After the Military Times reported last week that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) was delaying the launch of the Veterans ID card program, a Florida congressman wants answers.
Back in July, President Barack Obama signed U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan’s, R-Fla., “Veterans ID Card Act" into law. Buchanan’s proposal looked ensure all veterans receive ID cards from the VA instead of just those vets who served 20 years in the armed forces or are seeking medical treatment for service-related wounds.
After reports emerged that the VA would not launch the cards until 2017, Buchanan wrote U.S. VA Sec. Robert McDonald, insisting the cards will help crack down on identity theft and offer more convenience for veterans.
“The VA needs to pick up the pace and move faster on issuing identification cards to any veteran who wants one,” Buchanan said on Thursday. “Another year is too long of a wait as millions of veterans remain vulnerable to identity theft.”
Military Times reported last week that the VA was nowhere near ready to unveil the cards.
“Veterans Affairs officials said it will likely still be months before anyone gets the new cards,” Military Times reported. “The rule-making process is expected to take at least another year, with production and issuing times still to be decided.”
“This is a lengthy process that requires time for a public comment period as well as approval from the Office of Management and Budget,” the VA told Military Times. “VA currently estimates the program will be implemented in 2017.”
In pushing his bill in the first half of 2015, Buchanan noted veterans are forced to carry DD-214 paperwork, which contains sensitive information including Social Security numbers. He insisted an ID card would be more convenient and do a better job of keeping their personal information secure.
The House passed Buchanan’s bill back in June with 402 representatives backing it and no votes cast against it. In the Senate, U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., offered an amendment to the bill ensuring all veterans would be eligible for the ID card. The Senate passed the amended bill without opposition, sending it back to the House, which passed it again, this time on a 411-0 vote.
During his efforts to pass the legislation, Buchanan insisted his bill was budget-neutral because veterans who opt for the ID card would pay a small fee, which the VA secretary would examine every five years.
“Every veteran -- past, present, and future -- will now be able to prove their military service without the added risk of identity theft,” Buchanan said in July after Obama signed his bill into law. “It’s the least we can do for the brave men and women in uniform who put it all on the line for us.”
The Florida delegation stood in strong support of Buchanan’s measure. U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee and U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Fla., the ranking Democrat on the committee, both backed the bill. Other congressional representatives from Florida who co-sponsored the bill include Republicans Ander Crenshaw, Carlos Curbelo, Ron DeSantis, Mario Diaz-Balart, David Jolly, Bill Posey, Dennis Ross and Ted Yoho, and Democrats Ted Deutch and Alcee Hastings. The bill also won the backing of veterans groups including AMVETS and Veterans for Common Sense (VCS).
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