Some veterans have been told their military service cannot be verified while attempting to apply for the Department of Veterans Affairs' new ID card. But sources disagree on what's causing the problem.
The ID card, mandated by Congress in 2015 and rolled out last year, is free for all honorably discharged veterans of any era. It is designed to function as proof of service at private businesses and save veterans the trouble of carrying around their DD-214s to show they served.
It is not considered an official federal ID and does not qualify veterans for federal benefits.
The online application uses the ID.me authorization system, which is meant to allow veterans to easily verify their identity and service before uploading a photo and other details for the card.
But some veterans complain that they receive an error message saying their military service cannot be authenticated when they attempt to apply for the card.
Officials with ID.me said the problem can be blamed on a glitch between their system and the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS), causing users who created ID.me accounts in the past to receive an error message that their records were not found, according to information provided to veterans who contacted the ID.me help desk.
"This issue is unfortunately not something that ID.me can address from our end and will require that the VA addresses this communication problem between the DoD's DEERS database and the VA application," the help desk email response said.
The ID.me system is used by hundreds of online businesses and many federal websites to verify identity. Although exact data on how many users are enrolled in ID.me was not immediately available, VA officials said last year that the program was selected for the new ID card system in part because it is already broadly used.
VA officials, however, disagreed with ID.me's explanation of the cause of the problem. They said the records failure is instead an issue created by bad data.
"The issue is not between ID.me and DEERS, but rather that VA and DoD systems (including DEERS) have inaccurate data in some cases," Curt Cashour, a VA spokesman, said in an email. "For example, if a Veteran's Social Security number is inaccurate in DEERS or in a VA backend system, then VA may not be able to automatically verify the Veteran's eligibility for the ID card."
Cashour said the VA's fix for this problem is to ask veterans to manually upload their DD-214 forms, which show proof of service. Those who continue to face problems can email VIC@va.gov for help, he said.
But veterans attempting to apply for the ID said the DD-214 upload system has also given them problems.
"When you go into ID.me and fill out the information and then go through the process of trying to send a copy of your DD-214 to them, [it] fails," one veteran told Military.com via email. "This has happened to me every time I have tried it."
"I tried to apply for a Veteran ID Card in February. I got to a point where the message said, 'We need more information to process your request,' " another veteran wrote in an email to Military.com last month. "The VA help line ... told me, after a 4-hour wait on hold, that there was a glitch and that they would fix it soon. It is a month later and the message is still there on my file."
About 74,500 veterans have successfully applied for the ID card, Cashour said. Although cards can be printed at home from the VA website, hard copies are scheduled to be mailed to veterans starting this month.
-- Amy Bushatz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.