Friday, July 6, 2012

Commission clarifies definition of veteran status

The Civil Service Commission issued a decision last week in a dispute over whether an candidate who served 56 days in the military before being injured qualified for veteran status. The dispute centered around the definition of "veteran" under Massachusetts General Law Chapter 4, Section 7, which is incorporated in the Civil Service Law.  In general, Massachusetts law requires service of at least 90 days, one of which is during wartime, and discharge under honorable conditions to qualify as a veteran. An exception is provided, however, for service during wartime of less than 90 days when the servicemember is awarded a service-connected disability. In such instances, the servicemember is also considered a veteran. The candidate in question, after his service and injury, was discharged under the condition "uncharacterized." He was later awarded a disability benefit for his service and injury. The dispute in his appeal was whether the requirement to be discharged under honorable conditions also applied to the exception, which would have meant the appellant was not a veteran since his discharge was "uncharacterized."

The Commission ruled that the exception was an independent clause and did not include the "honorable conditions" requirement from earlier in the statute. Therefore, a servicemember who serves during wartime for less 90 days and is awarded a service-connected disability is, by definition, a veteran. The Commission ordered that the state modify the candidate's civil service status to reflect his veteran status.

It should be noted, however, that the definition of "veteran" specifically excludes anyone discharged under "dishonorable" conditions. The ruling has no effect on that statutory exclusion. There was no argument that the candidate was discharged under "dishonorable" conditions.

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