Update: The VA has announced that the Veterans Identification Cards will be released in November 2017. The VA has announced there is no anticipated cost for the Veterans ID card, even though they are authorized to charge a fee. In the mean time, we have updated this article to include instructions for printing a VA Proof of Service Letter so you can show an official letter from the VA proving your military service.
Congress passed the Veterans Identification Card Act, a new bill that would create a government issued Veterans ID card, something many veterans have been requesting for years. The bill was unanimously passed by both the House and the Senate. President Obama signed the bill into law on July 20, 2015. The Veterans Identification Card Act authorized the VA to begin issuing Veterans ID cards to all veterans with an honorable discharge. However, delays have pushed back the initial issue date until 2017.
A Solution Many Veterans Have Been Seeking
Before the law was passed, the military only issues ID cards for current servicemembers, retirees, and certain veterans with a 100% disability rating. There are, however, several ID card options veterans can use to prove their military service. These include a VA Health Identification Card used for health care (if eligible), or a state-issued drivers license with a Veterans Designation (most, but not all states currently offer this).
Many veterans who were not eligible for the above ID cards had a difficult time proving their military service, and often carried a DD Form 214, which contains personal information that should be kept secure (such as the veteran’s SSN, birthday, etc.). Best practices for avoiding identity theft recommend leaving your SSN and other personally identifying information in a locked and secure place to avoid potential loss.
Related: More ways to prove military service.
UPDATE: The VA Will Begin Issuing Veterans ID Cards in 2017
The most recent announcement from the VA states they will begin issuing ID Cards in November 2017, as first mentioned by Amy Bushatz on Military.com.
How to Apply for the new VA Veterans ID Card: There will be an online application process, but the sign up form has not yet been made available. We will update this page when the new form is live. The VA has also not announced how long it will take to issue ID cards that are created online. Veterans must have an honorable discharge to be eligible for this ID Card. Learn more about how to get your discharge rating upgraded.
Why did it take so long to implement these ID Cards? This bill was signed into law in July 2015, and the VA was given limited guidance on how to implement the ID Cards. While this seems like a fairly simple process on the surface, there is a lot that needed to be established behind the scenes. The VA had to establish the processes to verify military service, design an ID card, ensure they have the procedures, materials, and personnel in place. The bill authorized the VA to begin as soon as early 2016, but the process took much more time to develop and implement. The VA is also authorized to charge individuals to cover the administrative costs of issuing the ID Cards. However, recent announcements have not included a cost for this Veterans ID Card.
Veterans ID Card for Identification Use & Proof of Service Only
The new ID cards will only be valid for proving military service. The new cards cannot be used for benefits through the VA, to access military installations, or to receive other military or veterans benefits. However, those who are currently eligible for benefits through the military or VA will continue to have them through their current methods.
These ID Cards will include a photo of the veteran, their name, and a non-Social Security identification number.
How Veterans Can Prove Their Service
There are several methods for proving your military service. Here are the most common methods and availability:
- Military ID Card: Current servicemembers and retirees can use their issued military ID card.
- Veterans Health Identification Card: Available through the VA for eligible veterans.
- State Issued Drivers License or ID Card: Available through most states.
- VA Proof of Service Letter: Available through the VA’s eBenefits Logon Service. See instructions below.
- Veterans Organization Membership Card: Many Veterans Service Organizations give members ID cards that certify their military service.
- More methods to prove military service.
Click on the links in the section above for more information for each of these methods. See below for instructions for obtaining a VA Proof of Service Letter:
VA Proof of Service Letter Instructions
Here is an example of a VA Proof of Service Letter. Follow the guide below to generate and print your own Proof of Service Letter.
You can print a VA Proof of Service Letter from the VA eBenefits website by first logging into your account on the eBenefits site, then using the following instructions
- At the top of the page under the eBenefits logo, hover your mouse over the “Manage” tab. In the dropdown that appears below it, click on “Documents and Records.”
- In the left column on the following page, click on “VA Letters.”
- At the bottom of the following page, click on “Veteran Proof of Service.”
Step One: Documents & Records
Step Two: Access Your VA Letters
Step Three: Download Proof of Service Letter
Step Four: Clicking the Veteran Proof of Service Letter link will open a new tab or automatically download a PDF (depending on your browser settings). You can print this letter, then cut out the card. An image of my letter is copied above with my personal information redacted.
We will update this article in the future when more details become available.