YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — A new Defense Department software system may make it more difficult for military family members to obtain medical benefits without a Social Security number or proper foreign identification.

Temporary identification numbers — issued to dependents who are U.S. citizens but have not yet obtained a Social Security number — expire in 90 days, said Tech. Sgt. Mark Lucas, customer service superintendent, Yokota’s 374th Mission Support Squadron’s personnel flight.

Temporary ID numbers also were assigned to DOD non-U.S. spouses and children. To avoid having their benefits suspended when the temporary numbers expire, they now must apply for a permanent Foreign Identification Number.

Pentagon officials say the requirement isn’t new, it’s just an enforcement of the old rules.

Five years ago, Congress mandated that people receiving medical care at military facilities have Social Security numbers, so temporary identification numbers were assigned.

Those numbers were supposed to expire in 90 days, but that requirement never was enforced, Lucas said.

New software added to the computer system that updates ID cards disclosed that many people were entered into the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System with temporary numbers, said Lt. Col. Cynthia Colin, a DOD press officer at the Pentagon.

DEERS lists all individuals eligible for DOD benefits.

Officials won’t know whether a temporary number is expired unless the member’s name is entered in DEERS — for instance, when a spouse needs to update an ID card or make an appointment at the base medical clinic.

Lucas said the ID card with the temporary number won’t expire, “just medical privileges. If they were to go to the hospital, there may be some problems.”

Officials at Yokota’s medical clinic said they would not deny a patient care if they still have the temporary identification number. Capt. Ericka Alexander said a patient would be advised to obtain a new Temporary Identification Number or update the current information in DEERS through the Military Personnel Flight. The update would have to be completed within 30 days or the patient would be billed for services rendered — or as a civilian pay patient.

Dependents who are foreign nationals will be assigned a Foreign Identification Number when applying for an ID card — instead of a temporary number.

The new system started about two months ago, so foreign nationals with temporary numbers need to get their ID cards updated, Lucas said. Those eligible for a Social Security number who never have applied for one now must do so.

“You need to look at your dependents’ ID card,” Lucas said. “The temporary number won’t look like a Social Security number.”

Foreign Identification Numbers can be obtained from ID card providers at military bases, Colin said. Social Security numbers are issued through the Social Security Administration (

— Charlie Coon contributed to this story.

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Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.

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