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M21-1, Part III, Subpart ii, Chapter 6, Section B – Service Requirements and Verification of Eligibility


In This Section

This section contains the following topics:

1.  Minimum Active Duty Service Requirements 


This topic contains information on the minimum active duty service requirements, including

Change Date

July 8, 2016

III.ii.6.B.1.a.  Requirement for a Minimum Period of Active Duty

The minimum active duty service requirement of 38 CFR 3.12a(a) must be met, in accordance with 38 U.S.C. 5303A, by all persons, including officers, who
  • originally enlisted in a regular component of the Armed Forces after September 7, 1980, or
  • entered on active duty after October 16, 1981, and
  • have not
    • previously completed a continuous period of active duty of at least 24 months, nor
    • been discharged or released from active duty under 10 U.S.C. 1171.
Important:  A Veteran may meet the minimum period of active duty without completing 24 months of active duty.  38 CFR 3.12a (a)(1) defines the minimum period as
  • 24 months of continuous active duty, or
  • the full period for which a person is called or ordered to active duty.
Note:  In the case of a delayed enlistment, the entry date for purposes of this provision is the date of entry on active duty, not the date of swearing in, which may have preceded actual entry into active duty.

III.ii.6.B.1.b.  Entitlement to VA Benefits When the Minimum Active Duty Requirements Are Not Met

An individual who does not meet the minimum active duty service requirements is not eligible for any benefit under 38 U.S.C. or under any other law administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) except
  • benefits for, or in connection with, a service-connected (SC) disability or death
  • insurance benefits provided by 38 U.S.C. Chapter 19, and/or
  • refunds of a participant’s contributions to the educational benefits program provided by 38 U.S.C. Chapter 32.

III.ii.6.B.1.c.  Exceptions to the Minimum Active Duty Requirement

The table below outlines exceptions to the minimum active duty requirements.
Discharge Under 10 U.S.C. 1173
This discharge applies to an individual discharged for hardship.
Acceptable narrative reasons on DD Form 214, Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty
DD Form 214 issued for reasons of hardship must reflect a narrative reason for separation as follows:
  • Army – Hardship or Dependency
  • Marine Corps – Hardship or Dependency
  • Air Force – Hardship or Dependency
  • Coast Guard – Hardship or Dependency
  • Navy – Hardship or Dependency.
Note:  Develop for cases in which
  • the DD Form 214 is unclear as to the reason for discharge, and
  • a discharge for hardship is alleged, but not stated on theDD Form 214.
Discharge Under 10 U.S.C. 1171
This discharge allows for an early-out discharge within three months of the expiration of the term of enlistment or extended enlistment.
Note:  This discharge is not available to officers.
Restrictions for persons in the Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps
This discharge is not available to persons in the Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps who are discharged with less than 33 months of service, as the minimum period of enlistment for these branches of service is 3 years.
Restrictions for persons in the Army
This discharge is not available to persons in the Army who are discharged with less than 21 months of service, as the minimum period of enlistment is 2 years.
Acceptable narrative reasons on DD Form 214
Most discharges under 10 U.S.C. 1171 have one of the following narrative reasons for discharge on the DD Form 214:
  • Overseas Returnee
  • Expiration of Term of Service, or
  • Completion of Required Service.
Accept a DD Form 214 with one of these narrative reasons and at least 21 months of service as proof of discharge under 10 U.S.C. 1171 without further development.  Any other narrative reason for discharge for an enlisted person who served at least 21 months requires development to determine if the discharge was under 10 U.S.C. 1171.
Restrictions for Public Health Service (PHS) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) enlistments
This discharge cannot be authorized by the PHS and NOAA as only officers serve in those branches.
Disability Discharge
This discharge is for those individuals who
  • are discharged or released from active duty for a disability determined to be SC without presumptive provisions of law, or
  • at the time of discharge, had such an SC disability shown by official records which, in medical judgment, would have justified a discharge for disability.
Compensable SC Disability
This discharge applies to individuals with a compensable SC disability.
Discharge from Reserve Status for Disability
This discharge is issued to an individual who incurred an SC disability from an inactive duty training injury and is subsequently discharged or released from reserve status for that disability.  The individual should be considered to have been discharged or released from active service.

III.ii.6.B.1.d.  Entitlement to Benefits Before Enactment of 38 U.S.C. 5303A

Entitlement to any benefit legally provided prior to the date of enactment of 38 U.S.C. 5303A, October 1, 1981, based on minimum active duty service requirements in effect at that time, is not affected.
Example:  An individual issued a certificate of eligibility for a VA home loan guaranty prior to October 1, 1981, continues to be eligible for that benefit even though his/her active duty service no longer qualifies him/her under 38 U.S.C. 5303A.

2.  General Information Regarding Verification of Service and Character of Discharge


This topic contains information on verifying service and the Veteran’s character of discharge, including

Change Date

March 25, 2019

III.ii.6.B.2.a.  Verifying Service and Character of Discharge

Verify active service dates and character of discharge by first reviewing the available service department records or other acceptable evidence of service in the claims folder.  If a review of the claims folder indicates the available evidence is incomplete, any information is questionable, or no service department records or other acceptable evidence are available, request further verification or additional data via the
Important:  As noted in M21-1, Part III, Subpart i, 2.B.4.d, Benefits Delivery at Discharge claims are rated while the service member is still on active duty.  Therefore, the current period of service will not be verified until after discharge.  These claims must not be deferred for service verification.
References:  For more information on

III.ii.6.B.2.b.  Determining FPOW Status

Review the claim and the available service and separation records for any indication that the Veteran was a former prisoner of war (FPOW).
Reference:  For more information on determining FPOW status, see

III.ii.6.B.2.c.  Considering Travel Time When Verifying Length of Service for Eligibility Determinations

Under 38 U.S.C. 106(c), a service member is considered to remain on active duty after discharge or release for the period of time necessary to travel directly home.  Travel time is determined by the service department; however, a person is always considered to be on active duty until midnight of the day of discharge or release.
Consider travel time in determining eligibility to benefits requiring 90 days or 24 months of active service.  By adding travel time as certified by the service department, the required period of active service may be met.  If there is a possibility that the information regarding travel time may be determinative, request the information through PIES or DPRIS.
Note:  Do not routinely request certification of travel time if the records show that the Veteran had less than 80 days of active service.  In these cases, request certifications only if
  • travel time is put at issue by the claimant, or
  • unusual circumstances exist, such as an overseas discharge.
Reference:  For additional information about requesting travel time in PIES and DPRIS, see M21-1, Part III, Subpart iii, 2.D.3.c.

III.ii.6.B.2.d.  Requesting Certification of Travel Time

If the Veteran is disabled or dies from an injury within 11 days after discharge from service, compensation or Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) may be payable.
In these cases, or if travel time is put at issue by the claimant, make an inquiry to the service department as to whether the Veteran was entitled to travel time under38 U.S.C. 106(c) for the date and hour on which the injury or death occurred.

III.ii.6.B.2.e.  Determining Travel Time for PHS Claimants

For PHS claimants, accept the dates shown on the separation document as including travel time.
The PHS determines travel time prior to separation and includes it in the active duty dates.

III.ii.6.B.2.f.  Paying Compensation Prior to Service Verification for a Veteran Retired for Length of Service

Use the procedure in the following table if
  • the evidence shows the Veteran retired due to length of service, and
  • medical records are available, but not all service periods are verified.
Note:  This procedure applies only to Veterans who are retired from the military for length of service.
  • Request verification from the appropriate service department of unverified service periods via PIES, and
  • maintain a 45-day control
    • 30 days for the initial request, and
    • 15 days for the follow-up request.
Send the claims folder to the rating activity for action.
  • SC is awarded, go to Step 4
  • SC is denied, go to Step 5, and
  • no response is received from the service department during the 45-day control period, go to Step 6.
When SC to a compensable degree is awarded
  • input data to process the compensation award
  • enter the unverified Enter(ed) on Duty (EOD) date fromservice medical records or claim form (for example, the VA Form 21-526EZ, Application for Disability Compensation and Related Compensation Benefits), in the EOD field on the Share RATING DATA screen
  • update the Beneficiary Identification and Records Locator Subsystem (BIRLS)/Share Veteran Identification Data (VID) screen to show
    • the service dates used on the RATING DATA screen
    • UNK in the SEP RSN CODE field, and
    • in the VERIFIED field, and
  • the authorization activity will
    • authorize the award
    • continue the end product (EP) for the 45 day control time, and
    • go to Step 6.
When SC is denied or when SC is awarded at a non-compensable degree
  • input data to process the decision
  • generate a decision notice, and
  • the authorization activity will authorize the award action thereby closing the EP.
When a response
  • is received from the service department
    • update the service data in BIRLS and the corporate record, and
    • clear the EP control.
  • is not received from the service department after 45 days, perform the follow-up actions as described in M21-1, Part III, Subpart iii, 2.I.2.

III.ii.6.B.2.g.  Paying NSC Burial Benefits

If, during a Veteran’s lifetime, he/she was awarded VA compensation or pension, use the same evidence of service relied on to authorize such payment to pay non-service-connected (NSC) burial benefits, if otherwise in order.
However, if there is reason to doubt the correctness of the evidence, the evidence must be verified before payment can be authorized.

3.  Forms of Evidence for Verification of Service and Character of Discharge


This topic contains information about the forms of evidence used to verify service and character of discharge, including

Change Date

March 25, 2019

III.ii.6.B.3.a.  Acceptable Forms of Evidence of QualifyingActive Service

Consider only the documentary evidence of qualifying service listed in the table below as adequate evidence of service for eligibility determinations.
Consider acceptance of …
Of a …
As adequate evidence of service for eligibility determinations because …
the original (copy 1)
DD Form 214,  printed prior to July 1, 1979,
it contains character of discharge information.
the original (copy 1)
PHS Form 1867, Statement of Service – Verification of Status of Commissioned Officers of the U.S. Public Health Service
this information is furnished by the PHS.
the original (copy 1)
NOAA Form 56-16, Report of Transfer or Discharge
this information is furnished by NOAA.
the original
NGB Form 22, National Guard Report of Separation and Record of Service
this information is furnished by the service department.
the original (copy 1)
report of separation document that includes the Veteran’s name, rank, service number, dates and character of service, and the Veteran’s signature
report of separation documents were issued prior to the implementation ofDD Form 214.
any carbon copy (copy 2 through 8)
original DD Form 214 (any edition) or other report of separation document
authorized employees of the Veterans Service Center can authenticate photocopies of DD Form 214.
a digitally signed copy
DD Form 214, or DD Form 215, Correction to DD Form 214, issued by the Department of Defense (DoD), a military service branch, or a State Adjutant General
a digitally signed form contains a 10-digit number that follows the certifying official’s name and it is acceptable in place of a certifying official’s signatureif
  • the form appears genuine and unaltered, and
  • the Veteran was discharged on or after August 1, 2008, under other than dishonorable conditions.
a copy or abstract
DD Form 214 or equivalent certified by a local or state government official
the copy or abstract was certified by a local or state government official whose office recorded the Veteran’s original service DD Form 214 or equivalent.
Note:  A copy or abstract of the Veteran’s original (copy 1) of the DD Form 214 dated July 1, 1979, or later isnot acceptable.  This includes any electronically transmitted service information provided to a 3rd party such as a Veterans service organization.
  • Original records cannot be returned to claimants.  Certified copies of original documents are acceptable.  Encourage claimants to submit certified copies in lieu of original documents.
  • The appropriate service department retains Copy 2 of DD Form 214 as the permanent record of the Veteran’s service.
  • If the Remarks section of the DD Form 214 contains the entry “Continuous active military service: XX-XX-XX [Date],” service is verified from that date, regardless of any later date shown in the EOD section of the form.  A DD Form 214 with such an entry is acceptable proof of EOD and Release from Active Duty (RAD) dates.  Enter these dates in BIRLS and the Master Record.
Reference:  For information on accepting paper copies of DD Form 214 from the Records Management Center as verification of service, see M21-1, Part III, Subpart iii, 2.A.7.e.

III.ii.6.B.3.b.  Verification of Service Using the VID Tab in Share

The VID tab in Share can be used as proof of service if sufficient information is provided on the screen.
Proof of service exists if the service verification field contains a
  • Y or D in the VADS field, or
  • Y in the VER field.
Also, the VID tab shows
  • the character of service is
    • HON (honorable), or
    • UHC (under honorable conditions)
  • the branch of service code is not
    • ARNG (Army National Guard), or
    • ANG (Air National Guard), and
  • the separation reason is SAT (satisfactory).
A separation reason of DEV indicates that further development may be required.  Upon verification of service, the separation reason must be updated.
Exception:  For Merchant Marine service records, a separation reason of DEV may not require clarification if it meets certain criteria.
Note:  The entry D is added from Defense Manpower Data Center processing.
References:  For more information on

III.ii.6.B.3.c.  Acceptable Alternative Evidence for Verification of Service

If one of the documents listed in M21-1, Part III, Subpart ii, 6.B.3.a is not received in support of a claim, verify military service using the VID tab in Share to determine character of discharge and separation reason.
VA has a link to access a Veteran’s military history information from VA/DoD Identity Repository (VADIR).  The information obtained from VADIR is considered an electronic DD Form 214, and is acceptable for verification of service.
The information retrieved from VADIR is identical to the information accessible in VIS, and can be viewed in VIS.
  • If there are discrepancies between the information displayed in VIS and evidence provided by the service member pertaining to the dates of service or character of discharge, develop for the DD Form 214.
  • For reservists and National Guard members, a DD Form 214 is filed for each segment of active duty.  VIS will display the dates a reservist or National Guard member entered and exited active duty with the same unit.  VIS will not display dates for activation within a unit.
  • For retirees, a known discrepancy exists in VIS showing a one day difference between the RAD provided by VIS and the RAD on the DD Form 214.  The RAD data in VIS is the last day the service member is paid by the military.  To arrive at the same separation date shown on a retiree’s DD Form 214, add one day to the RAD date displayed in VIS.
  • Data in VIS concerning return to active duty may be inconsistent, as discussed in M21-1, Part III, Subpart v, 4.C.7.b.
References:  For more information on

III.ii.6.B.3.d.Unacceptable Alternative Forms of Evidence

If a claimant has submitted an alternate form of evidence of service which cannot be accepted and his/her military service cannot be verified
  • send a denial letter which
    • explains the attempts to verify service, and
    • describes the acceptable forms of evidence, and
  • furnish notice of decision review rights.
Reference:  For more information on providing a decision notice, see M21-1, Part III, Subpart v, 2.B.

III.ii.6.B.3.e. Completion of Administrative Decision When Qualifying Service Cannot Be Verified

When qualifying service cannot be verified in a claim for compensation or DIC, complete an administrative decision as directed by M21-1, Part III, Subpart v, 1.Abefore administrative denial of the claim.
References:  For more information on

4.  Benefit-Specific Eligibility Factors



This topic contains information on benefit-specific eligibility factors, including

Change Date

October 23, 2018

III.ii.6.B.4.a.  General Guidelines for Reviewing and Processing an Original Application for VA Benefits

In reviewing and processing an original application for VA benefits, a claims processor must determine if the claimant meets the eligibility criteria for the specific benefits only after
  • Veteran status has been established
  • service has been verified, and
  • character of discharge has been found to be other than dishonorable.
Note:  In order to verify service, review active duty dates and verify character of discharge by
  • reviewing the discharge document
  • obtaining verification by the service department, or
  • obtaining a VA administrative decision, when necessary.
Exception:  If the claims processor determines that a claimant does not meet one or more eligibility factors for a benefit, the claim can be denied without verifying service.  In these cases, the decision notice must fully inform the claimant of VA’s action, informing him or her, if appropriate, that Veteran status has not been established.
Reference:  For more information on providing a decision notice, see

III.ii.6.B.4.b.  Requirement for SSNs

Any person who applies for a VA compensation or pension benefit must disclose his/her Social Security number (SSN) and the SSNs of his/her dependents.  However, an SSN is not required for any person to whom no SSN has been assigned.
  • If there is no evidence to the contrary, accept a claimant’s (or fiduciary’s) certified statement that no SSN has been assigned.
  • A claimant may provide the SSN over the telephone.  However, do not accept a certified statement that no SSN has been assigned orally; a “wet” signature is required.  The claimant may submit the certified statement electronically, in person, by mail, or by fax.
References:  For more information about

III.ii.6.B.4.c.  Eligibility Determinations for Compensation

If a claim is submitted for an SC disability and honorable active service is verified, compensation entitlement is determined by the rating activity.
When a rating decision is completed, the decision indicates whether a Veteran is entitled to compensation and, if so, to what degree.  In addition, the rating decision may include entitlement to special monthly compensation and any related benefits.

III.ii.6.B.4.d.  Eligibility Determinations for Pension

Wartime service for pension is established if a Veteran served
  • at least 90 days of active duty during a period of war
  • at least 90 consecutive days of active duty and such period began or ended during a period of war
  • a total of 90 or more days of active duty during one or more wartime periods, or
  • any amount of time during a period of war and
    • was discharged for a disability incurred or aggravated in service, or
    • had an SC disability at the time of discharge that would have justified a discharge for disability.
Important:  Veterans entering service after September 7, 1980, must also meet the minimum active duty requirement of 24 months of continuous service or the full period to which the Veteran was called to active duty, as provided in 38 U.S.C. 5303A and 38 CFR 3.12a.  The minimum active duty period must include at least one day of wartime service.
Note:  In addition to meeting the wartime service and minimum active duty requirements, entitlement to pension payments based on disability and income must be determined as outlined in
References:  For information on

III.ii.6.B.4.e.  Eligibility Determinations for Survivors Benefits

Based on the individual who files the claim for survivors benefits, consider the factors listed in the table below.
If …
Then …
the claimant is a surviving spouse or child who has filed for Survivors Pension
the Veteran’s service must meet the basic eligibility criteria of M21-1, Part III, Subpart ii, 6.B.4.d for pension.
the claimant is a surviving spouse, child, or parent who has filed for DIC
refer the claim to the rating activity for a determination.
Note:  If death occurred in service, seeM21-1, Part IV, Subpart iii, 1.B.3.b to determine if a rating decision is necessary.
Exception:  If a parent(s) income is excessive for DIC, deny the claim without referral to the rating activity.
the claimant is a surviving spouse, child or parent who has filed for Survivors Pension or DIC
the claimant’s relationship to the Veteran must be established.
Reference:  For information on relationship, see 38 CFR 3.50 through38 CFR 3.60.
the claim is for a burial or plot allowance
the specific requirements of 38 CFR 3.1700 must be met.

III.ii.6.B.4.f.  Eligibility Determinations for Related Benefits

Use the table below when making eligibility determinations regarding related benefits.
Type of Related Benefit
Eligibility Requirements
Automobile or other conveyance allowance (one-time payment)
Requires SC disability or a disability incurred due to treatment under 38 U.S.C. 1151, which results in
  • loss, or permanent loss of use, of
    • one or both feet, or
    • one or both hands, or
  • permanent impairment of vision of both eyes to a prescribed degree.
Reference:  For more information on payment and eligibility for automobile allowance, see
Specially adapted housing and special home adaptation grants
Requires SC disability or a disability incurred due to treatment under 38 U.S.C. 1151, that results in prescribed limitations.
Reference:  For information on eligibility factors, see
Restored Entitlement Program for Survivors (REPS) (Special allowance under PL 97-377, Section 156)
Requires a formal determination concerning the Veteran’s death and disability.
Reference:  For information on REPS, see
Vocational rehabilitation
  • a combined SC disability evaluation of at least 20 percent, and
  • an evaluation and determination of entitlement by the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) Division, or
  • a combined SC disability evaluation of 10 percent with a VR&E finding of a serious employment handicap.
Reference:  For information on VR&E benefits, see
Dependents Educational Assistance (DEA)
  • permanent and total SC disability (This means either a combined evaluation of 100 percent or a total rating due to individual unemployability, both with no future examination.)
  • SC death, or
  • permanent and total SC disability at the time of death.
Note:  Generally, a dependent must be established for benefit purposes and a child must have completed high school or be beyond the compulsory age for school attendance.
Reference:  For more information on DEA, see

III.ii.6.B.4.g.  Eligibility for Chapter 18 Benefits

Benefits for children of Vietnam Veterans who are born with spina bifida (38 U.S.C. Chapter 18 benefits) are not dependent on the character of discharge.  That is, regardless of the characterization of the service of the Veteran parent, individuals may receive Chapter 18 benefits if the necessary Vietnam service and relationship requirements are met.
Reference:  For more information on eligibility and development for Chapter 18 benefits, see M21-1, Part VI, 2.B.

III.ii.6.B.4.h.  Name Change for Contingency Operations of OEF/OIF

DoD renamed the contingency operations of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) to Operation Freedom’s Sentinel (OFS), effective January 1, 2015.  DoD had previously renamed the contingency operations of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) to Operation New Dawn (OND) in 2010.  The update only reflects the name change for continuing operations and does not effect eligibility to benefits being administered under the OEF/OIF name.
Note:  This change will not affect the title of special coordinators providing services under the OEF/OIF name.
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