Do you need a veterans ID card?
If you are retiring or separating from military service, you have the option of applying for a variety of different veteran-designated picture identification cards.
Some are issued to military retirees only and can give you access to military bases. Others are offered by state and federal agencies.
However, while you may be granted access, discounts or other privileges, some ID cards are not an approved identification or authorization and cannot be used to enter military installations.
Veterans ID cards may also be convenient, helping verify your military status. While you may carry a copy of your U.S. Department of Defense DD Form 214 Report of Discharge, that by itself does not establish identity unless you have an accompanying photo ID.
The federal Veterans Identification Act of 2015 enabled veterans to
apply for veteran ID cards directly from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
How to get a Veterans ID Card recognized by Government Agencies, Restaurants and Retailers
VA Veterans Identification Card (VIC)
The VA offers qualifying applicants a veterans ID card (VIC), which is different from the VA veteran health identification card (VHIC), U.S. Department of Defense uniformed services ID cards or a military retiree card.
You can’t use a VA identification card as proof of eligibility for federal benefits, and it won’t give you access to military installations.
Who Is Eligible For VIC?
You may be eligible to apply for a veteran identification card if you meet the requirements:
- You served on active duty, as a Reservist or in the National Guard or U.S. Coast Guard
- You received an honorable or general discharge
When applying, you need to supply your DD Form 214 discharge paperwork or equivalent.
State Issued Veterans Designation on Driver’s Licenses or Identification Cards
In most states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico, you have the option of displaying veteran status on your state-issued driver’s licenses and ID cards..
In most cases, proof of military service is required and you contact your state’s department or bureau of motor vehicles or equivalent to learn what the requirements and procedures are.
Some states may require a copy of DD Form 214, and many require supporting documentation.
Costs vary.. Fees may be waived if you were awarded a Purple Heart. Some states offer a free initial card with fees for renewal when it expires. More information on veterans’ ID cards provided by states can be found here.
If you reside in a state that currently offers veterans designation on a driver’s license or ID card, this is the easiest and best option that government agencies and businesses accept.
States require varied proof of veteran’s status. Check with your state’s bureau or department of motor vehicles or equivalent for more details.;
While many states only need your DD Form 214, some states require additional documentation. Costs can range, although the designation is free in some states. More information on veterans’ IDs provided by states can be found here.
State Veterans ID Cards
In addition to offering veteran’s designation on licenses and ID cards, some states have separate veteran’s ID cards available through the bureau or department of motor vehicles or equivalent.
Free Veterans Identification Proof of Service Letter
Access and print a free veteran’s proof of honorable service status letter through eBenefits, the VA/DoD web portal.
County Court House or Clerk Office Issued Veterans Cards
Some counties offer veteran ID cards. In addition, New York City offers a veteran’s designation on its city-issued ID cards. As with many such IDs, these cards cannot be used to access military bases or VA services. However, they are good for getting military discounts at businesses, parks and other attractions.
DoD Veteran ID Cards
The DoD is transitioning its ID system to the Next Generation Uniformed Services ID (USID) card.
Introduced July 31, 2020, the Next Gen USID Card updates security features to prevent counterfeiting and identity theft, and DoD is gradually phasing them in with a January 2026 target date for completing the transition. The cards are issued to retired military members, Reservists, dependents and other eligible individuals in accordance with DoD policy.
All current DoD ID cards remain valid until their expiration dates.The U.S. Department of Defense/Uniformed ServicesSponsor Identification and Privilege Card will also transition to the Next Generation USIDs. These are intended for:
- Retired members entitled to retired pay
- Temporary Disability Retired List (TDRL) members
- Permanent Disability Retired List (PDRL) members
- Retired National Guard and Reserves members
- Medal of Honor recipients
- 100% disabled veterans (DAV)
- Former members in receipt of retired pay
- TRICARE Transitional Assistance Management Plan (TAMP) health care members
- Full-time paid United Service Organizations (USO) personnel when serving outside the continental United States (OCONUS)
- United Seaman’s Service (USS) personnel OCONUS
- Officers and crews of Military Sealift Command (MSC) vessels deployed to foreign countries
- Select Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) personnel
The Next GEN USID cards replace other ID cards, including:
- Retired veterans with 20 years of service ID: Retired veterans who served honorably for 20 or more years may obtain an ID card by submitting a copy of retirement paperwork. There are two types of ID cards issued to retirees: DD Form 2A (Ret-Red) ID cards are issued to gray-area retirees (those who are not yet eligible for retirement pay), and DD Form 2 (Ret-Blue) ID cards, issued to retirees receiving retirement pay.
- IDcCards for eligible family members of living and deceased retired soldiers: DD Form 1172-1 (Uniformed Services Identification and Privilege Card) is issued to eligible family members of gray-area retirees. DD Form 1173 (Uniformed Services Identification and Privilege Card) is issued to retirees’ eligible family members. . DD Form 1173 is issued for reduced retirement eligible retirees’ family members, and those cards are unable to access full medical benefits until the sponsor is 60 years old.
VA Veterans Health Identification Card (VHIC)
Enrollees in VA health care obtain a Veteran Health Identification Card (VHIC) used for appointment check-ins at tVA medical centers.
While some prefer to use the card for discounts offered to veterans, its primary purpose is for health care. Veterans may qualify if they meet one of the following criteria:
- They have a service-connected disability rating.
- They served in combat or in a war zone.
- They have a medical condition incurred while in the service.
- They served in theater of combat operations within the past five years.
- They received Purple Heart medal.
- They are a former prisoner of war (POW).
- They receive a VA pension or disability benefits.
They may also qualify based on the location of their service. This is not a comprehensive list, and veterans should check with VA to see if they qualify.
Service Organization Veteran ID Cards
Many veterans service organizations provide ID cards, including Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and the American Legion. While these are not government-issued IDs, many businesses accept the cards as proof of military service.
Additional Ways to Prove Military Service
- DD Form 214: DD-214 and the equivalent for National Guard and Reserve members are discharge papers and separation documents. Many government agencies and businesses accept these documents accompanied with photo ID to certify military service.
- Photo in uniform: Some businesses accept photos of veterans in uniform.
- Honor system: Some businesses utilize the honor system; if you say you’re a veteran, that’s proof enough.
Options to Prove Military Service Online
- Military email address: This applies more to active-duty personnel, but many businesses establish proof of military service with communication from a .mil email address.
- APO/FPO address: Businesses may honor military discounts when you purchase products that are shipped to an Army Post Office (AFO) or Fleet Post Office (FPO) address.
- Private verification services: Private services such as SheerID and ID.me (formerly Troop ID) verify military service for partner offers and discounts.