The lawmaker behind national IDs for veterans is upset that federal officials are still months away from issuing any of the new cards.
"Another year is too long of a wait, as millions of veterans remain vulnerable to identity theft," Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., wrote in a letter to Veterans Affairs Secretary Bob McDonald on Thursday. "VA needs to pick up the pace and move faster on issuing identification cards to any veteran who wants one."
Congress approved legislation sponsored by Buchanan last July to create the identification cards, designed to give veterans an easy way to prove their military service for nonofficial offerings like shopping discounts.
Earlier this week, VA officials said they likely won't issue the first cards until early next year.
"This is a lengthy process that requires time for a public comment period as well as approval from the Office of Management and Budget," officials said in a statement this week. "VA currently estimates the program will be implemented in 2017."
Buchanan wants that process sped up.
"Over the years, I have heard from countless veterans who have expressed frustration over their inability to easily document their service to our country," he wrote. "Our veterans deserve all of the respect and gratitude we can offer, and these ID cards will help make their lives just a little bit easier."
Buchanan also asked for the department to provide Congress with steps taken so far to produce the cards, information on meetings of the ID card task force, and a timeline for rules for the process.
VA officials said they have already begun drafting regulations, but that the process will take time.
Under rules approved by Congress, no veterans will be required to get the IDs, and the cards will not replace military ID cards.
Supporters have called it a simple way to honor veterans' service, and provide an alternative to carrying around military documents with potentially sensitive personal information. Buchanan noted that Federal Trade Commission researchers have found that veterans have twice the rate of identity theft as the general public.
In lieu of federal cards, several states have options to list military status on veterans' driver's licenses.
Leo Shane III covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.