It is that time of year when the grass needs cutting and many of us are spending more and more time outside and around the barbeque grill. It is also that time of year when we are coming up on a number of patriotic holidays such as the Fourth of July, Memorial Day and Veterans Day. On these holidays and others many businesses such as restaurants and retail stores offer discounts for veterans and members of our armed forces.
For service members it is easy for them to prove they are in the military as they have military issued identification cards. For veterans it can be more difficult. Nobody wants to carry their DD-214 around and even if they did they surely do not want to show off their Social Security Number for those of us who have a Social Security Number as our serial number.
Individuals wanting to prove they are veterans have two options. The first is to check with your locality to see if they offer a veterans identification card or a driver’s license that denotes military experience. To look into local options VetsFirst suggests you start with your state or county department of veterans affairs.
If your local state or county does not offer a veterans identification card you can obtain one from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The VA provides eligible veterans with a veterans identification card, also referred to as a VIC, for use at VA facilities. The current version of the VIC helps to protect the privacy of the veterans’ private and confidential information by no longer displaying a Social Security Number or a date of birth on the front of the card. The VIC now only displays the veteran’s name, picture, and special eligibility such as service-connected, former POW or Purple Heart recipient if applicable. Only eligible veterans may receive a VIC.
According to the VA the overwhelming majority of the older VIC’s that displayed Social Security Numbers have been recovered from veterans and these veterans have been issued the newer VIC without personally identifiable information. In the unlikely event you have a VIC that shows your Social Security Number it is outdated and you should apply for a new card immediately.
The official purpose of the VIC is for identification and especially for checking-in at VA medical appointments. The VIC is not a credit card, debit card or insurance card. It cannot be used to authorize or pay for any services or merchandise at any non-VA facility. Even though this card carries no monetary value you should still safeguard it just as you would any other identification card.
To obtain a VIC you must have your picture taken for the card at a VA medical facility. You can locate your nearest VA facility from the VA’s Veterans Health Administration locator page at http://www2.va.gov/directory/guide/division_flsh.asp?dnum=1.
Once you have had your picture taken the VA should mail your VIC to you approximately 7 to 10 days after they verify your eligibility. To ensure that your VIC is sent to the proper address it is extremely important that your mailing address is the same address VA already has on file. If it is not or if the U.S. Postal Service cannot deliver your new card it will be returned to the facility that processed your request. If the card is returned to the VA there is a chance that it may be destroyed in compliance with department-wide procedures and in accordance with the Privacy Act.
As previously mentioned you are strongly encouraged to keep your VIC safe and secure. It is possible that some bar code readers, including those available as applications on some cell phones, can scan the bar code on the VIC, and reveal the veteran’s name and Social Security Number. This could allow an unscrupulous person to steal your identity.
If your VIC is lost or stolen you should contact the VA medical facility that took your picture and issued your card. You can notify them of your loss and also request that a new card be issued. Since the VA retains an electronic copy of your picture there is no need for you to return to the VA medical facility to take a new picture. If you are taking care of this matter over the phone be prepared to provide the VA operator with appropriate information to confirm your identity.
If you applied for a VIC and have not received your card in a few weeks you should contact the local VA medical facility where you requested your card (http://www2.va.gov/directory/guide/division_flsh.asp?dnum=1) or call 1-877-222-8387.
For additional information you may want to consider reviewing VA’s Veteran Identification Card Directive at: http://www.va.gov/vhapublications/ViewPublication.asp?pub_ID=2098
This VA Directive will provide you with information regarding the responsibilities of your local VA offices around the country. Bear in mind that this Directive discusses what the various VA offices should do. This does not mean that they actually do it.