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Veterans’ View: Got ID? Several ways for vets to obtain identification cards

By definition, a Veteran ID Card is an instrument that identifies the bearer as a veteran of military service. It may be an “official” government card issued by the federal or state government. Alternatively, it may be an “unofficial” card issued by a veterans services organization (American Legion, Disabled American Veterans, Veterans of Foreign Wars, et. al.). There are many internet sites where one can order an unofficial veterans card. These sites may charge a fee for providing the card. Whatever the source, each card serves the purpose of identifying a veteran.

At its basic level, a Veteran ID Card is a formal validation of military service under honorable conditions. The card is a vehicle for recognition and appreciation by the broader community. Many businesses offer a discount to veterans who can show proof of service. There is a wide variance among merchants for which card they will accept as proof of service. Most merchants require an official Veteran ID Card to qualify for a veteran’s discount. Increasingly, unofficial documents are not acceptable to merchants as proof of service.

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There are four “official” ID cards available to Carroll County veterans. The first is a veteran designation on a driver’s license. To acquire this designation, the veteran takes their discharge papers to the Maryland Department of Transportation Motor Vehicles Administration (MVA). The MVA reissues the veteran’s driver’s license with “VETERAN” annotated below the driver’s photo. This designation is useful for obtaining merchant’s discounts but does not provide access to Veterans Administration (VA) benefits.

The second official card is the VA ID Card. A result of efforts by veterans services organizations, this card is available to any veteran who has served under honorable conditions. As with the driver’s license notation, it recognizes the veteran’s service and is recognized by most merchants. It does not qualify the veteran for VA benefits. The Veteran ID is a photo ID obtained via the VA website. It requires the veteran establish an online account with ID.ME and the upload of an official photo identification document (like a driver’s license) to verify their identity. Once the veteran’s identity has been verified, they are transferred to a VA website to upload a head and shoulders photo and discharge papers. The veteran receives the VA ID card in about 2 weeks. The online process is complicated and frustrating. If a veteran has trouble with the process, we recommend they contact their veterans services organization or the Carroll County Veterans Services Program for assistance. This card does not provide access to VA benefits.

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The third form of official identification is the VA Health Identification (medical) Card. Once a veteran is enrolled in the VA medical system, they are issued a medical card. If the veteran does not have this card, it is as simple as requesting it at their next visit to a VA medical facility. Most merchants accept this card as proof of service. This is also an important document if the veteran has a service-connected disability because a recent decision by the VA extends post exchange and post commissary privileges to these veterans and their primary caregivers. There are specific rules for applicability that are available for review on the VA website (www.va.gov). Veterans should check their medical card to ensure it notes “Service Connected” when such is the case. If not properly noted, they should request a new card at their next medical visit.

The final form of veterans identification is available to veterans who are rated with 100% service-connected disability. In this case, the closest military facility will issue a government identification card that allows the veteran access to any military base for use of the commissary and post exchange. The only requirement is a verification letter from the VA (available through your veterans services organization or the Carroll County Veterans Services Program) and two forms of current identification, one of which must be a photo ID.

The Carroll County Veterans Services Program stands by to assist veterans in acquiring the Veteran Identification Card best suited to their eligibility and needs at 410-386-3800.

On the first Tuesday of each month, the Times publishes as its editorial a Veterans’ View, an opportunity to draw attention to veterans’ issues as well as to inform and educate the community and all veterans about the multitude of available services.

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