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How Long Do You Have To Be In The National Guard To Get Benefits? A Detailed Guide

Joining the National Guard or Reserves represents a significant commitment, often filled with questions about the benefits and requirements associated with service. A crucial aspect for many service members is understanding the duration of service necessary to access various benefits.

The National Guard and Reserves offer a range of benefits, from retirement pay to VA loans, each with its own set of eligibility criteria. Service in these branches is unique, blending civilian life with military duties, and the path to earning benefits reflects this distinctiveness.

Key Takeaways

  • To access benefits in the National Guard or Reserves, members typically need to serve a minimum of six years, fulfilling specific training and duty requirements that vary per benefit.
  • If you are in the National Guard or Reserve, you can get many benefits like retirement, education, and healthcare. But you have to do your service duties and know the rules for each benefit.

Overview of Service Requirements


Type of Service Monthly Drills Annual Training Additional Commitments Minimum Service Period
National Guard One weekend per month Two weeks per year Possible deployment, state emergencies Typically 6 years
Reserves One weekend per month Two weeks per year Possible deployment, specialized training Typically 6 years

Joining the National Guard or Reserves involves a blend of military and civilian commitments, with specific requirements that members must fulfill to qualify for various benefits. Service in these branches typically includes a combination of monthly drills, annual training, and potential additional duties.

Monthly Drills and Annual Training

Members are generally required to attend monthly drills, which usually occur over a weekend, and an annual training period lasting about two weeks. These drills and training sessions are critical for maintaining military skills and readiness.

Deployment and Active Duty

In addition to drills and training, members may be called for deployment or state emergency duties. These periods of active duty vary in length and frequency, depending on national and international military needs.

Balancing Civilian and Military Roles

A unique aspect of the National Guard and Reserves is the dual role members play, balancing their civilian careers or education with their military obligations. This requires adaptability and effective time management.

Commitment Duration

The duration of commitment in the National Guard and Reserves is typically a minimum of six years, but this can vary depending on individual contracts and roles within the service.

Retirement Benefits and Point System

Retirement benefits in the National Guard and Reserves are based on a point system, reflecting the unique nature of service in these branches.

Category Description Points Earned
Inactive Duty Training (IDT) One point for each 4-hour period, up to 2 points per day. 1 point/4 hours
Annual Membership Points for being a member each year. 15 points/year
Active Service Points for each day of active duty or active duty for training. 1 point/day
Funeral Honors Duty Points for each day of performing funeral honors duty. 1 point/day
Correspondence Courses Points for completing accredited correspondence courses. 1 point/3 credit hours

Earning Points

Points are accrued through various service activities, including drills, annual training, and active duty. Each year, members must earn a minimum number of points to qualify for retirement benefits.

  • Drills: Points are awarded for each drill period attended.
  • Annual Training: Additional points are earned during the annual training period.
  • Active Duty: Active duty periods, whether for deployment or training, contribute significantly to point accumulation.

Calculating Retirement Benefits

Retirement pay is calculated based on the total number of points accumulated, the member’s rank, and the length of service. The more points accrued, the higher the retirement benefits.

Transition to Retirement

After completing the required years of service and reaching a certain age, typically 60, members can transition to retirement, drawing benefits based on their accumulated points.

VA Loan Eligibility

Eligibility for VA loans as a member of the National Guard or Reserves requires meeting specific service criteria.

Service Requirements

To qualify, members typically need to have completed six years of service in the Selected Reserve or National Guard, or have served 90 days of active duty during a wartime period.

Certificate of Eligibility

Obtaining a Certificate of Eligibility is a critical step in the VA loan process. This certificate is proof of a member’s service and eligibility for the VA loan program.

VA Loan Benefits

VA loans offer significant benefits, including no down payment, lower interest rates, and no private mortgage insurance requirement. These loans are designed to make homeownership more accessible to service members.

Applying for a VA Loan

The application process involves working with a VA-approved lender and can include additional requirements like credit and income checks.

Educational Benefits for Service Members

Educational Benefits for Service Members - National Guard Benefits

The National Guard and Reserves offer a variety of educational benefits, providing significant support for members’ personal and professional growth.

Types of Educational Benefits

Educational programs available to service members include:

Eligibility and Application

Eligibility for these programs typically depends on the length of service and the type of duty performed. Members are encouraged to apply through the VA website or through their educational officer to understand the specific benefits for which they qualify.

Life Insurance Options

Life Insurance Options - National Guard Benefits

Life insurance is a critical component of the financial planning for National Guard and Reserve members, providing security and peace of mind for themselves and their families.

Key Programs and Benefits

Several life insurance options are available, each designed to cater to the unique needs of military personnel:

  • Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (SGLI): This low-cost group life insurance program is available to all service members. It offers varying levels of coverage up to a maximum amount.
  • Veterans’ Group Life Insurance (VGLI): Upon leaving the service, members can convert their SGLI to VGLI, a civilian version of the same insurance, without needing to prove good health.
  • Family Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (FSGLI): This provides life insurance coverage for the spouses and dependent children of service members insured under SGLI.
  • SGLI Traumatic Injury Protection (TSGLI): This program offers short-term financial assistance to service members during their recovery from a traumatic injury.

Choose the Right Coverage

It’s important for National Guard and Reserve members to assess their individual and family needs when choosing a life insurance plan. Factors like coverage amount, premiums, and the duration of coverage play a crucial role in this decision-making process.

Disability Compensation and VA Pension

Disability compensation and VA pensions are vital benefits for National Guard and Reserve members who experience injuries or illnesses due to their service.

Disability Compensation

This benefit is a monthly, tax-free payment to veterans with disabilities who are connected to their military service. It includes injuries incurred during active duty, active duty for training, or inactive duty training.

VA Pension

The VA pension offers tax-free monthly income to wartime veterans with limited or no income who are 65 years or older or have a non-service-connected disability.

Eligibility and Application

Eligibility for these benefits hinges on factors like the nature of the disability, length of service, and financial need. Applying for these benefits requires documentation of service and medical evidence of the service-connected disability.

Veteran Readiness and Employment Services

Veteran Readiness and Employment (VR&E) Self-Employment Track

Veteran Readiness and Employment (VR&E) services play a pivotal role in supporting National Guard and Reserve members transitioning back to civilian life, especially for those with service-connected disabilities.

Services Offered

VR&E offers a range of services designed to help veterans achieve their employment and educational goals, including:

  • Vocational Counseling: Guidance on career choices and training opportunities.
  • Job Placement Assistance: Support in finding suitable employment, including resume development and interview preparation.
  • Training Programs: Opportunities for skills development and education to enhance employability.

Eligibility and Access

To access these services, veterans must have a service-connected disability rating. The program is designed to help those facing challenges in their civilian careers due to their military service.

Health Care Benefits for Veterans

Healthcare VA Disability

Health care benefits are a crucial aspect of the support provided to National Guard and Reserve veterans. These benefits ensure access to comprehensive medical care during and after their service.

Coverage and Services

The range of health care benefits includes:

  • Inpatient and Outpatient Services: Comprehensive medical treatment facilities.
  • Dental and Pharmacy Services: Access to dental care and prescription medications.
  • Prosthetic Services: Support for veterans needing prosthetic devices.

Eligibility Criteria

Eligibility for these healthcare benefits typically depends on factors like length of service, type of discharge, and service-related injuries or disabilities.

Burial and Memorial Benefits

WWII Veteran Robert Belch's Full Honors Funeral

Burial and memorial benefits honor the service and sacrifice of National Guard and Reserve members, providing dignified and respectful final arrangements.

Benefits and Services

These benefits include:

  • Burial in a National Cemetery: Eligible veterans can be buried in a VA national cemetery.
  • Burial Allowances: Financial assistance to cover burial and funeral costs.
  • Headstones and Markers: Provision of headstones or markers for graves in private cemeteries.

Qualifying for Benefits

Eligibility for burial and memorial benefits generally requires documentation of service and an honorable discharge. Special provisions are made for those who die on active duty or as a result of service-connected issues.

Defining a Veteran for Benefit Purposes

In the context of accessing benefits, the definition of a veteran is crucial. This definition determines who is eligible for the wide range of benefits offered by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and other agencies.

Criteria for Veteran Status

  • Service in Active Military, Naval, or Air Service: This includes members of the National Guard and Reserves who were called to active duty (under federal orders).
  • Discharge Conditions: To qualify as a veteran for benefits, individuals must have been discharged under conditions other than dishonorable.

Special Considerations

  • National Guard and Reserve Members: They are considered veterans for benefit purposes if they were activated under federal orders by the President, particularly under Title 10 of the US Code.

Eligibility Criteria for Various Benefits

Applying for VA Benefits

Eligibility for benefits for National Guard and Reserve members depends on various factors, each tailored to specific benefits.

Key Factors Influencing Eligibility

  • Length of Service: Some benefits require a minimum period of service.
  • Type of Service: Active duty, active duty for training, and inactive duty training can each impact eligibility differently.
  • Service During Wartime Periods: Certain benefits may be contingent on having served during specific wartime periods.

Conditions for Specific Benefits

  • Educational Benefits: Often require a certain length of active duty service.
  • VA Loans: Require a minimum period of service, which can vary based on whether the service was during wartime or peacetime.
  • Healthcare and Disability Benefits: Depend on factors like service-connected injuries or disabilities.

Impact of Type of Service on Benefits

Military Documentation

The type of service rendered by National Guard and Reserve members significantly influences their eligibility for various benefits.

Active Duty vs. Inactive Duty

  • Active Duty (Title 10): Generally offers broader eligibility for benefits, including education, home loans, and medical care.
  • Inactive Duty: This may offer limited benefits, primarily focusing on aspects like disability compensation for injuries incurred during training.

Full-Time National Guard Duty (Title 32)

  • Benefits Eligibility: Members serving under Title 32 may qualify for certain benefits, though these can differ from those available under Title 10.

Discharge Status and Benefit Eligibility

The discharge status of a service member plays a pivotal role in determining their eligibility for various veterans’ benefits. This status, noted on the DD-214 or other separation documents, is a key factor in the benefits application process.

Types of Discharge

  • Honorable and General Discharges: Typically grant eligibility for most veterans’ benefits, including education, healthcare, and pension.
  • Other Than Honorable (OTH) Discharges: May limit access to certain benefits. OTH discharges require a review by the VA to determine benefit eligibility.
  • Bad Conduct and Dishonorable Discharges: Issued by a court-martial, these typically disqualify veterans from accessing VA benefits.

Why Review is Important?

  • Upgrade Possibilities: Veterans with discharges that initially disqualify them from benefits may seek a review for possible upgrade, which could change their eligibility status.

Special Cases – Merchant Mariners and Other Groups

United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps

Certain groups have unique considerations when it comes to veterans’ benefits eligibility. These include Merchant Mariners and members of other specific organizations.

Merchant Mariners

  • World War II Service: Merchant Mariners who served during World War II are recognized as veterans for benefit purposes.
  • Post-WWII Service: Eligibility for benefits among Merchant Mariners who served after WWII is limited and often requires specific legislation to acknowledge their veteran status.

Other Groups

  • Public Health Service and NOAA: Members of the U.S. Public Health Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are recognized as veterans for benefit purposes under certain conditions.
  • Foreign Nationals and Other Unique Cases: Special provisions and considerations apply, depending on the individual’s service and circumstances.

What About Claims and Denials?

Navigating the process of claims for veterans’ benefits can be challenging, especially when facing denials or the need for appeals.

Filing a Claim

  • Proper Documentation: Ensuring all necessary service and medical records are included is crucial for a successful claim.
  • Understanding the Process: Familiarity with the VA’s claims process aids in timely and accurate submissions.

Dealing with Denials

  • Reasons for Denial: Claims can be denied due to insufficient evidence, lack of qualifying service, or administrative errors.
  • Appeal Process: Veterans have the right to appeal denials, which involves a review and possibly a hearing. Understanding the grounds for appeal and gathering supporting evidence is key.

Seeking Assistance

  • VA Resources and Advocates: Utilizing VA resources or working with veteran advocates can provide guidance and support through the claims and appeals process.


Do you make money in the National Guard?

Yes, you can earn excellent pay as a Guard Soldier, depending on your rank, job, and education level. You will also receive other benefits, such as health care, education assistance, retirement savings, and more.

Is it hard being in the National Guard?

The National Guard can be challenging, but also rewarding. You will have to balance your civilian and military responsibilities, train regularly, and be ready to deploy when needed. You will also face some physical, mental, and emotional demands, but you will have the support of your fellow Soldiers and your family.

Can I join the military at 45 years old?

The age limit to join the military varies by branch and type of service. The maximum age to join the Army National Guard is 35, while the Air National Guard is 39. However, you may be able to get an age waiver if you have prior military service or special skills.

Can you quit the military?

You cannot quit the military before completing your service obligation unless you have a valid reason and go through the proper channels. If you try to leave without permission, you may face criminal charges or other consequences.

Last Words

Joining the National Guard or Reserves is a commitment that offers a unique blend of military and civilian experiences, along with a range of benefits tailored to support the needs of service members. As we have explored, these benefits encompass areas such as retirement, education, healthcare, and home ownership, each with specific eligibility requirements tied to the length and type of service rendered.

We are also covering other areas of the military. Therefore, stay with us at NSIN.