The VA headquarters in Washington, D.C.

The VA headquarters in Washington, D.C. (Stars and Stripes)

WASHINGTON – Thousands of veterans who started applying for new identification cards through the Department of Veterans Affairs in November won’t see them until April, according to the agency.

VA spokesman Curt Cashour said in January the cards were supposed to be mailed in early March. But on Friday, he said the agency is working with a vendor to approve samples of the new cards before printing them, and distribution has been pushed back to April.

“[W]e expect to complete this process soon so approved cards can be printed and mailed as soon as possible,” Cashour wrote in an emailed statement.

It’s another in a series of delays in distributing the new, free cards. The IDs are intended to help veterans prove their military history without having to carry their DD-214 certificates, which contain sensitive information. The new IDs do not replace VA medical cards or defense retiree cards, nor do they qualify as official government-issued identification.

High demand for the cards crashed a VA webpage in December, when some veterans were met with error messages or a webpage that failed to load. The VA temporarily stopped the online application process and asked veterans seeking new ID cards to leave their email addresses, stating they’d be notified when they could apply.

The VA began taking online applications again at the end of January.

As of Jan. 29, the VA was processing 14,609 applications for the cards. By March 13, that grew to 64,759 veterans seeking the new IDs, Cashour said.

Any veteran who served in the armed forces, including the reserves, and has an honorable or general discharge can request them. Veterans can apply at the website and will be asked to create an online account.

Veterans who don’t want to wait for a printed ID can immediately download an image of their card directly from the VA website to either print or use on their mobile phones.

In 2015, Congress ordered the VA to create the cards to make it easier for veterans to receive certain benefits such as discounts at stores and restaurants. Twitter: @nikkiwentling

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Nikki Wentling has worked for Stars and Stripes since 2016. She reports from Congress, the White House, the Department of Veterans Affairs and throughout the country about issues affecting veterans, service members and their families. Wentling, a graduate of the University of Kansas, previously worked at the Lawrence Journal-World and Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. The National Coalition of Homeless Veterans awarded Stars and Stripes the Meritorious Service Award in 2020 for Wentling’s reporting on homeless veterans during the coronavirus pandemic. In 2018, she was named by the nonprofit HillVets as one of the 100 most influential people in regard to veterans policymaking.

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