle Assembly training/service once a month and for two continuous Annual Training weeks at some time during the year.

Today, retired reservists and National Guard members can hold their heads a little higher, knowing that the U.S. government has officially declared what they have always known. They served their country proudly and honorably, their work was important the success of countless U.S. military operations through the decades, and that they stood ready to protect this republic.

Written By Megan Hammons

U.S. Guard and Reserve Members are Officially ‘Veterans’

4 Responses to “U.S. Guard and Reserve Members are Officially ‘Veterans’”

  1. Carolyn Ewy says:

    January, 3, 1976, I enlisted in the United States Army Reserve in Wichita, KS. I had my physical, and the doctor checked me with no mental or physical problems to report to my recruiter to keep me from my service to the United States military.
    I went into the service at the end of the Viet Nam War knowing it was an unpopular war. I lost many friends because of my choice and their disagreement with it. I understood what I was going into because I had two brothers who had served in the Navy during the height of the Viet Nam War, and my dad had enlisted in WWII when he was seventeen.
    Even though I knew I could not serve in combat as a woman, I knew there were other duties I could perform to assist those who were in combat. After testing for my military occupational skill (MOS), my recruiter told me I qualified for any MOS I chose and the reserve unit could support. I chose the MOS 74F, computer programmer.
    My recruiter told me MOS 74F was in high demand because of the need to clean up after the Viet Nam War. The personnel records were not automated; and, because of the inconsistent personnel records being kept by each army and reserve unit, often times the records would not match and thus cause delays getting personnel to the field.
    I began my basic training in April, 1976, at Ft. Jackson, SC. I was 5’ 7 ½” and barely 115 lbs. I thought that was not a barrier for me since I was also determined and persistent. Being one of the oldest at 23 years old, I was made one of the leaders in my barracks for the younger women. I taught them how to clean, organize, iron and polish their shoes. My drill instructor (DI) also asked me to teach 2 women how to take care of their personal hygiene. His method of teaching hygiene was to have the women of the barracks throw them both in the shower. I disagreed with him and other leaders of the barracks with his method. I explained to him that both women were mentally handicapped and should not have been allowed in the military. I also protested his method as being mentally and physically harmful. He agreed, and he pursued my argument that the 2 women should never have been allowed into the military and discharged them from military training.
    I only mention this incident because of the fact that many doctors and recruiters were looking the other way during the Viet Nam War era, and they were allowing persons with mental and physical defects to participate in training for the war. The popular coined phrase, “I Got Mine”, pushed recruiters to enlist personnel no matter what the danger to the person or the unit. I know this because I saw these incidents time after time when I worked Active Duty for Training (ADT) after I completed my MOS training and worked in this area in the Hoffman Bldg. in Alexandria, VA, called the Reserve Enlistment Program (REP) Section. REP Section worked out of the Office of the Chief, Army Reserve (OCAR) during the years of 1976 to 1977. Later we were transferred to Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel (DCSPERS), still out of the Pentagon, working in the Hoffman Bldg. in Alexandria, VA, from 1977 to 1979. Little did I know that I might be one of those persons that doctors ignored to identify as having physical defects even though they were putting my life and the lives of others at great risk.
    During my enlistment and service with OCAR and DCSPERS, we worked many long hours and weekends. Although we were considered ADT, we created new methods to automate calculation of the former “White Book Session” when reserve units revealed the number of personnel needed based on sex and MOS. Formerly, this was a manual tactic written in a white book passed up through the ranks of each army, and a group from each army used the numbers in the white book to determine how many personnel of each sex and MOS each unit in each army could recruit.
    We saved the Army Reserve many hours by automating these tasks, but the long hours of sitting at my desk, the programmable calculator and the keypunch also revealed eye, neck and back strain and IBS issues for me. Although the IBS issues were not diagnosed at that time, I was sent to the infirmary at the Pentagon and Ft. Myer for tests for ulcers and my gall bladder numerous times because the doctors were not able to diagnose IBS.
    I was also sent to the infirmary at the Pentagon numerous times for my neck, back and eyes. Having lifted over 25 lbs. when I was in basic training at Ft. Jackson, the doctors at the Pentagon infirmary informed me my weight limit should have been less than half that amount because of my neck and lower back issues, and I was given physical therapy and medicines, including ibuprofen multiple times a day, to try to reduce the muscle strain and swelling in my neck and lower back.
    Headaches were a constant for me, and it was diagnosed as just eye strain. Even though I was prescribed glasses different times, the headaches got worse. At one point, the doctor at the Pentagon infirmary ordered X-rays after discovering a spot in one eye. He ordered me to be checked by the doctors at Walter Reed Army Medical Center (WRAMC) where I checked in for 10 days during 1977. One of the doctors at WRAMC ran a CT scan and discovered intra-cranial brain calcification, and many other lab tests were run on me while I was there.
    After being released to the doctor at the Pentagon infirmary, the doctor informed me I was to be checked every year by WRAMC for the intra-cranial brain calcification. I continued to have severe headaches; and, I checked in again in 1978 for a recheck, but the doctor did not do a CT scan and reported no findings.
    After a physical, I was honorably discharged from ADT in April, 1979; and, I enrolled to continue my college education but was unable to get the GI Bill. Being out of the military about 2 months and seeing rings around lights, my parents convinced me to see my family ophthalmologist. The doctor discovered a cataract on my right eye in July, 1979, when I was 26 years old. By September, 1979, I was unable to see the target out of my right eye when trying to qualify with my weapon in my Army Reserve unit camp training; and, by November, 1979, I was totally blind in my right eye and unable to see the big “E” in the ophthalmologist’s office. He scheduled me for surgery in February, 1980, after I got insurance from the university I was attending.
    I was unable to get a lens implant in 1980 because of the age restrictions which limited the implants to those over 65 years of age. Because it was only one eye with a cataract, the doctor put a contact lens on my right eye after surgery; and, in just over a year after my first eye surgery, my right eye required another corrective surgery setting up the beginnings of scar tissue and glaucoma to gradually erode my vision.
    In 1983, the contact lens began to wear on my cornea setting me up for the possibility of a cornea transplant. My ophthalmologist threw my contact lens away and told me he was scheduling me for a lens implant since the FDA had just lowered the age to 18 and I was now 30 years old. The lens implant gave me 20/20 vision without correction for just a short time then vitreous humour began to leak and two laser surgeries were performed by the end of 1983. That totaled 5 surgeries in less than 4 years; and, I was a single mom of 1 child, abandoned by my son’s father when I was pregnant with him, and paying for our insurance and medical bills. I was prescribed glasses with bifocals to correct my vision in my right eye.
    In 1984, I was laid off from my job of 3 years as a computer programmer. I worked there after I graduated with a Bachelor of Science with emphasis in Data Processing from the university I had attended from 1979 to 1981. Still a single mom with many eye and health issues, I had no insurance for my son and myself. I was able to get a job within a month of being laid off, and I made my first application to the Veterans Administration for health benefits.
    In 1985, after being employed only a few months as a computer programmer, the company I worked for went bankrupt, and I was unemployed once again. I was also denied health benefits by the VA and was paying over $400 a month to COBRA for health insurance for my son and myself because I had pre-existing health conditions.
    Still in 1985, I began work again as a computer programmer after 1 month of unemployment and worked there for 13 years with continuous problems in my eyes, neck, lower back and IBS until I was laid off in 1998. During that time of 13 years, I was treated by many chiropractors and prescribed muscle relaxers and ibuprofen for the pain and swelling by my primary care physician (PCP).
    Starting in 2001 my PCP referred me to a gastroenterologist for my severe stomach pain and IBS that I had also endured while I was in the military; but, because I had taken so much ibuprofen for my neck, back and headaches, the stomach pains were increasingly more painful. In 2007, I was referred to a different gastroenterologist who discovered a hiatal hernia and extensive bleeding in my stomach from all the ibuprofen and also determined I had IBS C/D after completing an endoscopy and colonoscopy.
    In the years 2010 through 2012, I had eye pressures out of control and as high as 40. Each year of those 3 years brought a different eye surgery because of the glaucoma and scar tissue in the right eye: first, placing a shunt in the drainage canal; then, a shunt at the top of the right eye for drainage; and, finally, a stent to the back of the right eye because scar tissue had closed off the shunts.
    I do not regret my years in military service. I am proud that I was able to perform my duties to the best of my ability.
    I served the United States Army Reserve over 180 days active duty while working for OCAR and DCSPERS in Alexandria, VA, but my orders said "Active Duty for Training" rather than active duty. The Veterans Administration denied the GI Bill when I got out of the military in 1979. I was denied Veterans Benefits in 1985 for corrective surgeries following cataract surgery which was diagnosed only 2 months after I was honorably discharged. I have once again been denied Veterans Benefits being physically disabled at 63 years old. I have appealed the VA’s decision.

  2. Steve Klein says:

    Our stories are a little similar. Enlisted 1972, AIT at Fort Benjamin Harrison 1973 getting my 74F MOS and starting a long career in computer programming and later database application development in both civilian and military (Nebraska Army National Guard). After 35 years of service, retired from the guard in 2008. Upon age 60, I'm collecting my retirement benefit and my state allows me to have 'veteran' on my license, but the VA denies me health benefits because I "did not serve over 180 days active duty" - a requirement for anyone enlisting after 01Sep1980. My PEBD is 23Sep1974 due to a one year break in service but the VA only looks at the last (re) enlistment date which was 22Sep1980. So, six years of service are disregarded by the VA, and they don't honor your PEBD.

  3. JamesEarl JonesJr says:

    I joined the tx army national guard co b 949th bn
    On Jan

  4. JamesEarl JonesJr says:

    I've been repeatedly denied medical treatments homeless programs and totally disrespected I served for 4yrs& 6mos was given a honorable discharge from u.s army and And a general under honorable conditions.

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