Veteran ID Card: Is it worth it?

In case you haven’t heard, the Department of Veterans Affairs is offering veterans a free ID card which can be used to prove your veteran status when needed at businesses and other locations.

The free ID card, which originally rolled-out in late November, was ordered by Congress in 2015 as a way to give veterans proof of service at businesses without carrying a copy of their DD-214 forms. It is available for all honorably discharged veterans, regardless of era or time in service.

Veterans who are enrolled in the VA healthcare system already have a VA issued ID card, but that leaves the majority of veterans without any valid proof of service that may be required to get special benefits from private firms.

How Do You Get the Veterans ID Card?

Getting the card is actually pretty easy, at least as easy as dealing with the VA can be. It took me about 15 minutes to log on to VETS.GOV, create an account, enter my service data, and upload a selfie that I took with my phone. Of course, I did this back in November when the program started and had several issues with the website freezing up. According to the VA, those problems have been fixed.

Although I applied in three months ago I still haven’t gotten my card, but the website will let you download and print out a paper copy of the card if you want to.

Why Get The VA ID Card?

Let’s face it, most of us never got a ticker-tape parade when we came home and we didn’t get told “thank you for your service” on a regular basis, in fact many of us were looked down upon by our fellow citizens.

This card helps to fix that problem. Historically there hasn’t been a better time to be a veteran. If you want a discount at the store, a free meal, a special parking space, special benefits from the state or local government this is the time for you.

Now, before you harrumph and say that those benefits are pretty worthless and tacky for all you did, let me just say that most of us didn’t join the military to get heaped in praise by our fellow citizens. Most of us got three hots and a cot and paid every two weeks, and that is all we asked for.

What Will The VA ID Card Do For Me?

While the card won’t necessarily get you any new federal or state benefits it will possibly get you some special little perks like free meals on veterans day, parking spots closer to the door, and discounts at many retailers.

If big companies want to give me a parking spot close to the grocery store entrance, a free meal every now and then, a discount when I buy furnace filters, or a few thousand bucks off a new car I’ll take it. Heck, I’m even going to make sure my new bright shiny veteran card is right under my driver’s license so if I get pulled over for speeding the nice officer can see I’m a veteran, it never hurts to try.

Having this veterans ID card ready to show anybody who gives me a sideways look when I park right next to the handicapped and expectant mothers spots makes me feel good (especially when it is cold or raining). It kind of makes up for all those late night watches and dress formations. I feel like I’m finally getting a little respect for my service, and I get it every day – not once a year.

My advice? Get the card. It never hurts to accept a little bit of gratitude when it is offered, you never know when it will come again.

Veteran Health ID Card (VHIC) and How to Get It

What do you need to know about the Veteran Health ID Card? The Department of Veterans Affairs notes that veterans have several ID cards offered to them.

For example, military retirees get a DoD ID indicating they have access to base privileges (BX, commissary, health clinics, etc.), those who choose to get Veteran indicators on their state-issued ID, even Common Access Cards or similar access control badges for those who need them for employment once they have retired or separated but still remain in federal service.

And then there is the Veteran Health ID Card (VHIC), which is just as important in its own way. The Department of Veterans Affairs advises that those enrolled in VA health care will be issued to you to use during check-ins when receiving care at a VA medical facility.

This card may also double as a form of veteran ID when claiming veteran-specific benefits at local businesses, big-box retail chains such as Target or WalMart, etc.


How To Get A Veteran Health ID Card

Veterans cannot be issued a VHIC without first enrolling in the VA health care system. You can sign up online at the VA official site. Only those enrolled in the VA health care system are eligible for the VHIC.

Electronic applications for VA health care benefits are available online, and you may also sign up for VA health care at the nearest VA medical facility.  Once your photo is taken, your health ID card will be processed and sent to you via U.S. Mail.

You will need to provide certain documentation when signing up for the VA health care system that includes but may not be limited to your most recent tax returns, Social Security Cards and/or numbers, and account numbers for any existing health insurance whether from your employer, from Medicare, or private insurance plans.

Valid ID Required

When signing up for the VHIC, veterans are required to provide one form of approved, current ID that may be one of the following:

  • Primary Identification (Unexpired)
  • State-Issued driver’s license
  • United States passport or passport card
  • Other unexpired government ID

Identification cards issued by federal, state or local government agencies are also permitted as long as the ID contains a photograph, full name, date of birth, and address. You may be required to provide further documentation of your current address depending on circumstances including an ID card with an outdated address, an ID card that has no address listed, etc.

The VA has a list of “acceptable address documents” that can include but may not be limited to:

  • Electric bill
  • Cable bill
  • “Other mailing document”
  • Voter registration card

Who is Eligible for VA Health Care and the VHIC?

Those who serve as active duty military members who retire or separate and do not have a discharge characterized as Dishonorable. You may also qualify as a current or former National Guard or Reserve member called to active duty by a federal order.

The requirements in this area include having served the full period ordered to active duty. Those activated only for training purposes do not qualify.

Other Rules for Qualifying for VA Health Care and A Veteran Health ID Card

Those who enlisted after September 7, 1980 or entered active duty after October 16, 1981 are required to have served “24 continuous months or the full period for which you were called to active duty,” unless any of the following apply:

  • The service member was discharged for a disability caused or aggravated by active-duty service.
  • The service member was given an early out or hardship discharge.
  • The service member was on duty before September 7, 1980.

Military members with punitive discharges such as Bad Conduct, Other Than Honorable, or Dishonorable discharges may be eligible for VA health care and the Veteran Health ID Card if they successfully navigate the discharge review process and have a Discharge Review Board upgrade the nature of the discharge to a non-punitive one.

If you must sign up for VA health care using a power of attorney, (POA) the VA advises for best results, include a copy of that POA along with your application documents.

How The Veteran Health ID Card Works

The first thing to consider is what the VHIC is NOT; it is not an insurance card; it cannot be used to pay for health care services and does not function as an insurance ID card. It also does NOT authorize care at non-VA or out-of-network facilities.

These are very important distinctions to make, especially when time is of the essence and the right ID is needed to obtain medical services and determine who pays for them.

The Veteran Health ID Card includes the following features as listed on the Department of Veterans Affairs official site. These features may be subject to change depending on mission needs, federal legislation, changes in VA policy, etc.

At the time of this writing, only those enrolled in VA health care will receive these cards, which include:

  • Privacy protection. “No personally identifiable information is contained on the magnetic stripe or barcode” of your VHIC according to the VA.
  • A DoD-created “personal identifier” code that helps the VA access your health records at the VA facility you where you are being treated.
  • Accessibility for the visually impaired; the card features Braille that can help users quickly locate and use the VHIC.
  • Anti-counterfeiting measures built-in to further secure your card.

Frequently Asked Questions About the Veteran Health ID Card

I Am Still Serving The U.S. Military. Can I Get A VHIC?

Those who have not retired or separated from military service should expect to apply for a VHIC once they are eligible to apply for VA health care services. The VA official site reminds, “The VHIC is issued only to Veterans who are enrolled in the VA health care system.”

How Long Does It Take To Get My Card?

According to the VA, once the photo is taken for your card, you should get it in the U.S. Mail in approximately ten working days.

Who Do I Contact To Check The Status Of My VHIC?

If you are concerned about delays or need to check the status of your card, call the local VA medical facility where you got your ID card photo taken, or contact the VA directly at 1-877-222-VETS (8387).

I Have An Old VHIC That Is Being Replaced. What Do I Do With The Old VHIC?

The Department of Veterans Affairs recommends destroying the card by cutting or shredding. The entire card should be destroyed as soon as possible once you get the replacement VHIC.

My VHIC Was Lost or Stolen. What Should I Do?

Call the local VA facility where you had your VHIC picture taken and request a new card. You can also contact the VA directly at 1-877-222-VETS (8387). Be prepared to identify yourself and furnish new ID information when reporting your lost or stolen card; have this information handy when you call.

Do I Need To Keep My TRICARE Cards or Other Healthcare ID?

Do not get rid of any other ID card for health care such as an insurance card, TRICARE where applicable, your DoD-issued ID, etc. The VHIC is only used to check in for care, not to pay or arrange payment, etc. It does NOT function as insurance or proof of insurance.