The United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provides a broad range of benefits and services to American veterans and to certain members of their families. In addition, the Department of Defense (DOD) offers a variety of benefits to veterans who are also military retirees. When members of the National Guard or the reserves who have not yet reached the age of 60 retire (usually after at least 20 years of service), they may not necessarily meet the statutory definition of “veterans” for VA purposes or be eligible for DOD health benefits. These military retirees are commonly known as Gray Area Retirees (GARs).
To be eligible for most VA benefits, the claimant must be a veteran, or in some cases, the survivor or dependent of a veteran. However, not every person who has served in the military is considered to be a “veteran” for the purposes of VA benefits. The concept of “veteran” is defined by federal statute and includes various criteria, such as discharge status, “active” service, time of service, and length of duty.
Section 705 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010 (P.L. 111-84) made TRICARE Standard (TS) coverage available for purchase by certain members of the retired reserve who are qualified for a non-regular retirement, but are not yet 60 years old (GARs). This program, known as TRICARE Retired Reserve (TRR), was launched on September 1, 2010, and is now fully operational. In 2011, a program was implemented that permits GARs to enroll in the TRR online, through a DOD website.
In the 112th Congress, S. 542, S. 1768, and H.R. 1003 would authorize space-available travel on military aircraft for GARs on the same basis as active-duty military personnel. S. 491 and H.R. 1025 would recognize service by certain persons in the reserves by honoring them with the status as veterans under law. However, such persons would not be entitled to any benefit by reason of such recognition.
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