Veteran ID Card Act signed into law

On July 20, President Barack Obama signed into law P.L. 114-31, the Veterans ID Card Act of 2015 that creates a new identification card (ID) for a requesting veteran who is neither entitled to military retired pay nor enrolled in the VA health-care system. VA currently only provides VA-enrolled veterans with an ID card.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., requires the VA ID card to display the veterans name and photograph, and it serves as proof that the veteran has a DD-214 or other military service record. The card will not serve as proof of entitlement to any VA benefits.

With the new ID cards, veterans will not have to carry around their DD-214s, which decreases the potential for identity theft and fraud because they will not contain the same personal information that is contained on a DD-214.

The new VA ID card will be available to all honorably discharged veterans. A veteran requesting an ID card will have to provide a name, photograph and proof of his or her military service. VA will charge a fee for the card and there’s not a set date when the cards will be available.

House looks into veteran unemployability benefit

On July 15, the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs held a hearing to examine the Total Disability based on Individual Unemployability (TDIU) benefit in the Veterans Benefits Administration. The TDIU benefit is intended for veterans whose disabilities don’t meet the 100 percent rating by the ratings schedule, but whose overall disability picture prevents them from finding and maintaining gainful employment.

American Legion Legislative Director Ian de Planque testified on behalf of the Legion, citing concerns about a recent Government Accountability Office report that raised the possibility of reducing or discontinuing the benefit for veterans "above the working age, aged 65 or older." Not only does the law clearly state the benefit is intended to be considered without regard to the age of the veteran, de Planque noted that many veterans who receive the benefit have been on disability for much of their working lives, preventing them from accumulating a retirement portfolio as they would at a job. "These vulnerable veterans need the benefit to see them through their retirement years more than ever," de Planque said.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the percentage of the workforce continuing to work over the age of 65 has more than doubled over the last 30 years, with half of those elderly Americans working full time. A panelist from Disabled American Veterans pointed out that a large number of Congress members aged 65 or older "still draw a paycheck every year" and expressed concern that this benefit would be considered for removal or reduction for veterans. Committee members stated they did not believe the benefit should be removed, but felt there may be a way to rename it or a way to ensure compensation for veterans at the top of the age bracket.

The American Legion suggested better income verification processes similar to what VA has moved toward in the pension program since there’s not an automated system with the TDIU benefit, which can lead to delays in benefits for veterans in need.