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VA mails new veteran ID cards with Office Depot logo

The final design of the veterans identification card. (U.S. DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS)

The Department of Veterans Affairs has finally mailed thousands of new, free identification cards to veterans after months of setbacks and delays.

As of Monday, the VA mailed 10,735 cards – fulfilling requests for about one-tenth of the veterans who applied for one. More than 15,000 other veterans have been approved for the card, and the VA is working through another 72,000 applications.

Each card is adorned with an Office Depot logo – a symbol of the company’s new partnership with the VA. Office Depot paid the cost of printing and mailing the cards.

When an early design of the card with the logo appeared in November, some veterans criticized it as an avenue for corporations to buy government influence. VA Press Secretary Curt Cashour hailed it as an innovative idea.

“This is precisely the type of outside-the-box thinking that has been missing from the federal government for far too long and that we are bringing to the table under the leadership of President [Donald] Trump,” Cashour said.

Congress ordered the VA in 2015 to create the card to make it easier for veterans to receive things such as discounts at stores and restaurants without having to carry around their DD-214 – a certificate of release or discharge that contain sensitive information.

Lawmakers did not appropriate funding to print and mail the cards, so the VA went to Office Depot with the idea for a partnership, Cashour said. The VA did not say how much the partnership cost Office Depot and an Office Depot representative did not respond to a request for information on the amount that the company paid for printing and mailing the cards. Under the logo on the card is a disclaimer that it “does not represent an endorsement of Office Depot’s general policies, activities, products or services.”

Office Depot will continue printing and mailing the cards until September 2020, Cashour said.

Veterans can apply for the cards at vets.gov, under “Apply for Printed Veteran ID Card.” Veterans applying for a card will be asked to create an online account and must upload a valid, government-issued ID and recent photo.

The new IDs do not replace VA medical cards or defense retiree cards, nor do they qualify as official government-issued identification.

The cards were intended to be mailed late last year, but demand for the cards crashed the VA website in December. The VA temporarily stopped the application process until late January. In March, the VA again delayed their distribution.

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© 2018 the Stars and Stripes

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