The Depot

What Qualifies as an Armed Forces Service Medal Veteran?

Armed Forces Service Medal AFSM

The Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974 (VEVRAA), as amended (38 U.S.C. § 4212), prohibits discrimination against protected veterans. Under VEVRAA, a veteran may be classified as a “disabled veteran,” “recently separated veteran,” “active duty wartime or campaign badge veteran,” or “Armed Forces Service Medal veteran.” These classes of veterans are known as protected veteran status.

What qualifies as an Armed Forces Service Medal veteran?

Most recently in 2020, the Department of Defense announced the approval of the award of the Armed Forces Service Medal to eligible military personnel for qualifying coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) operations and activities. The period of the award is from Jan. 31, 2020 to a date to be determined.

Prior to those dates, the Armed Forces Service Medal had been issued several times dating back to 1992 for operations in Yugoslavia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia, Haiti, and other locations both overseas and domestically. Award of the medal granted veterans who earned it protected status. What qualifies as an Armed Forces Service Medal veteran?

An Armed Forces Service Medal veteran is defined as a veteran who, while serving on active duty in the U.S. military, ground, naval or air service, participated in a U.S. military operation for which an Armed Forces Service Medal was awarded pursuant to Executive Order 12985, Establishing the Armed Forces Service Medal, Jan. 11, 1996.

Veterans unsure of their status as a protected veteran might ask what qualifies as an Armed Forces Service Medal veteran? The best place to start is with a veteran’s DD Form 214. Any awards that have been earned while on active service will be listed on the 214.

The Armed Forces Service Medal is awarded to members of the U.S. armed forces who participate as members of U.S. military units in a military operation that is deemed significant by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and encounter no foreign armed opposition or imminent threat of hostile actions, so that might answer the question what qualifies as an Armed Forces Service Medal veteran? But for the sake of granularity, the Armed Forces Service Medal is presented for participation in peacekeeping operations, prolonged humanitarian operations, and U.S. military operations in direct support of the United Nations or the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and for operations of assistance to friendly foreign nations.

What qualifies as an Armed Forces Service Medal veteran? Active duty, reserve and National Guard personnel are eligible for the Armed Forces Service Medal as outlined in DoD Manual 1348.33, DoD Manual of Military Decorations and Awards — Campaign, Expeditionary, and Service Medals. The military department secretaries ordinarily determine eligibility for award to service members in his or her respective military department based on DoD award criteria. The chief of the National Guard Bureau determines eligibility for National Guard members who do not fall under the purview of a secretary of a military department. But what qualifies as an Armed Forces Service Medal veteran or a protected veteran is determined by first earning the award.

Comments on this post ( 21 )

  • Feb 02, 2024

    Thanks for posting. I served on the USS Trepang SSN-674, we were the first submarine under NATO control off the coast of Bosnia. After I got out I was asked to join the local VFW, I was a life member, the only check box back then was what conflict you were in, I checked Bosnia. Fast forward to 2021 and some young guys came into the local VFW and questioned about 30 of our members. Some had not even made it through boot camp! I had sent off to get my awards updated on my DD-214. It came back and all I was awarded was the Armed Forces Service Medal (Bosnia). I was kicked out of the VFW and verbally and posted on social media accusing me of STOLEN VALOR! Some at National VFW agree I am eligible others say I don’t have the right medal! Sad to see how the VFW treats its veterans of foreign wars. I can see how the Vietnam Veterans felt for so long. Its VFW 1799 Tyler Texas by the way!

    — Chet Johnson

  • Jan 27, 2024

    It seems that the medal in question wasn’t even established until ‘96, which eliminates vets from Desert Shield/Storm, the Panama operation, and any earlier conflicts or operations. However, I don’t believe it has any precedence over those who received awards for those operations (like myself) vs the Armed Forces Service Medal. If you really have any questions on whether you are eligible, then by all means, certainly contact BuPer for your branch and era, and get it figured out. But from what I can tell, those who are operations/combat award receivers from earlier eras aren’t missing anything that this award might offer you.

    — Mark Stevens

  • Jan 20, 2024

    I served four years in the Navy (85-89), two of those attached to the Marines as a Corpsman. Never received any awards. Got out few months early so never met the four years for good conduct. Never actually qualified in weapons, so I didn’t get them. Didn’t know about FMF ribbon or qualifications so I missed out on that too. Never deployed either. All I have to show for my service is a DD-214. People have told me check to see if I can get an “up grade” to my 214, because it might show ribbons I am qualified for, but didn’t know anything about. Oh yeah, didn’t qualify for the NDSM either, but was on alert to go to Panama twice in 88-89.

    — Tim Cram

  • Jan 02, 2024

    Sometimes people don’t get many decorations. I’ve seen E-9s with barely two rows of ribbons! Other times, like recently, you can get 5-6 right out of recruit training! I served 2 years active duty in the early 90s and 8 years inactive and I’ve got a dozen. I look like I really did sonething. I have a few I got but didn’t earn. That makes them all feel pointless to me. People are getting bronze stars just for finishing a tour of duty. I don’t even want to talk about Navy Acheivement Medals.
    Oh and the cold war wasn’t a war, and you should be thankful that you. DONT have campaign or combat awards. I’m glad things didn’t go hot and no one had to fight. Honestly that win feels like a better victory than any conflict we’ve had since.
    I would never judge anyone from decorations anyway and if I still served I’d only top 3 and no more. (Keep people guessing)EVERY person that enlisted basically signed a blank check to our country for their lives if neefed. The fact that we were all there and ready to serve or sacrifice matters more to me than anything else, especially some decorations just for doing my job. The real awards are given for valor and courage.
    So thank you for serving cold warriors. Just get a commermorative medal and make .gov send you a thank you certificate if it means that much. You’ll always have respect from every veteran for your service.

    — Phil Connely

  • Oct 20, 2023

    I’m going to have to wholeheartedly agree with J.D. Moore. It certainly appears quite a few Cold War veterans have simply been forgotten or merely cast aside. I served in the USAF (SAC, 8th AF, 2nd BW), from 1981 to 1986 at Barksdale AFB, LA. Other than supporting the Grenada and Libyan conflicts, we all constantly prepared for "The Big One’, which fortunately didn’t occur obviously. We all knew we were to keep working till the “big flash” happened and remain steadfastly committed to doing our duty till then. We had no choice but to sit it out at ground zero. Still, only select individuals were awarded ribbons for involvement in our few minor conflicts. The AF was too selective in ribbon and/or campaign awards. It took us all to keep the “big ball” rolling though the AF saw matters differently. In addition, some of us worked in Top Secret career fields that didn’t allow us to leave the CONUS thus joining the VFW isn’t possible. Nevertheless, I’m proud to have honorably served my country regardless how the AF treated many of us.

    — Bill Bowen

  • Sep 19, 2023

    I was a US Navy Seabee assigned to NMCB-5 out of Port Hueneme California from 1980-1985. We staged all our normal Rapid Response equipment in case the British needed it in support of the Falkland Islands conflict and also were placed on standby during the Grenada invasion. Thankfully, we weren’t deployed, but could have been. Does this qualify for Armed Forces Service Medal?

    — Chris M.

  • Sep 19, 2023

    I think that the Air Force is being too selective as to who can receive the Armed Forces Service Medal. We all did the same job. Some were rewarded and others, not.

    — James Dickinson

  • Apr 27, 2023

    My father. Veteran subedar B.S.Rawat served in Indian Army enrolled in 1942 at Royal Garhwal Rifles Lansdowne and then posted to para depot in chaklala Pakistan. And he was a part of grade 2 War.. but till today neither he get any recognition or any Medal which he serve for long time in Indian Army

    — Sanjay Singh Rawat

  • Feb 09, 2023

    Hello owner, You always provide helpful information.

    — Kacey Enticknap

  • Jan 24, 2023

    Oscar-Thanks for your service. I would check with DoD Manual 1348.33, DoD Manual of Military Decorations and Awards — Campaign, Expeditionary, and Service Medals about eligibility. If you feel award is warranted, reach out to your congressional rep for help. They can always look into it for you. Thanks for writing.

    — Steve from USAMM

  • Jan 24, 2023

    I was stationed with the 1st Calvary/2nd Infantry Division in Korea near the DMZ in 1965 to 1966. Since this was classified as a hardship deployment and not treaty had been signed would that qualify me for the AFSM?

    — Oscar Williamson

  • Nov 01, 2022

    Gene, Please check DoD Manual 1348.33, DoD Manual of Military Decorations and Awards — Campaign, Expeditionary, and Service Medals to see if you are eligible.

    — Steve (from USAMM)

  • Nov 01, 2022

    I served in the USCG from 11-14-1976 until 11-14-1980. I was honorably discharged as an E5. DO I qualify for veterans’ status or The Armed Forces Medal?

    — Gene G Olson

  • Sep 23, 2022

    I was in Europe from 1963 to 1966, and we were called to The
    Fulda Gap twice. We were about to confront the Russians at that
    time. We were armed and ready for action, also the border was patrolled 24 hours a day and with live ammo also. A confrontation with the Russians seemed imminent but the enemy backed off. During the so called Cold War, we were forgotten soldiers, we are deprived of the Army over Sea’s medal, Armed Forces Medal and
    the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal. I would like to know why
    we are exempt of any recognition for our time of service there and
    under those circumstances. According to the words of John F Kennedy, we fit the requirements and the criteria for the above.

    J. Moore

    — JD Moore

  • Sep 23, 2022

    I would like to know why we of the Cold War era have been left out of everything, just a forgotten bunch of soldiers. I was in Europe from 1963 to 1966, twice we were at the Fulda Gap to meet the Russians head on and with live ammo, the border was patrolled 24 hours a day with live ammo, and it was hot, also this did meet the requirement status for John F Kennedy’s Armed
    Forces Expeditionary Medal, but no way. We never were able to receive the Overseas medal. That is only good for after 1981. We
    were all setting ducks in case of action, but we get nothing. I sure
    would like an answer. We are deserving of some recognition and
    support. That may have been a long time ago, but a few of us are still alive and remember looking at the enemy as they watched us
    across the line. We all would like an answer.

    — JD Moore

  • Aug 12, 2022

    Shirley Hensley,
    Hi. Thanks for posting. And thank you both for your brave service during the Vietnam War.

    We’re not sure about whether or not you qualify. It might be easiest to find the Air Force Regulation/Instruction that governs awards and decorations (medals) and look up the AFSM to see if they have award criteria outlined in it.

    If they do not, you can reach out to the Air Force Personnel Center and get their input about how to research this. It shoud be something you can find online. But if you run into brick walls, reach out to your local congressman and have them chase it down for you. They can be very helpful if you run into dead ends. Hope this helps. And thanks again for your service.

    USAMM Communications

    — Steve

  • Aug 12, 2022

    My husband and I were stationed at CCK Taiwan, from there we were at Saigon, Vietnam in1992. Our next permanent duty station was Little Rock AFB, AR. When the war was ending Gary, my husband and a loadmaster on C130’s, was part of the group to go back to Saigon to rescue the remaining US personnel and many local citizens. When they brought them back to Little Rock, I was on the Humanitarian team to receive and process them. Does this qualify us for the Armed Forces Service Medal?

    Thank You

    — Shirley Hensley

  • May 22, 2022

    @Douglas Morsette, I was also at Torrejon AFB, Spain during this period. My DD-214 is similarly annotated with the NDSM. I’m trying to determine my “veteran status” as well. I typically do not declare I’m protected when filling out forms as I don’t know if I am protected and I don’t want to misrepresent myself. My online search has me going back and forth. Did you find a definitive source and answer to our common question?

    — David Campbell

  • Apr 03, 2022

    What about the Cuban Missel crises? Oct 16 1962 thru Nov 20 1962. The un war: war that could have ended all of us; yet few shots were fired. The war where all B52’s and KC 135 that could get into the air (from SAC) were not just in the air but inside of Russia with targets in site, weapons armed and bomb-bay doors open. Meanwhile on the ground our orders were: “If you survive rebuild the runway so any returning aircraft can land”! Saboteurs were infiltrating our bases a few were discovered and delt with, but did you ever hear that? A/B, A3, A/2 were issued spring fields and put onto airplanes orbiting positions that were hoped would be safe yet positions they could defined. these were mostly in Europe as I understand it. The NCO’s with the A1C were left on the bases to fulfill the mission of rebuilding.
    Thanks for a platform to sound off!
    Brown Wayne A1c USAF March 1959-1963 active

    — Wayne E Brown

  • Mar 30, 2022

    Douglas Morsette, thanks for writing. If you were in the Air Force, my advice would be to reach out to the USAF personnel center, the awards and decs office, and get their feedback. Usually, online, you can find published guidance on who is eligible for what. You can also enlist the help of your congressional rep if you run into walls. The internet is very useful in determining award eligibility. All the award regulations, personnel messages and other useful docs are posted online. Good luck! If you’ve earned them, it should be no more than a little effort to get them sent to you.

    — Steve

  • Mar 30, 2022

    I was in Spain at Torrejon AFB during Desert Shield and Desert Storm. I helped support all incoming troops (Army, Marines, Airmen, and Navy personnel) during this time. Troops would fly into Torrejon during this time, refuel, and go to the middle east. I received a National Defense Service Medal on my DD Form 214 but no Armed Forces Service Medal. Shouldn’t I have received an Armed Forces Service Medal?


Leave a comment