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Defining Armed Forces


Key Message

Recent force structure changes require updates to ensure that states’ definitions of military service comport with federal law. States can minimize disruptions in benefits and services for eligible service members and dependents by clearly defining “armed forces.”


Title 10 U.S. Code, Section 101 defines the term “armed forces” to include the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Space Force and Coast Guard. It defines the term “uniformed services” to include the “armed forces, the commissioned corps of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the commissioned corps of the Public Health Service.” States are starting to align their definition of armed forces and uniformed services with Title 10; however, definitions have varied widely between states, which are not adjusting every use of the terms throughout the entire state code or law. A consistent approach to align state definitions of members of the uniformed services and armed forces will ensure service members and their families are equally represented under all state laws defining military service, military retiree or the term veteran.


The United States Space Force was established as an independent branch of the uniformed services on Dec. 20, 2019.

State Policymakers

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