Update: The VA started accepting applications for the Veterans Identification Cards at the end of 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. You can apply here. (Note: The VA is experiencing a high volume of applications and there are expected delays to issue cards). 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 a national Veterans Identification Card (VIC) to all veterans with an honorable discharge. However, delays pushed back the initial issue date until November 2017.
A Solution Many Veterans Have Been Seeking
There weren’t many options for military veterans to prove their service 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.
The VA Began Issuing Veterans ID Cards in Nov 2017
After several delays, the VA began issuing the national Veterans Identification Card (VIC) in November 2017. You can apply for the ID card at the VA website. Please note there is a very high volume for applications and there may be delays before cards are issued. The application form was down when I visited the site, with a message that states:
“Thank you for your interest in the Veteran Identification Card! Currently, we are experiencing a high volume of traffic. We apologize, and want you to know we’re working to fix the problem.”
Veterans can provide their email address to be notified when the form is back up and running. I entered my email address and will update this article when the form is live. (just note that there may be issues until the VA gets the process running soothly).
When will I receive the Veterans ID Card? Veterans who apply for a card should receive it within 60 days and can check delivery status of their cards at vets.gov. A digital version of the VIC will be available online by mid-December.
How to Apply for the new VA Veterans ID Card:
The VA has announced the application process will be online at the following address. However, the sign up form is currently down. The VA is experiencing high traffic volumes and is working to correct the issue. We will update this page when the new form is live.
The VA anticipates it will take approximately 60 days 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. Schedule an appointment through RAPIDS for a new 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.