The new veteran identification card to be issued by the Veterans Affairs Department will not be available before 2017.
The wallet-sized proof of veteran status is intended to be a substitute for a paper document given to all veterans upon discharge. The ID requirement was signed into law by President Obama on July 20 and intended to be effective 60 days later, according to a House Veterans Affairs Committee staff member who agreed to speak with Military.com on background.
"VA has missed that deadline and will not provide a definite implementation date for the when the program will be up and running," the staffer said. "The committee has been pushing VA on implementation but the department seems to be punting it to the next administration ... VA currently estimates the program will be implemented in 2017."
He said VA has told House lawmakers is that the rule-making process -- including drafting the procedures, getting public comment and approval from the Office of Management and Budget -- is expected to take a year or longer.
VA did not respond to Military.com's request for confirmation on the projected 2017 start date, though said in a previous email that the process is "a much larger undertaking than it appears on the surface once you get into the actual logistics."
The veteran ID is intended as a way for veterans to prove they served in the military without having to carry around and present a DD-214, Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty. The ID card law passed both the House and Senate by wide margins.
One of the leading veterans' service organizations criticized the legislation as unnecessary since many states already include veteran status on driver's licenses. VFW also criticized the move for adding yet another requirement on the VA, which continues to struggle with curbing its backlog of disability compensation claims, appeals of denied claims and wait-times for veterans seeking health care.
Veteran advocates for the card and other supporters argued that the ID will eliminate the need to produce their DD-214 to prove veteran's status, which can be both a hassle and add wear and tear to the paper document. The DD-214 is needed when applying for federal benefits, not only from the VA but when applying for federal job and claiming veteran's preference.
In writing the ID law, however, Congress also recognized its commercial benefit to veterans, noting in the law that noting in the law that "goods services, and promotional activities are often by public and private institutions to veterans who demonstrate proof of service in the military, but it is impractical for a veteran to always carry [a DD-214] to demonstrate such proof."
Nearly all states will include veteran status on a driver's license or have bills pending to permit the inclusion. The most recent state to include veteran status on a license is California, where the law went into effect last week on Veterans Day.
-- Bryant Jordan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org