Do you need a veterans ID card? If you are retiring or separating from military service you have the option of applying for a variety of different veteran-designated picture ID cards. Some are for military retirees only and can be used to enter U.S. military installations in CONUS or abroad.
Others are offered by state and federal agencies and while you may be granted discounts, access, or other privileges with such ID they cannot be used to enter a military base as a form of approved ID or authorization.
Veterans ID cards are in some cases a convenience; you could verify your identity as a veteran by carrying a copy of your DD Form 214 Report of Discharge, but this alone does not establish your identity unless you have an accompanying photo ID.
There are several options for obtaining a Veterans ID card in order to prove military service and receive access to government benefits and discounts from restaurants and stores and a law called the Veterans Identification Act of 2015 ordered the VA to issue identification cards to veterans.
How to get a veterans ID card recognized by Government Agencies, Restaurants and Retailers
VA Veterans Identification Card (VIC)
The VA offers qualifying applicants a Veterans ID Card which is different from the VA Veteran Health Identification Card (see below), military retiree card or DoD Uniformed Services cards. VA identification cards cannot be used as proof of eligibility to any federal benefits and does not grant access to military installations.
Who Is Eligible For VIC
You may be eligible to apply for a VA Veterans Identification Card if you meet both of the requirements:
- The applicant must have served on active duty, as a Reservist, or in the National Guard or Coast Guard;
- The applicant must also have received an honorable or general discharge.
All applicants with other than honorable, bad conduct, or dishonorable character of discharge, are denied a Veterans ID Card. When applying you are required to supply your DD Form 214 discharge paperwork or equivalent.
State Issued Veterans Designation on Driver’s Licenses or Identification Cards
State-issued driver’s licenses and state ID cards have the option in most states to display veteran status on the card or license. In most cases proof of military service is required and you will need to contact your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles or equivalent to learn what that state’s application requirements and procedures are.
Some states may require a copy of your DD214 alone while others may require supporting documentation.
Costs will vary depending on the state. Your fees may be waived if you earned a Purple Heart in some cases, while other states may offer a free initial card with a fee for renewal when the expiration date comes up. More information on Veterans ID provided by states can be found here.
If you reside in one of the many states that currently offers a veterans designation on a driver’s license or ID card this is the easiest and best option that both government agencies and businesses universally accept. The states require varying proof of veterans status so be sure to check with the DMV before applying. Many will only require your DD214 but some states require additional documentation or will accept supplemental documentation to a DD214. Costs be state range from free to about $15 although even if free there most likely is fee to re-issue a card if not already up for renewal. More information on Veterans ID’s provided by states can be found here.
State Veterans ID Cards
In addition to offering a veteran designation on licenses and state-issued ID cards, some states may have a separate Veteran ID card; you may be able to apply for such cards through your state Department of Motor Vehicles or Department of Transportation. Those who live in states that offer these cards would carry both a driver’s license and a state veterans ID card.
Free Veterans Identification Proof of Service Letter
Access and print a letter through the joint VA/DoD web portal, eBenefits which serves as proof of honorable service.
County Court House or Clerk Office Issued Veterans Cards
Some county governments in New Jersey and New York offer county veteran ID cards; you’ll need to check with your local county court or clerk office to see if veterans cards are offered there. As with many such IDs, county veteran cards are not official–you cannot access military bases or VA services with them, but for the purpose of getting military discounts at local businesses, parks, and other attractions, the county ID card may be just as good as a military ID.
DoD Veteran ID Cards
The Department of Defense announced a shift toward a next-generation ID card called The Next Generation USID card, which was provided starting in 2020 at “select DoD ID card facilities” with a phased-in use of the card at other DoD installations. The new USID cards are issued to retired military members, Reservists, dependents, and “other eligible individuals in accordance with DoD policy”. The older ID cards (see below) remain valid until they expire and DoD policy is not to issue new ID cards simply to “upgrade” the user to the Next Generation ID.
The Next Generation IDs include the U.S. Department of Defense / Uniformed Services
Sponsor Identification and Privilege Card which is intended for:
- Retired members entitled to retired pay
- Those on the Temporary Disability Retired List (TDRL)
- Those on the Permanent Disability Retired List (PDRL)
- Retired members of the Reserves and National Guard
- Medal of Honor recipients
- 100% Disabled Veterans
- Former members in receipt of retired pay
- Transitional Health Care Member (TAMP)
- Full-time paid United Service Organizations (USO) personnel when serving OCONUS
- United Seaman’s Service (USS) Personnel OCONUS
- Officers and Crews of MSC vessels deployed to foreign countries
- Select Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) personnel
This card will replace “legacy” ID cards including the following:
- Retired Veterans With 20 Years of Service Veterans ID: Retired veterans who have served honorably for more than 20 years can obtain an ID card on base by submitting a copy of their retirement paperwork and they will be issued a DD form 2 (blue colored) ID card. There are two types of ID cards issued to retirees. A DD Form 2A (Ret-Red) ID card is issued to “Gray Area” retirees (prior to retired pay eligibility), and a DD Form 2 (Ret-Blue) ID card is issued to a retiree who is actively receiving retired pay.
- ID Cards for Eligible Family Members of Living and Deceased Retired Soldiers: DD Form 1172-1 (Uniformed Services Identification and Privilege Card) is issued to eligible Family members of “Gray Area” retirees. A DD Form 1173 (Uniformed Services Identification and Privilege Card) is issued to eligible Family members of a retiree. The same rules apply for the DD Form 1173 for Reduced Retirement Eligible Retiree Family members; their ID Cards will not have full medical benefits until the Sponsor is age 60.
Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Veterans Health Identification Card (VHIC)
Those enrolled in VA health care will obtain a Veteran Health Identification Card (VHIC) used to check in to appointments at VA medical centers. The Department of Veterans Affairs official site describes this as a “secure ID card” that “keeps your personal information safe” while providing access to your information for VA care purposes.
Some prefer to use this card to get discounts offered to veterans but its primary purpose is for healthcare. You must enroll in the VA healthcare system to be provided this type of veteran’s ID card.
Veterans who may qualify:
- Veterans with a service-connected disability rating
- Served in combat or in a war zone
- Medical conditions incurred while in the service
- Location of service
- Served in theater of combat operations within the past 5 years
- Received a Purple Heart Medal
- Former Prisoner of War
- Receive VA pension or disability benefits
* This is not a comprehensive list and veterans should check with the VA to see if they qualify. Many unique circumstances lead to qualification.
Service Organization Veteran ID Cards
Many national and local veteran service organizations provide ID cards such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and the American Legion. While this are not official government issued proof of id many businesses accept these cards as proof of military service.
Additional Ways to Prove Military Service
- DD12 Form 214: DD Form 214 and the equivalent for Guard and Reserve members are basically discharge papers and separation documents. Many government agencies and businesses accept this paperwork accompanied with photo ID as valid proof of military service.
- Photo in Uniform: Some businesses will accept a photo of veterans in uniform.
- Honor System: Some businesses utilize the honor system. If you say you’re a veteran that’s good enough for them.
Options to Prove Military Service Online
- .mil Email Address – This applies more to active-duty but many businesses will establish proof of service if communicating from a .mil email address.
- APO/FPO Address – If purchasing a produce and can ship to an APO/FPO address businesses may accept this in order to receive a discount.
- Private Verification Services – Private companies such as Sheer ID and ID.me (formerly Troop ID) verify military service in order to take advantage of partner offers and discounts.