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A war veteran (from Latin vetus, meaning "old") is a person who has or is serving in the armed forces, or a person who has had long service or experience in an occupation or office.

For the most part, war veterans are treated with great respect and honor for their contribution to the world and country. Many countries have longstanding traditions, ceremonies, and holidays to honor veterans. In Russia, a tradition was established after the Second World War, where newly married couples would on their wedding day visit a military cemetery. In Francemarker, for instance, those wounded in war are given the first claim on any seat on public transit. Most countries have a holiday such as Veterans Day to honor veterans, along with the war dead. There are exceptions to this: veterans of unpopular conflicts, such as the Vietnam War, have been discriminated against. Others, such as veterans of conflicts like the Korean War, are often forgotten (even though the casualty rate in Korea was higher than that experienced in the Vietnam War) when compared with those who fought in the World Wars. In some countries with strong anti-military traditions (e.g., Germany after 1945) veterans are neither honored in any special way, nor have their dedicated Veterans Day.

The Congo

Some veterans from the Belgian commitment of the Congolese to WWII live in communities throughout the Congo. Though they received compensation from the government during the rule of the dictator Mobutu Sese Seko, after his overthrow they no longer receive pensions.

United States

The most common usage is for former armed services personnel. A veteran is one who has served in the armed forces, especially one who has served in combat. It is especially applied to those who served for an entire career, usually of 20 years or more, but may be applied for someone who has only served one tour of duty. A common misconception is that only those who have served in combat or those who have retired from active duty can be called military veterans.

Veterans' benefits in the United States

President Abraham Lincoln, in his second inaugural address, in 1865 towards the end of the US Civil War, famously called for good treatment of veterans: "to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan". The American Civil War produced veterans' organizations, such as the Grand Army of the Republic. The treatment of veterans changed after the First World War. In the years following, discontented veterans became a source of instability. They could quickly organize, had links to the army, and often had arms themselves. Veterans played a central role in the post-World War I instability of Germanymarker, while in the United Statesmarker, the Bonus Army of unemployed veterans was one of the most important protest movements of the Great Depression, marching on Washington, DC, to get a claimed bonus that Congress had promised them.

Each state (of the United Statesmarker) sets specific criteria for state-specific veterans' benefits. For federal medical benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairsmarker (VA) hospitals, prior to 7 September 1980 the veteran must have served at least 180 days of active duty, after the above-mentioned date, the veteran must have served at least 24 months. However, if the veteran was medically discharged and receives a VA service-connected disability stipend, the time limits are not applicable.

American veteran experience after World War II

After the Second World War, in part due to the experience of the First World War, most of the participating states set up elaborate veterans' administrations. Within the United States, it was veterans groups, like the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars organization, that pushed for and got the G.I. Bill enacted. These gave veterans access to free or subsidized education and health care. The newly educated GIs created a significant economic impact, and with the aid of VA loans were able to buy housing and establish themselves as part of a growing American middle class. The explosion of the suburbs created sufficient housing for veterans and their families.

Female veterans in the U.S.

Women have served in the United States military for over two hundred years, often having had to disguise themselves as men. Female veterans have often been discriminated against by their male counterparts and, as such, women who have served in the armed forces have sometimes been known as "the invisible veterans". Women were not fully recognized as veterans until after WWII, and prior to this they were not eligible for VA benefits. The VA estimates that by the year 2010 women will make up 40% of the veteran population. A tri-state (Washington, Idaho, Oregon) women veterans conference in Pendleton, Oregonmarker, in April 2008, attracted 362 women veterans, according to the East Oregonian newspaper.

African American veterans in the U.S.

African Americans have participated in every war fought by or within the United States. Black veterans from World War I experienced racial persecution on returning to the U.S. from overseas, particularly in Southern cities.Black veterans from World War II continued to be denied equality at home despite President Harry S. Truman's desegregation of the military during World War II. Black veterans went on to play a central role in the Civil Rights movement. The National Association for Black Veterans is an organization that provides advocacy and support for African American and other minority veterans.

PTSD treatment among Veterans

New treatment programs are emerging to assist veterans suffering from post-combat mental health problems such as depression and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), is becoming an important method for the treatment of mental health issues among veterans, and is currently considered the standard of care for depression and PTSD by the Department of Defensemarker. CBT is a psychotherapeutic approach that aims to change the patterns of thinking or behavior that responsible for patient’s negative emotions and in doing so change the way they feel. It has been proven to be an effective treatment for PTSD among war veterans. Recently, online programs that pair CBT with therapist interaction have also proven effective in treating mental health problems among veterans.

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