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Technically a veteran is anyone who has served for more than a day in the armed forces and who is now no longer listed as military personnel.
In general usage the term has associations of extended service is a person who has or is working in the armed forces, or a person who has had long service or experience in an occupation or office, with connotations of combat experience. It is often applied to those who served for an entire career, usually of 20 years or more, but may be applied for someone who has only served one tour of duty. A common misconception is that one had to have either been in combat and/or has retired from active duty to be called a military veteran. Because of this widely held misconception, women have sometimes not participated in veterans groups or received benefits despite military service.
Some people prefer to use other terms such as ex-serviceman, ex-soldier etc.
From a psychological point of view military veterans can be regarded as at higher than average risk of mental disorders.
Veterans' benefits in the United States
President Abraham Lincoln, in his second inaugural address, in 1865 towards the end of the US Civil War, famously called for good treatment of veterans: "to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan". The American Civil War produced veterans' organizations, such as the Grand Army of the Republic. The treatment of veterans changed after the First World War. In the years following, discontented veterans became a source of instability. They could quickly organize, had links to the army, and often had arms themselves. Veterans played a central role in the post-World War I instability of Germany, while in the United States, the Bonus Army of unemployed veterans was one of the most important protest movements of the Great Depression, marching on Washington, DC, to get a claimed bonus that Congress had promised them.
Each state (of the United States) sets specific criteria for state-specific veterans' benefits. For federal medical benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) hospitals, prior to 7 September 1980 the veteran must have served at least 180 days of active duty, after the above-mentioned date, the veteran must have served at least 24 months. However, if the veteran was medically discharged and receives a VA service-connected disability stipend, the time limits are not applicable.
American veteran experience after World War II
After the Second World War, in part due to the experience of the First World War, most of the participating states set up elaborate veterans' administrations. Within the United States, it was veterans groups, like the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars organization, that pushed for and got the G.I. Bill enacted. These gave veterans access to free or subsidized education and health care. The newly educated GIs created a significant economic impact, and with the aid of VA loans were able to buy housing and establish themselves as part of a growing American middle class. The explosion of the suburbs created sufficient housing for veterans and their families. In the United States, black veterans continued to be denied equality at home despite President Harry S. Truman's desegregation of the military during World War II. Black veterans went on to play a central role in the Civil Rights movement.
Female veterans in the U.S.
Women have served in the United States military for over two hundred years, often having had to disguise themselves as men. Female veterans have often been discriminated against by their male counterparts and, as such, women who have served in the armed forces have sometimes been known as "the invisible veterans". Women were not fully recognized as veterans until after WWII, and prior to this they were not eligible for VA benefits. The VA estimates that by the year 2010 women will make up 40% of the veteran population.
- ↑ Veteran Merriam Webster Dictionary Accessed March 25, 2008.
- ↑ Willenz, June A. (1994): "Invisible Veterans" Educational Record, v75 n4 p40-46, American Council on Education
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