A military ID card or dependent ID is a valuable card which can unlock a variety of valuable benefits, such as health care through TRICARE, education benefits, and access base facilities, including the commissary, base exchange, MWR centers, and other support agencies.
Unfortunately, getting a military ID card isn’t always as easy as waltzing onto your local military installation and requesting one. Only certain individuals are eligible to receive a military ID card or dependent ID card.
You are usually eligible to receive a military ID if you are a military retiree or are currently serving in the military (active duty, Guard, Reserve, or Inactive Ready Reserve). Certain dependents are eligible for dependent ID cards as well (see below). You also need to required paperwork. We cover all of these details in this article.
What about a veteran ID card? One of the most common questions we receive comes from veterans who are looking to get a veteran ID card which proves their military service.
There are many reasons why proof of military service can come in handy – including securing veterans benefits, proof of service for military discounts, or just to show off your military pride. Thankfully, the US Government created the Veterans Identification Card Act 2015 which authorizes the VA to issue Veteran ID Cards to all veterans with an honorable discharge. The VA began issuing these cards in November 2017.
Please note these Veterans ID Cards are not military ID Cards. They simply show you served honorably in the US Military, and will not function to provide military benefits, base access, or other veterans benefits. If you served in the military and have since separated from, but didn’t retire from the military, you may not be eligible for a military ID card.
In this article, we will cover information about some of the forms of military ID that are available, who is eligible to receive one, and alternative forms of identification to prove military service if you are a military veteran who is not eligible for a military ID card.
Military ID Card Eligibility
In general, you must be in the DEERS system to receive a new military ID card. This includes the servicemember (sponsor) and eligible dependents (who must be entered into DEERS by the sponsor). Here are some general rules regarding military ID card eligibility. Check with your local issuing base personnel office for more specific information.
Active Duty ID card.
- You must be on Active Duty military status and be in the DEERS system.
Guard/Reserve Military ID Card.
- You must be in the Guard or Reserves, which may include the Inactive Ready Reserves (IRR).
Retiree Military ID Card.
- You must qualify as a military retiree, which generally means 20 years of active military service, or 20 years in the Guard or Reserves (though age limits may change eligibility requirements for Guard/Reserve retirees). Medically retired servicemembers may also be eligible.
Former Military / No longer serving, not retired.
- There are a few exceptions given to certain veterans who meet the following qualifications: Medal of Honor recipients, 100% disabled veterans, Former members in receipt of retired pay, Transitional Health Care Member (TAMP), and some others. They will receive DD Form 2765.
Military Dependent ID Card.
- These may include, but are not limited to: Lawful spouse, un-remarried surviving spouse, unmarried children (including adopted or stepchildren) who are: under 21 years of age, over 21 but incapable of self-support (documentation is required), over 21 but under 23 who are attending an approved learning institution as a full time student (documentation is required). There are additional eligibility rules for former spouses, dependent parents/in-laws, and certain other cases. Contact your card issuing service for additional information.
Veterans ID Card.
- See Section Below For Most Up to Date Information.
How to Get a Replacement Military ID Card or Dependent ID Card
In addition to being in the DEERS system, you will need at least 2 forms of acceptable ID (see below for list of accepted forms of ID).
For more information about where to go, contact your local base personnel office, or visit the Rapids Site Locator (RSL) for ID card requirements and to locate the nearest ID Card Facility/RAPIDS Station based on City, Zip, State or Country. Here is a RAPIDS Appointment Scheduler user guide to help navigate the site and set up your ID card appointment.
Documents Needed to Obtain a Military ID Card
Applicants are required to provide at least two original forms of identification from the lists below. The ID must be current and not expired. At least one of the forms of ID must be from the Primary Identity Source Document List. You can use one form of ID from the Secondary Identity Source Document List. The member must have proof of name change if their name has changed.
These lists apply to military ID cards, retiree ID cards, and Dependent ID cards.
Primary Identity Source Document List
- US Passport or US Passport Card
- US Drivers License or State-Issued ID Card, with Photo
- US Military ID Card
- US Military Dependent’s Card
- Permanent Resident Card or Alien Registration Receipt Card (Form (I-551)
- Foreign Passport
- Employment Authorization Document, with Photo
- Personal Identity Verification (PIV) Card
Secondary Identity Source Document List
The secondary identity source document may be a form of ID from the list above, provided it is not the same type. For example, you cannot use two different passports from two different countries as your form of ID.
- US Social Security Card
- Birth Certificate w/ Official Seal – Must be an original or certified copy issued by a state, county, municipal authority, possession, or outlying possession of the United States
- ID Card issued by a federal, state, or local government agency or entity; must have photograph
- Voter’s Registration Card
- U.S. Coast Guard Merchant Mariner Card
- Certificate of U.S. Citizenship (Form N-560 or N-561)
- Certificate of Naturalization (Form N-550 or N-570)
- U.S. Citizen IF Card (Form I-197)
- Identification Card for Use of Resident Citizen in the United States (Form I-179)
- Certifiation of Birth Abroad or Certification of Report of Birth issued by the Department of State (Form FS-545 or Form DS-1350)
- Temporary Resident Card (Form I-688)
- Employment Authorization Card (Form I-688A)
- Reentry Permit (Form I-327)
- Refugee Travel Document (Form I-571)
- Employment Authorization document issued by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)
- Employment Authorization Document issued by DHS with photograph (Form I-688B)
- Foreign ID with photograph
- Driver’s License issued by a Canadian government entity
- Native American Tribunal docment
Information Found on Military ID Cards
Military ID cards include the member’s name, affiliation (Uniformed Services), Agency/Department (Branch of Service), expiration date, rank, Date of Birth, DoD ID Number, Benefits Number, and additional information found in the bar code, chip, and/or magnetic strip.
The DoD phased out the use of Social Security numbers on Military ID Cards and Retiree ID Cards starting in 2009. The DoD ID Number is now the primary identifier.
Veterans ID Card Information
There are two types of Veterans ID Cards issued by the VA. The Veteran ID Card (VIC) and the ID Card used for healthcare services.
Veterans ID Cards. The VA began issuing official DoD issued military veteran ID card to veterans with an Honorable Discharge starting November 2017.
Veterans must have an honorable discharge to be eligible for this new Veterans ID card. Learn more about how to upgrade your military discharge characterization.
Many veterans believe they need to be receiving service-connected disability benefits in order to be eligible for VA health care benefits. This is not the case. All veterans are potentially eligible, based on different criteria, including when and where they served, whether or not they have a service-connected health condition, if they were discharged for medical reasons, served in a war zone, recently returned from an overseas deployment, or other conditions. Each situation is unique and each veteran should contact the VA to determine their eligibility status.
Update: Beginning on January 1, 2020, veterans with a VA Health Identification Card are eligible to access military installations to use the Base Exchange, Commissary and certain MWR activities.
Other Ways to Prove Military Service
A military ID card is the official way to prove your military affiliation. But some people prefer not to pull their ID card out in public. And of course, many veterans wish to show proof of service but are no longer eligible for a military ID Card. In those cases, you need a different way to prove your military service.
Your DD 214 Will Prove Military Service
The easiest way to prove your military service without one of the above ID cards is with a DD Form 214, which is the document which serves as your service record. This is issued to all military members when they separate from military service (the military used to issue a wallet-sized DD Form 214, but so far as I know, this is no longer the case).
Unfortunately, carrying around a letter size document is inconvenient. One tip we have received from many veterans is to take your DD Form 214 to an office supply store such as Office Depot, Office Max, Fed-Ex/Kinkos, etc. and ask them to shrink the card to a wallet size version and have it laminated. This will give you a wallet-sized document that will prove your service.
Note: Your DD Form 214 is one of the most important documents you will receive, so keep good care of it! Here are more details on the DD Form 214, including how to get a new DD 214.
If you do not have access to the above veterans ID card options, you may still be able to prove your military service in other ways.
How You Can Get a Different ID Card to Prove Military Service
Unfortunately, a DD Form 214 isn’t a photo ID, it is simply a document. Thankfully there are many other ways to prove your military service.
If you are looking for a photo ID or other wallet-sized ID to prove your military service, then these may be good options for you:
State Driver’s License or ID Card.
- Many states now include a veteran endorsement on their state-issued driver’s licenses or ID cards. If this is the case, you should be able to get an ID card through your state. Call your state Department of Motor Vehicles or licensing branch for more information. You will likely need to bring your DD Form 214 to prove your military service.
State or County Veterans ID Card program.
- Some counties or other communities issue veteran ID cards. These aren’t “official US or state government IDs,” but they may be valuable in the local community, as many restaurants and retailers will extend discounts as a “thanks for your service.” These cards may also be good for local or county benefits programs, but these vary by locale.
Veterans Service Organization Membership Card.
- Many veterans service organizations such as the DAV, VFW, American Legion, and other organizations have membership cards. Check with your local military organization for eligibility requirements.
Do you know of any other forms of ID that can be used to prove military service? If so, please contact us. We will add it to the list.
VA ID Card photo source: WikiMedia Commons