Two categories of honorably discharged veterans cannot apply for a new, free ID card from the Department of Veterans Affairs because their service branches aren't listed on the application.
Those who served in the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS) or as commissioned members of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are considered veterans by law and are entitled to all veteran benefits, including health care through the VA and burial at national cemeteries.
But the new veteran ID card ordered by Congress in 2015 does not include USPHS or NOAA on a list of service selections. The electronic card application cannot be submitted unless a service is selected, said retired Army Col. James Currie, who directs the Commissioned Officers Association for the USPHS.
"It's even worse than you think, because there are two entire uniformed services whose members cannot apply for the card because their service is not listed on the VA's pull-down menu," he wrote in an email to Military.com. "They are totally left out, though they are veterans under federal law."
"I have brought this to the attention of the VA, and they do nothing to fix the glitch," he wrote.
VA officials did respond by deadline to a Military.com request for comment.
Currie said there are about 13,000 currently serving and former members of the USPHS, including Vice Adm. (Dr.) Jerome Adams, the U.S. surgeon general.
NOAA has about 321 current commissioned officers, according to its website. Estimates as to how many veterans have previously served in NOAA were not immediately available, and
NOAA officials did not respond to requests for comment.
The VA's free ID card program has faced a parade of problems since its rollout last November, including system crashes, printing and shipping delays, and service record glitches.
The card is meant to function as proof of service at private businesses and to save veterans the trouble of carrying around DD-214 forms to show they served. About 74,500 veterans had applied for the card as of late last month.
-- Amy Bushatz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.