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Military ID Cards and Disability
We have been asked by a couple of younger veterans if permanently disabled veterans rated 100% service-connected by the VA are entitled to military ID cards, even if they are not military retirees, medical or otherwise. The answer is yes. DoD instructions say it is be issued to 100% disabled veterans who have been honorably discharged, and their eligible dependents and survivors. That can mean in addition to spouse and unmarried children, the father, mother, father-in-law, mother-in-law, stepparent, or parent-by-adoption – if they are dependent upon the disabled vet for 50% or more for their care/support. The benefit? A military ID card gains one access and use of the commissary, theater and post exchange … and even certain lodgings.
The procedure to obtain one requires a letter from the Veterans Benefits Administration stating the individual is 100 percent disabled service-connected and permanently. Typically a DD Form 214 together with two other forms of acceptable identification are required to be presented to the nearest RAPIDS ID processing site and a DD Form 1172 (Application for Uniformed Services Identification and Privilege Card) may be required if the sponsor is not present. The VA states it can assist one in completing the form, if necessary. Contact the nearest regional office for that using 1-800-827-1000. Our nearest ID card processing center is at the Navy Operational Support Center (NOSC) Lehigh Valley, 1400 Postal Road (just north of Rt 22 and Airport Rd), Allentown, PA 18109, tel: (610) 264-8823. Appointments and changes are normally made using the website: https://rapids-appointments.dmdc.osd.mil/.
(“Word on the street” is that it is best to call the day scheduled to confirm, since equipment failure has been a common occurrence.)
- Tip #1: If you choose to call, you will get a taped message on how to set up an appointment online and what to bring. If this is not possible, try the Commander or Senior Enlisted option to get help. If close by, just drive down and find out. The system is geared to those who have a computer, unfortunately, because it is oriented towards those still serving.
- Tip #2: If you are the widow/widower and entitled to DIC (your spouse met the requirement above), to renew or apply for a military ID card, bring a true copy of your spouse’s death certificate if it is the first time since the death (it will be scanned for future record). Bring your old ID and another form of photo ID, such as a driver’s license. Renewal is good for four years each time.
Vet Cards and Discount Programs
We have had several queries about “Vet Cards” in relation to discount programs offered by various businesses in the Lehigh Valley. Confusion continues. Here we will try to explain what is going on.
The Commonwealth’s “Maybe a Veteran” Identification on Your Driver’s License
The Governor of Pennsylvania enacted Act 176 of 2012 on 24 October 2012. The Act states “As soon as practicable, but no later than 18 months following the effective date [60 days after 24 October]… the department [Department of Transportation] shall issue a driver’s license or identification card that clearly indicates that the person is a veteran of the United States Armed Forces. A qualified applicant is an individual who has served in the United States Armed Forces, including a reserve component or the National Guard, and who was discharged or released from such service under conditions other than dishonorable.” It also required the implementation of Act 194 of 2012 as it provides the funding mechanism required to reimburse the Department of Transportation through the e Veterans’ Trust Fund. The Deputy Adjutant General for Veterans Affairs announced the card designator will be available as of 4 March 2014. More details will be found here.
While its espoused intention is to have the greater purpose of rapidly identifying veterans to state and local governments for needed special assistance and services, its most likely value for the average veteran will be to identify him or her to businesses for discounts — the original source of the effort despite what has been officially said. It is assumed businesses will treat this means of veterans identification as they would a military or VA identification card (discussed further down in this article). However, based on what we have been told, the loose standards for verification of veteran status might inevitably lead to problems in its official or unofficial uses.
Private Business Gets Into the Act
This effort is not to be confused with the quasi-official business discount cards being generated in at least a few counties in Pennsylvania at county expense. In western New York something called the “Return the F.A.V.O.R.” discount program has taken hold. The acronym stands for “Finding and Assisting Veterans of Record.” The origins of it are unknown, and it should not be confused with the VFW’s “Return the Favor” program which is more altruistic.
This particular program involves county governments enlisting businesses to provide discounts to veterans and in so doing also provides veterans with a photo identification card to present to the sales clerk. Luzerne County in Pennsylvania decided to adopt the program; and later Bucks County  and Montgomery County followed suit. In November 2016, Northampton County announced it had introduced its version of this idea. It is not a statewide initiative and there is no requirement to have one.
Some website companies offer to convert a DD Form 214 together with a photo into a “vet card.” These have no official standing.
Businesses have added to the confusion by loosely using the term “veteran” in advertising. Some local store managers seemingly vary their policies or are unclear in explaining them. Bungled explanations drift back to other veterans. Not a few businesses fail to appreciate that not all veterans are entitled to a military or VA identification card, and not all in the military necessarily become “veterans” in the Department of Veterans Affairs sense of the word (the official designator).
In other instances, veterans themselves fail to appreciate distinctions are drawn among them by businesses and it is up to businesses to decide upon the identification required.
We get asked questions most often on vet cards for and the store policies of Home Depot and Lowes. They provide an illustration of the issue. In this instance, the store policies are clear but the interpretation and means of identification have not been:
- The Home Depot offers a year-round, 10 percent discount, up to a $500 maximum, to all active duty military personnel, reservists, retired or disabled veterans and their immediate families. We offer this discount to thank them for their outstanding service to this nation and to help make their homes more comfortable and safe. Customers requesting the discount should present a valid military ID. This discount is not available for our online shoppers or in addition to existing discounts or promotions. In addition, a 10 percent discount is also offered in recognition of Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day and Veterans Day at all U.S. Home Depot stores for all other military veterans.
- Lowe’s Companies, Inc. announced today it will expand its support of the military by offering an all day, every day 10 percent discount to all military personnel who are active, reserve, retired or disabled veterans and their family members, with a valid, government-issued military ID card. All other military veterans will receive the discount on the Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Veterans Day weekends. The discount is available on in-stock and Special Order purchases up to $5,000. Excluded from the discount are sales via Lowes.com, previous sales, and purchases of services or gift cards. [update coming on new policy]
We have read on Military.Com and elsewhere, Home Depot allows additional means of identification in addition to a “government- issued” military ID card. It has stated it will accept the following forms of identification:
- Common Access Card (CAC)
- Uniformed Services ID Card (Green, Blue, Tan, and Red)
- Veteran’s Health Identification Card (VHIC) which must state “Service Connected” for the everyday discount)
The choice of the CAC has presented has led to comments from some, for it is also issued to Department of Defense civilians and contractors and most of these have never served in the military. It is a relatively new Department of Defense means of identification. Errors have occurred in reading them when applying store policy, but that is not our concern.
The Uniformed Services Card is the military ID card most mentioned. It is issued by Department of Defense to those in the service (active or reserve), military retirees, military medical retirees, those veterans with an 100% service connected disability rating from the VA, and their dependents.
The VHIC card is probably better known as the “VA Health Identification Card” in the veterans community. All veterans are eligible for one if enrolled in the VA’s healthcare system. Having a VIC card is not enough. The words “service connected” must appear under the picture.
To conclude, it is up to a business to determine what discounts it offers, who receives them, and how a “veteran” will be identified. Like the Home Depot and Lowes, most continuous offers probably are oriented on military members, retired and medical retired military members, disabled veterans, and their families. These can be officially and easily verified without a “vet card.”
For the rest of the veterans community, it may be a crap shoot when a discount applies and how to identify oneself properly. Using Lowes and Home Depots as examples, the “other veterans” are limited to three or four principal holidays. On those days the means of verification by a business is anyone’s guess – a veterans organization membership card, a DD Form 214, a ball cap. You’ll have to inquire for yourself beforehand. Don’t forget many veterans service organizations have business discount programs. In those instances, the membership card serves as the means of identification.
The VA Veteran ID “Business Discount” Card Comes to the Rescue?
Those with service-connected disabilities or are in special programs where the VA issues a Veterans Healthcare Identification Card or those military retirees (to include those medically retired) who have a Uniformed Services Card have no need of this new product introduced late 2017. This effort directed by the Congress is going through teething problems as of this writing.
Furthermore, its issuance continues to be limited to those with honorable or general discharges, despite the law. However, one can debate the wisdom of that provision because the card serves as a business discount card effectively. The enacting legislation states, “… Goods, services and promotional activities are often offered by public and private institutions to veterans who demonstrate proof of service in the military, but it is impractical for a veteran to always carry Department of Defense form DD-214 discharge papers to demonstrate such proof …” Having it, does not entitle one to either military or veterans benefits, the VA states. Go figure why the VA is burdened with this task, if such is the case.
The card proves the individual served in the U.S. Armed Forces, has a Department of Defense DD Form 214 or other official document in the official military personnel file of the veteran that describes the service of the veteran. At least on that point, it has much more validity or “street cred” and will have more recognition than the veterans designation on a Pennsylvania Driver’s License (PennDOT does not verify veterans status before issuance, and the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, which assumed the burden by default, only samples for errors — which have occurred). And it has wider application than a county business “Return-the-F.A.V.O.R.”-like discount card because those cards involve enlisting participating businesses to recognize it, whereas this card has no such requirement.
The details, additional history, and how to apply can be found here. Unfortunately for some, the only way to get this card is through an online process. We hope County Directors of Veterans Affairs are prepared to assist those not “internet savvy.”
2. http://www.veteranprograms.com/id1510.html and http://paycheck-chronicles.military.com/2011/05/05/home-depot-still-giving-the-military-discount-year-round-and-the-veterans-discount-4-weekends-a-year/
 Understanding the color of military ID cards:
Tan – Dependent of active duty member or retiree.
Red – Retired Reservist not yet age 60 (Gray Area) and Dependent of Reserve Components.
Blue – Retiree (or other honorably discharged Veteran with benefits).
Green– Active Duty and Reservist
Last Updated: 3 March 2018 (New VA ID card added)