Military Uniform Rules For Retirees And Veterans

There are rules for when a former military member can appear in uniform

Veteran's Day Parade
••• Petty Officer 2nd Class Seth Johnson/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

Every Fourth of July, Veteran's Day, and Memorial Day parade you will encounter many proud former military members wearing their uniforms. There are specific guidelines the U.S. military requires

Military Retiree and Veteran Differences

The rules state that retirees can wear their uniforms. To be a retired veteran, one must have served 20 years or more to get that title. However, there are medically retired service members who were injured in the line of duty who also rate the uniform as a retired military member once a civilian. ​

Veterans are members who served but did not accumulate 20 years of service, however, they may also wear the uniform but only in special, formal occasions.

Uniform Rules for Veterans and Retirees

The rules for wearing military uniforms as a retired military member or a discharged veteran are similar for all the services. There are certain rules for those seeking to wear the uniform for formal functions, national holidays, parades, military funerals and weddings and other military occasions. Only the Service Dress Uniform may be worn; no work, battle dress or PT uniforms are permitted to be worn by military retirees or veterans.

Prohibited Places and Events for Military Uniforms

Typical places and events where the uniform is prohibited to be worn by discharged and retired members of the military:

  • Anti-Government Events: At any meeting or demonstration which is anti-government in nature.
  • Political Events: During political activities, private employment or commercial interests, when an inference of official sponsorship for the activity could be drawn.
  • Special Permissions Only: Except when authorized by competent Service authority, a veteran or retired military member cannot wear the uniform when participating in activities such as public speeches, interviews, picket lines, marches, rallies, or any public demonstration (including those pertaining to civil rights), which may imply military sanction of the cause for which the demonstration or activity is conducted.
  • Civil/Criminal Court Appearances: You cannot wear the uniform as a veteran or retired member of a service branch when in court. Also, you cannot wear the uniform if in such situations that it would bring discredit upon the Armed Forces.

Uniform Rules for Each Branch of Service

Retired military members and honorably discharged veterans may wear the rank and insignia currently in use, or the rank and insignia in use at the time of their discharge/retirement, but cannot combine the two.

Medal of Honor Recipients

Medal of Honor recipients may wear their medal and/or the uniform on any occasion except the following:

  • Participating in public speeches, interviews, picket lines, marches or rallies, or in any public demonstration which may imply official military sanction
  • Furthering political activities, private employment, or commercial interests
  • Working in an off-duty civilian capacity
  • Participating in civilian court proceedings when the conviction would bring discredit

Any individual wearing a U.S. military uniform is expected to reflect the high personal appearance standards and esprit de corps that the uniform represents. To this end, particular attention will be paid not only to the correct and military wear of uniform components but also to the individual’s personal and physical appearance. All personnel exercising the privilege of wearing a U.S. military service or dress uniform will comply fully with their service's grooming and weight control standards.