This article by Jim Absher originally appeared on Military.com, the premier resource for the military and veteran community.
In case you haven't heard, the VA 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 3 hots and a cot and paid every 2 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.
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