Congress on Tuesday approved plans to offer new veteran ID cards to honorably discharged service members, in an effort to more easily prove their military service.
The measure passed through the Senate and House without objection, but took several years to get through Congress. The Obama administration has expressed reservations about the need for the new IDs, but has not threatened to veto the legislation.
The measure, sponsored by Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., would create official VA cards for all veterans, instead of only those who qualify for certain health care and financial benefits.
Supporters called it a simple move to honor the sacrifice and service of veterans.
"This legislation will assist veterans in proving that they are indeed veterans," said Rep. Mark Takano, D-Calif. "The majority of service members leave before retirement … and are sometimes challenged to provide proof of their honorable service. This is a simple way to resolve this issue."
The cards would not replace medical IDs or official defense retiree IDs for veterans, and could not be used as proof of eligibility for obtaining federal benefits.
But they would serve as easy proof of military service for many veterans who complain they have to carry around copies of their discharge paperwork to get discounts or services at a host of private businesses.
Buchanan argued that practice is at best cumbersome and at worst unsafe, given the personal information included on those official documents.
Veterans requesting the IDs would have to pay a small fee, to be determined by Veterans Affairs officials. That fee would cover the cost of the program.
The measure heads to the White House to be signed into law. No time frame has been established for when the first ID cards might be issued.