WASHINGTON — The Department of Veterans Affairs has designed a new identity card for veterans that will safeguard confidential information.

“The new identification card ensures veterans’ personal information is protected,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Anthony J. Principi, in a Thursday news release.

The card, formally known as the Veterans Identity Card, will have the veteran’s photo on the front and identify him as enrollees in the VA’s health care system.

Veterans should request the new card at their local medical center. Processing will take five to seven days once eligibility is verified. VA hopes to complete the conversion to the new, safer card by mid-November. The existing cards will remain valid until veterans receive their new cards.

Veterans traveling to the United States from overseas will be issued the cards when they visit a VA facility, VA spokesman Phil Budahn told Stars and Stripes. “Those vets won’t be barred from getting treated because they don’t have the cards,” he said.

Encrypted on a magnetic tape on the back of the card will be the veteran’s Social Security number, date of birth and a control number. The magnetic strip also records whether the veteran has a service-connected disability.

Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in the nation. The Federal Trade Commission lists identity theft as the No. 1 fraud reported by consumers in 2003.

Requests from veterans and their congressional representatives were instrumental in bringing about these latest changes.

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