WASHINGTON — Veterans Affairs officials will start issuing new veterans ID cards next month, giving recipients an easy way to provide their military service for business discounts and other promotions.

The move, first reported by Military.com, comes two years after Congress passed legislation for the cards. A VA spokesman said they’ll be made available for no cost to any veteran who applies through the department’s website.

The new cards won’t replace VA medical cards or official defense retiree cards, and will not carry any force of law behind them.

But supporters have called a national veterans ID card a simple way to honor veterans’ service and a way to help them prove their service status for non-federal activities. They have also argued that many veterans’ practice of carrying around copies of their military discharge paperwork or other personal documents to get corporate discounts leaves them open to fraud and identity theft.

Several states — but not all 50 — give veterans the option to identify themselves on drivers licenses. But the national ID card through VA would give a more standard way to verify military service.

VA officials have not yet said how long it will take to issue cards after a veteran has requested them.

Legislation authorizing the cards was sponsored by Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., and passed through Congress without objection. About 21 million Americans are veterans, with another 1.3 million individuals currently serving in the military.

Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.

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