The Department of Veterans Affairs is accepting applications for new Veteran ID cards as of today, but questions surrounding the program’s costs and private sector involvement remain unclear.

The cards — designed to be an easy way for veterans to prove their military service for a host of nongovernment services — will be delivered within 60 days of applying with digital copies available next month.

Veterans can start the application process now through the main VA website at The link to the ID application is on the bottom left of the page, labeled “Apply for printed Veteran ID Card.”

The cards were mandated by Congress in July 2015, with the expectation of distribution sometime in 2017. In a release announcing the official start of the program Wednesday, VA officials said their moves are “fulfilling a promise that has been unfulfilled since 2015.”

“The new Veterans Identification Card provides a safer and more convenient and efficient way for most veterans to show proof of service,” VA Secretary David Shulkin said in a statement. “With the card, veterans with honorable service to our nation will no longer need to carry around their paper DD-214s to obtain veteran discounts and other services.”

Cards will be printed and shipped by Office Depot, an arrangement that VA officials said will allow veterans to receive the IDs free of charge. VA officials declined to release the cost of the printing and shipping arrangement with Office Depot.

The final design of the cards has not been finalized yet. Previous versions had the Office Depot logo on the back with the veteran’s information on the front.

Under rules developed by VA, individuals who served in the armed forces, including the reserve components, and have a character of discharge of honorable or general under honorable conditions are eligible for the new IDs. Veterans with other than honorable status are not eligible.

That has upset some veterans groups, which have noted that the legislation to create the cards had no such restrictions.

The new cards won’t replace VA medical cards or official defense retiree cards and will not carry any force of law behind them. Veterans will also need to register for an online account with VA to apply for the card.

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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