Veterans Day 2015 is next week – Wednesday, November 11, 2015. Here in Texas, and around the United States, restaurants, retailers, and grateful citizens offer discounts and other benefits to acknowledge the service and sacrifice of our active-duty and Veteran military men and women. Many websites provide detailed information regarding Veterans Day activities and discounts, so we won’t repeat them all here.
ID Required for Veterans Day Benefits
Unless you are in uniform, most establishments understandably request some form of military identification to establish eligibility for various discounts, including items and services they will provide for free.
Most businesses will accept at least one of the following forms of identification to establish eligibility for Veterans Day discounts:
- Military ID Card (for active, reserve, or retired military);
- Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) ID card;
- Driver’s License with Veteran designation;
- A Veterans Service Organization (VSO) Card;
- Your DD-214;
- Your current Leave and Earnings Statement; or
- Discharge paperwork.
Naturally, most people don’t carry around their DD-214s, Leave & Earnings Statements, or discharge paperwork. It’s definitely not recommended that you carry these documents casually since they contain personal information which is a goldmine for identity thieves.
For Veterans in Texas, and in other states where available, the Driver’s License with Veteran Designation is a great ID option. But, wouldn’t it be nice if there was one nationwide form of proof of your Veteran status? One that would be good wherever you are and which you don’t have to keep getting renewed, or changed if you move?
Congress thought a uniform, nationwide Veteran ID was such a good idea that they passed legislation which the President signed into law on July 20, 2015. The law is P.L. 114-31. It’s called the “Veterans Identification Card Act.” This law specifically notes, at Section 2(a)(3), that “goods, services, and promotional activities are often offered by public and private institutions to veterans who demonstrate proof of service in the military and it is impractical for a veteran to always carry Department of Defense form DD-214 discharge papers to demonstrate such proof.”
P.L. 114-31 requires the Department of Veterans Affairs to create and issue a Veterans Identification Card to each Veteran who:
- Requests such a card;
- Provides VA with proof of military service; and
- Pays the fee VA decides to charge.
Requirement No. 3, the fee, is probably going to be what determines if it’s worth your trouble to apply for a Veterans Identification Card from VA. Here’s why. Congress has authorized the Secretary of VA to set the ID Card fee. In setting the fee, the Secretary is required to make sure the fees collected equal the amount necessary to carry out the ID Card program – including costs related to any additional equipment or personnel required to carry out the ID Card program. This cost-recovery language probably means VA will find a way to charge a lot of costs to this program, making the ID Card fee huge.
Since VA is permitted to take into account all costs related to any additional equipment or personnel required to carry out the ID Card program, chances are good the card won’t be free, and will probably cost a lot more than simply having your State driver’s license or ID card. Texas – and many states – offer free or heavily discounted driver’s licenses or identification cards to Veterans. In Texas, for example, 60-percent or more Disabled Veterans receive and renew their driver’s license or Texas identification card for free.
No Word Yet From VA
VA was supposed to have the Veterans Identification Card Act program operational by September 18, 2015 (60 days after the July 20, 2015 enactment of the law). So far, VA seems to be pretty silent on the status of this mandatory program.
Until VA provides information, we’re left with a lot of questions and no answers. One question is, what happens if the VA-issued ID Cards prove unpopular? Will the few Veterans who do apply get stuck paying a huge bill because their fees have to cover the cost of all that equipment and VA personnel? Hypothetically, if VA decides the program costs $1,000,000 to run and 500 Veterans apply for an ID Card, cost-recovery would require VA to charge each Veteran $2,000 per card.
A million dollars to have VA run the Veterans Identification Card Act program isn’t crazy talk. Consider that a GS-14, Step 1 employee working in Washington, D.C. makes $107,325 in salary alone and that VA hardly runs a program without a GS-14 employee at the helm. Since VA is already charging $850,000 for two employees to operate its Advisory Committee on Disability Compensation, it seems reasonable to anticipate VA’s ID Card operations will far exceed that figure.
Until We Know…
For this Veterans Day, a Military ID Card, a driver’s license (if it has a “Veteran” designation), a VSO-issued identification card, or a VA health-care card are probably the safest means of identifying yourself as a Veteran. Perhaps this time next year there will be an efficient, low-cost, nationwide Veterans Identification Card available.
Veterans – are you receiving all the benefits to which your service entitles you? If you have doubts, there’s good news. By taking prompt, early action, you are in the best position to maintain or improve your benefits situation. DON’T WAIT. Contact the Law Office of Robert B. Goss, P.C. today for your FREE consultation.