Eligibility Requirements – Military Service
In general, Wisconsin veterans must have served a specified period of “active duty” (other than active duty for training) in the armed forces of the United States, or in forces incorporated as armed forces of the United States (i.e., Merchant Marines during WWII, etc.) in order to be eligible for state veterans' programs and services. State residency requirements must also be satisfied.
For the purposes of this section, “active duty” means active duty (other than active duty for training) military service in the armed forces of the United States, or in forces incorporated as part of the armed forces of the United States. (Full-time National Guard duty does not qualify as “active duty” under federal law. Active federal military service performed by National Guard members under Title 10 of the U.S. Code may qualify as “active duty.”)
In order to be eligible for Wisconsin state veterans’ benefits, programs, and services, a veteran’s service, as characterized on the military discharge certificate (i.e., DD Form 214) must have been honorable, under honorable conditions, or general under honorable conditions. Veterans with characterizations of uncharacterized, bad conduct, other than honorable or dishonorable can seek to have their discharge upgraded through the military appeals process or request the federal VA adjudicate their case. Most veterans who follow this process and become eligible for general federal VA benefits will also be granted eligibility for Wisconsin state benefits.
If the veteran had more than one qualifying term of service, at least one term of service must have met the criteria above for the purpose of establishing eligibility.
Exceptions: In order to be eligible for services in the Veterans Assistance Program (VAP), veterans need only to have served at least one day on “active duty,” as defined above, under conditions other than dishonorable.
In order to fulfill the military active duty service requirements for most Wisconsin state veterans’ benefits, programs and services, a veteran must have served for two (2) continuous years of “active duty” as defined above.
Benefits and services with special military service requirements are listed under "Eligibility requirements for special benefits and services."
Exceptions to the two-year “active duty” requirement are as follows. A veteran need only satisfy one of the following in order to meet general state eligibility requirements for military service:
- Short Initial Service Term. Veterans who have completed their full initial “active duty” service obligation that was less than two years—regardless of when they served.
- 90 Days “Active Duty” Service During a Statutorily-Designated Wartime Period. Veterans who accumulate 90 days or more of “active duty” service (other than for training) during one of the statutorily-designated Wartime Periods.
- Expeditionary Medal. Veterans who received, or are qualified to receive, the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal (established by executive order 10977 on December 4, 1961), the Navy Expeditionary Medal, the Marine Corps Expeditionary Medal, or equivalent expeditionary or service medal.
- Other Eligible Active Duty Service:
- Berlin Crisis Service. For members of the Reserve or National Guard who were called to “active duty” under Section 1 of Executive Order 10957 dated August 10, 1961 and served at least 90 days on “active duty”, or if having served less than 90 days was honorably discharged for a service-connected disability or for a disability subsequently adjudicated to have been service-connected or died in service.
- Vietnam Service. Veterans who received, or are qualified to receive the Vietnam Service Medal (established by executive order 11231 on July 8, 1965), awarded to members of the armed forces who served in Vietnam and contiguous waters and airspace between July 3, 1965 and March 28, 1973.
- Lebanon Service. Veterans who served at least one day of “active duty” in Lebanon between August 1, 1982, and August 1, 1984.
- Grenada Service. Veterans who served at least one day of “active duty” in Grenada between October 23, 1983, and November 21, 1983.
- Middle East Crisis – Iran Hostage Crisis. Veterans who were awarded the Humanitarian Service Medal for the attempt to rescue American hostages in Iran; OR who were held hostage in Iran AND awarded the Valor Ribbon.
- Middle East Crisis – Libya. Veterans who participated in military action against Libya on April 14, 1986.
- Middle East Crisis – USS Stark. Veterans who served on the USS Stark on May 17, 1987.
- Panama Service. Veterans who served at least one day of “active duty” in Panama between December 20, 1989, and January 31, 1990.
- Gulf War Service. Veterans who served at least one (1) day of “active duty” in support of Operation Desert Shield or Operation Desert Storm may be eligible if the veteran served:
- In the Middle East or in adjacent territorial or international waters, and
- In support of Desert Shield or Desert Storm under an active-duty order, unit assignment order, or an involuntary extension of an active-duty order, and
- Between August 1, 1990 and (an ending date yet to be established).
- Somalia Service. Veterans who served at least one day of “active duty” in Somalia or in territorial waters adjacent to Somalia between December 9, 1992, and (an ending date yet to be established).
- Bosnia Service. Veterans who served at least 90 days in Bosnia or other statutorily designated areas between December 1, 1995, and (an ending date yet to be established).
- Operation Enduring Freedom Service. Veterans who served for 90 days or more in support of Operation Enduring Freedom or an operation that is a successor to Operation Enduring Freedom or served in the theater of operations:
- Under an active duty order, a unit assignment order, or an involuntary extension of an “active duty” order, and
- Were discharged under honorable conditions, and
- Whose service in support of Operation Enduring Freedom was between September 11, 2001 and [an ending date yet to be established].
- Qualifying Early Discharge. Veterans who were honorably discharged from the U.S. armed forces or from forces incorporated as part of the U.S. armed forces "active duty" due to
- A service-connected disability, or for a disability subsequently adjudicated to have been service connected.
- For reasons of hardship.
- A reduction of forces (RIF).
- Death in Service. A servicemember on “active duty” (including federal military “active duty” service under Title 10 U.S. Code by members of the Reserve or National Guard) who is killed in action or who otherwise dies while on “active duty” is considered to have satisfied the military service requirements for eligibility for Wisconsin state veterans benefits, programs, and services for themselves and any eligible dependents.
- Eligibility Exception where the veteran qualifies under Wisconsin Statutes s. 45.01(12)(h), (i), (j).
- Additional Exception for the Primary Mortgage Home Loan Program. Veterans who would not otherwise be eligible but who served for more than six consecutive months but less than two years on “active duty” (as defined above) between the dates of February 1, 1955, and August 4, 1964, are specially eligible for the WDVA Primary Mortgage Home Loan and the Home Improvement Loan Program if they meet all other program eligibility requirements.
- Additional Exception for National Guard and Reserve Burial in a State Veterans Cemetery. Veterans who served in the National Guard or Reserves who are eligible for burial in a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) National Cemetery are eligible for burial in a state veterans cemetery. However, that service does not make them eligible for other WDVA benefits for which they had not already qualified.
- Additional Exception for Membership in a Wisconsin Veterans Home. In addition to veterans otherwise eligible, veterans with only one or more days of “active duty” service (as defined above) during a designated wartime period are specially eligible for Membership in a Wisconsin Veterans Home provided they have a total of at least 90 days of “active duty” service (as defined above).
(h) A person who, while serving in the U.S. armed forces or in forces incorporated as part of the U.S. armed forces, is missing in action.
(i) A person who died as the result of a service-connected disability.
(j) A person who died in the line of duty while on inactive or active duty for training purposes in the U.S. armed forces, in forces incorporated as part of the U.S. armed forces, or in the national guard.