Space force

VA officially recognizes Space Force as a military branch

Jim Absher is a Benefits columnist for Military.com.

The Department of Veterans Affairs officially recognized the Space Force as a branch of the military, nearly 2½ years after the service was established.

The Space Force was created on December 20, 2019, when then-President Donald Trump signed the National Defense Authorization Act.

While the Space Force was created in fiscal year 2020, Congress has not expanded the definition of “veteran” or made other changes to the law requiring VA to provide benefits and services to veterans of the Space Force until 2021. Now halfway through 2022, the VA announces in a May 3, 2022 Federal Register publication that they have updated their regulations to include the Space Force as a military branch.

Specifically, the existing legal language defining the armed forces as “the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Coast Guard of the United States, including their reserve components” has been updated by adding “Space Force” to the list.

Although this announcement officially recognizes the Space Force as an armed force within the Department of the Air Force, it is only a formality. There have been no reports of Space Force veterans being denied benefits due to their exclusion from existing VA regulations.

That’s not to say members of the newer, smaller branch of the military haven’t run into trouble elsewhere. Guardians and their families have long reported that they experience acceptance issues; these issues range from problems with Tricare to the inability to receive veteran discounts at major retailers.

In an article on MilitaryFamilies.com, a family said they were unable to book vacation accommodations at a Navy facility. The online reservation system did not list “Space Force” as an option. It took three phone calls to regularize the situation. Others who transferred from another branch to the Space Force said they received separation and transition documents from multiple government agencies.

Although it is the smallest branch of the U.S. military, with approximately 8,400 personnel, the branch has an annual budget of nearly $20 billion for 2022. The branch has six main bases and seven smaller stations. It also has facilities in Greenland, UK, Ascension Island and Diego Garcia.

— Jim Absher can be contacted at [email protected]

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