U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan of Florida wants the federal government to “pick up the pace” of its efforts to issue identification cards to millions of veterans.
Last year, the Bradenton Republican sponsored the Veterans Identification Card Act, which unanimously passed both houses of Congress and was signed into law by President Barack Obama on July 20.
The law will create handy ID cards for veterans to document their military service without having to carry their official service records, known as DD-214 forms.
Because the official forms contain veterans’ Social Security numbers and other personal information, they can put veterans at higher risk for identity theft.
In fact, the Federal Trade Commission says veterans suffer identity theft at twice the rate of the general public.
The Department of Veterans Affairs isn’t expected to issue the new ID cards until next year, but Buchanan said that was unacceptable.
“I could fly to Mars and back quicker than it takes them to publish these cards,” he said Monday. “I kind of expected between six and 10 months” before the cards would be issued, “and now they’re telling me it’s another year. It’s just not right.”
The VA is still drafting regulations, procedures and policies to implement and enforce the card legislation, according to a department statement.
The VA is still drafting regulations, procedures and policies to implement and enforce the legislation, according to a department statement.
“This is a lengthy process that requires time for a public comment period as well as approval from the (White House) Office of Management and Budget,” the press statement said.
The rule-making process is expected to last more than a year, the statement said, and the “VA currently estimates the program will be implemented in 2017.”
Buchanan said he would push to get the cards issued by July.
In a letter last week to VA Secretary Robert A. McDonald, Buchanan said the cards would give employers an easy way to verify job applicants’ claims of military service. Cardholders will also have an easier time taking advantage of services and promotional opportunities targeted to veterans.
“Our veterans deserve all of the respect and gratitude we can offer and these ID cards will help make their lives just a little bit easier,” Buchanan wrote.
He called on the administration to issue the cards by July. He said he’d keep pushing the VA for an expedited plan to make it happen.
“Another year is too long of a wait as millions of veterans remain vulnerable to identity theft,” Buchanan wrote. “The VA needs to pick up the pace and move faster on issuing identification cards to any veteran who wants one.”
The cards would go only to honorably discharged veterans who are neither enrolled in the VA health care system nor entitled to military retired pay. The VA now provides ID cards only to veterans enrolled in the VA health system.
The new cards wouldn’t allow the holders to access benefits through the VA nor would they provide access to military installations.
Veterans who want the cards would have to pay a small fee to obtain them, Buchanan added.