Military Spouse ID Cards: Everything You Need to Know

military spouse ID card
(Timothy Hale/DVIDS)

Whether you’re just marrying into the military or keeping all of your military life ducks in a row, there’s one thing you need to keep an eye on regularly: your military spouse ID card.

As the spouse of a service member, you are entitled to a dependent ID card. It's almost a rite of passage. After getting your marriage license and moving to your first installation -- or driving hours to an installation while your spouse is at basic training -- you receive your first magical ID card.

No matter how hard you try to look good, the photo will still turn out terrible. You'll sign your name and off you go, able to get on base by yourself, access your health care benefits, shop at the commissary and use the gym.

    As with all things military-related, the process for getting a military ID card is specific and sometimes sensitive. You'll frequently see that the worldwide ID Card server is down. But you'll get the hang of it quickly and realize that it's not even close to the most complicated thing you'll do as a military spouse.

    Here are some of the most frequently asked questions surrounding the military spouse ID card process.

    Who qualifies for a military spouse ID card?

    As the legal spouse of a service member (active, Guard/Reserve or retired), you are eligible to receive an ID card as part of your enrollment into the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS). Luckily, these two offices are usually located in the same place.

    How do I get a military spouse ID card?

    First, you must secure enrollment in DEERS -- for which you'll need your marriage certificate, your (spouse) birth certificate, your Social Security card and a photo ID. You'll also need either your service member, a power of attorney or DD Form 1172-2, which your service member can fill out in advance for you to receive a new ID card.

    You'll want to make an appointment here, because most places require it and the wait will be unbearable if you walk in.

    Do I need my service member with me to get the ID or renew it?

    See above. There are plenty of ways you can do it alone, but rest assured you will not be able to walk in and add a child to DEERS or renew your ID card without the signed DD Form 1172-2 or a power of attorney if your service member is not with you.

    What's the difference between getting my military spouse ID card and enrolling in DEERS?

    Enrolling in DEERS is not an automatic process for spouses or children. It is the worldwide system that verifies those who qualify for military benefits. Enrolling, which only happens once, usually happens on the same day you get your first military ID card, and you still need your service member or the appropriate forms to do this.

    What are the different types of military ID cards?

    There are a variety of military ID cards, but all of the ones for family members and retirees look basically the same: white with a barcode on the back and your photo on the front. all the active-duty dependent ones look the same. The main difference is in what it says on the front. SInce you’re a military spouse, it will say that your “relationship” is “spouse.” If your service member is active-duty, it will say your “sponsor affiliation” is “active duty.”

    You might see people with other types of ID cards - red or brown will be the most common. Those are the old style of military ID card, which was no longer issued starting in 2020. As those ID cards come up for renewal, they will be replaced with the new style. All retiree and dependent military ID cards will look the same by 2026.

    Can I get my military spouse ID card online?

    Maybe. Helpful, right? While the ID Card Office Online (IDCO) is accessible with a Common Access Card (CAC) or DS-Logon -- an ID issued by DoD that will let you access many VA and DoD sites with one user username and password -- it doesn't always work. According to the IDCO website, you should be able to verify your family members, request a renewal/replacement for your dependent ID card and add a new family member into DEERS.

    Is a military ID a REAL ID?

    As of May, 2023, everyone will need a REAL ID to fly. According to the Transportation Security Administration website, a "U.S. Department of Defense ID, including IDs issued to dependents" is considered a REAL ID and can be used to fly.

    Can a veteran spouse get a military ID card?

    Yes, if they meet the qualifications. Spouses of 100% disabled veterans are eligible for an ID card. Also, caregivers who are registered in the Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers and who receive a letter from the VA Office of Community Care can also be issued an ID card. These ID cards give you certain privileges on base, but don't qualify you for medical care.

    How long are military ID cards good for?

    Dependent ID cards need to be renewed every four years or when your service member is scheduled to leave the service, what we call Expiration of Term of Service (ETS). You can renew them up to 60 days prior to the expiration date. If they expire, they can be confiscated by the gate guards -- who also might remind you when your expiration date is nearing.

    Military retirees and spouses age 65 or older as well as family members and survivors of deceased veterans who are age 65 or older can get a permanent ID card.

    Do I have to get a new ID card when my sponsor gets promoted?

    No. This is a common misconception. The service member needs to change their ID card with promotion, but you don't. The only times you will need to change this is if your service member goes from enlisted to officer or changes branches. Or if it's damaged. Or (gasp!) if you lose it.

    What happens if I lose my military spouse ID card?

    After you panic, search everywhere and guiltily reveal to your service member that you did, indeed, lose your dependent ID card, you need to get a new one. Replacing a military ID is not as simple as getting online and getting your current driver's license replaced. This process differs based on where you live. Depending on the base, you might also need to file a report with the military police, but it's not scary. Promise. You should check with your base for specific rules on how to handle a lost ID card.

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