Holding a military ID card or dependent ID card provides unique and valuable benefits to the cardholder.  As a military veteran, you’re already familiar with the money you can save by having this card.  Examples include education benefits, TRICARE health care, military discounts off base, and access to base privileges such as the commissary, BX/PX, medical & dental facilities, theaters, and fitness centers.

Getting a military ID card is an honor you earned through your commitment to our country.  Not everyone can get one, and not everyone should.  Eligibility for receiving a military ID card or dependent ID card is usually reserved for currently serving military personnel (such as those who are active duty, National Guard, or Reserve) and their immediate family members.

Military ID Card Types

There are different military ID cards, and the card you receive depends upon who you are or who your sponsor is.  The Common Access Card (CAC) is the standard ID card for active duty personnel, selected reserve, DoD civilian employees, and eligible contractors.    This card is what gives you access to buildings and controlled spaces, including computer networks and systems.  The Uniformed Services ID Card is the card you’ll have if you are a military retiree or a military family member.    This ID card is what allows you to receive military service benefits or privileges.

Military ID Card Eligibility

All told, there are four different types of Common Access Cards and seven different Uniform Services ID Cards.  The specific military ID card you are eligible for will be determined by your sponsor.  The sponsor is the person affiliated with the Department of Defense (such as the active duty military service member).

Common Access Card Types

For all card below there is a color coding system.  Military ID cards with a blue bar indicate that the cardholder is a non-U.S. Citizen; card with a green bar indicated the cardholder is a contractor; an all-white card is for all remaining personnel.

Card:  Armed Forces of the United States Geneva Conventions Identification Card
Recipients:  Active duty armed forces; selected reserves; National Guard; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; U.S. Public Health Services
Affiliation:  Displays branch of service

Card:  U.S. DoD and/or Uniform Services Identification Card
Recipients:  DoD and uniformed services civilian employees; eligible contractors for DoD, USCG, and NOAA; certain non-DoD civilian employees (USCG and NOAA; some state employees, and some employees working in support of DoD)
Affiliation:  Senior Executive Service (SES); civilians; contractors; federal & military affiliates

Card:  U.S. DoD and/or Uniformed Services Geneva Conventions Identification Card for Civilians Accompanying the Armed Forces
Recipients:  Emergency-essential civilian employees; contingency contractor personnel
Affiliation:  Senior Executive Service (SES); civilians; contractors

Card:  U.S. DoD and/or Uniformed Services Identification and Privilege Card
Recipients:  DoD and uniformed services civilian employees when required to reside on a military installation within CONUS, HI, AK, Puerto Rico, and Guam, or when stationed overseas for at least 365 days; DoD contractors stationed overseas at least 365 days; DoD Presidential appointees; uniformed and non-uniformed full-time paid personnel of the Red Cross assigned to duty with the uniformed services on base; eligible foreign military
Affiliation:  Senior Executive Service (SES); civilians; contractors; civilian, federal & military affiliates

Uniformed Services ID Card Types


Card:  DD Form 2 (Reserve)
Recipients:  Members of the Individual Ready Reserve and inactive National Guard

Card:  DD Form 2 (Retired)
Recipients:  Retired members entitled to retired pay; members on the Temporary Disability Retired List (TDRL); members on the Permanent Disability Retired List (PDRL)

Card:  DD Form 2 (Reserve Retired)
Recipients:  Retired members of the reserves and National Guard under the age of 60

Card:  DD Form 1173
Recipients:  Dependents of: active-duty service members of the regular components; reserve component service members on active duty  for more than 30 days, retirees, Medal of Honor recipients, former members in receipt of retired pay, Transitional Health Care Members (TAMP), 100% disabled veterans (DAV), and Ship’s officers and crew members of NOAA vessels; surviving dependents of active duty and retired military members, Medal of Honor recipients, and 100% disabled veterans; accompanying family members of authorized civilian personnel overseas or in CONUS, HI, or AK when required to reside on a military installation; eligible dependents of foreign military; other benefits-eligible categories as described in DoD policy

Card:  DD Form 1173-1
Recipients:  Dependents of: reserve members not on active duty or in receipt of retired pay, former members not in receipt of retired pay, or reserve service members who die after receipt of NOE; other benefits-eligible categories as described in DoD policy

Card:  DD Form 2765
Recipients:  Medal of Honor recipients; 100% disabled veterans; former members in receipt of retire pay; Transitional Health Care Member (TAMP); area executives, center directors, and assistant directors of the USO when serving OCONUS; United Seaman’s Service (USS) personnel OCONUS; officers and crew of MSC vessels deployed to foreign countries; select employer support of the guard and reserve (ESGR) personnel; other benefits-eligible categories as described in DoD policy

Card:  DoD Civilian Retiree Card
Recipients:  Civilians that have retired from any DoD service component or agency

How to Get Your Initial ID Card


The receipt of a Uniformed Services ID Card or CAC is the end-state of a multi-step process.  The process begins with the determination of sponsorship and eligibility, followed by registration and enrollment, followed by a background investigation for those individuals eligible for a CAC, followed by identify and eligibility verification, and then finally military card issuance.

Let’s take a closer look at those steps and provide you a couple resources to make this process easier.

Sponsorship & Eligibility.  This step the determination of who the sponsor is and their association with the DoD or other agency authorized to issue the card (applicants for the CAC must be sponsored by a DoD government official or employee).  For those individuals within the DoD who have multiple personnel category codes, you will likely be issued a separate ID card in each category that you are eligible (for example, and individual who is both a reservist and a government contractor).  For the majority of CAC holders, the sponsor will be an automatic authoritative data feed from the Human Resources department.

Registration & Enrollment.  This is the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS) registration.  All information related to the sponsorship and enrollment on the ID card application will need to be registered in DEERS before the card can be issued.  Be aware that if you change roles, such as going from active duty to being a contractor, you’ll need to reregister in DEERS.

Background Investigation.  Although a background check is not currently required for those seeking other DoD ID cards, anyone attempting to get a CAC will be required to submit to a background check.  This investigation will be a National Agency Check with Inquiry (NACI) or equivalent, coupled with an FBI fingerprint check.

The NACI is the basic and minimum investigation required for all new Federal employees.  It consists of written inquiries and searches of records covering the last five years.  Inquiries will be sent to you current and past employers, schools you have attended, your references, and local law enforcement officers.  They will be looking at your:
•    Employment history for the last 5 years
•    Education for the last 5 years, and verification of the highest degree obtained
•    Residences for the last 3 years
•    References
•    Law enforcement interaction over the last 5 years
•    National agency checks (NAC), such as the Security/Suitability Investigations Index (SII), Defense Clearance and Investigation Index (DCII), FBI Name Check, and the FBI National Criminal History Fingerprint Check.

Note that the NACI process can take up to 18 months to complete.  While this is going on, you will likely be issued an ID card.  If the results of the investigation comes back in a less-than-favorable light and you are not approved, your ID card can be revoked.  If you have been denied a CAC based on the background investigation, you may submit an appeal.

Identity & Eligibility.  This will be completed at a Real-Time Automated Personnel Identification System (RAPIDS) site.  Officials there will verify your identity and eligibility documentation to ensure ID cards are only distributed to those individuals who rate them.  You’ll need to have with you two forms of original ID, one of which must include a picture.  Examples of qualifying documents include a U.S. Passport or U.S. Passport Card, Permanent Resident Card, state-issued driver’s license, voter’s registration card, or Social Security Account Number card.  See the list of acceptable documents on the I-9 form, and pay attention to the column the document is listed in (if you use one from list B, you’ll also need one from list C).

If you are a dependent, your sponsor will need to accompany you to the RAPIDS site.  The exception would be if you DD Form 1172-2 was signed in front of the Verifying Official, signed by the sponsor and notarized, or signed using a Power of Attorney.
Also at this time, your photograph, fingerprints, and a biometric scan may be taken as identifying characteristics that tie you as a unique individual to your specific ID card.

Issuance.  You’ll receive your military ID card or military dependent ID card at the RAPIDS site once all of the prior steps have been completed.

How to Get a Replacement Military (or Dependent) ID Card
If you lose your ID card (or it expires), whether CAC or Uniformed Services ID Card, you can obtain a new one by going to the nearest RAPIDS site.  The location of the nearest site can be found by searching on the RAPIDS Site Locator page of the Defense Manpower Data Center.

When to Return Your Military (or Dependent) ID Card
As wonderful as it is to enjoy the benefits associated with a military ID card, at some point you may need to turn the card in since they are considered property of the U.S. Government.  You must return all ID cards upon:
•    Separation
•    Resignation
•    Firing
•    Termination of contract
•    Termination of affiliation with the DoD
•    Any other event in which you (or your dependent) no longer requires the use of an ID card

Note on Military ID Card Ownership
ID cards have gotten many people in trouble due to lack of knowledge on ownership.  Some military personnel have mistakenly thought that they were able to deny or confiscate their spouse’s ID card at any time since the service member was required to submit the application and sign as the sponsor.  Unfortunately, this is not true.  All military ID cards (CAC and Uniform Services ID Cards) are owned by the U.S. Government, and are considered an entitlement granted by congressional law.  In other words, you don’t get to decide who has or keeps the card, Congress does.  In fact, if you as a military member refuse to sign the application for a military dependent card, the Personnel Office is able to issue the card anyway.  And if the sponsor decides to confiscate another’s card, he or she could be charged with Larceny under Article 121 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

Veterans ID Cards
As stated above, if you’re not currently affiliated with the DoD through active duty, reserve status, retirement, contracting, etc., you’re not entitled to an ID card.  Unfortunately, there is no official nation-wide veterans ID card.  Some states have their own ways of identifying you as a military veteran, however.  In Florida, for example, veterans can get a veteran designation on their driver’s license or ID card.  This is a simple, blue “V” on the bottom right portion of the card, but is known state-wide and allows the card-holder to prove their veteran status to receive any discounts or benefits being offered by organizations.  To get this designation, veterans just need to present the DD-214 and pay a one-time $1 fee in addition to their normal license replacement or renewal fee.


The state of Virginia has created a separate Veterans ID Card to show proof of veteran status.  This card would be carried in addition to your normal driver’s license, so you would have to have two cards.  But the card is official and entitles you to benefits from hundreds of Virginia business.  There are five ways to get your Virginia Veterans ID Card:
•    Visit your local DMV customer service center
•    DMV 2 Go mobile offices
•    www.dmvNOW.com
•    U.S. mail: P.O. Box 27412, Richmond, VA 23269-0001
•    Fax: (804) 367-1112


If you are in VA Health Care, you receive a Veteran Health Identification Card (VHID).  This card was introduced in February 2014 and replaces the Veteran Identification Card (VIC) that was created in 2004.  The VHID is used for identification and check-in at VA appointments, but may be recognized by some organizations as proof of military service since only VA Health Care-eligible members can receive the card.

Veterans Advantage Card
If you are looking for an ID card to use in order to receive everyday discounts and rewards, consider the U.S. Patriot Card.  Veterans Advantage works with corporations that wish to honor your service and thank you by offering exclusive veterans-only discounts.  The card can be used by military veterans and their families to receive thousands of benefits in categories such as travel, entertainment, hotels & resorts, home & office, health & wellness, veterans jobs & business services, and jobs & career networking.  Be aware that there is a $59.95 annual fee to use the card, but with exclusive partners such as Foot Locker, CVS Pharmacy, Dell, Apple, Wendy’s, AVIS, Eastbay, and Overstock.com, the fee will pay for itself in no time.  In fact, if you utilize programs offering an average 20% off, you’ll only need to spend $300 to cover the expense of the enrollment.  You’re probably going to be shopping at many of these stores anyway, so you might as well get the enhanced discount offered here.



Here are a few of the deals you’ll get when you sign up for Veterans Advantage:

Target.com: U.S. Active Duty Military, Veterans, National Guard & Reserve and their families will receive $7 off $70 + free shipping on select items at Target.com
AVIS: up to 25% off daily and weekly rates in the contiguous USA
Dell: U.S. Active Duty Military, Veterans, National Guard & Reserve and their families will receive up to 30% off on select desktop, all-in-one & laptop computers
Omaha Steaks: Veterans Advantage members receive an additional 5% off the already discounted website sales prices
Verizon Wireless: Veterans Advantage members presenting their VetRewards cards may receive a 15% discount on the monthly access fees on eligible plans with a monthly access fee of $34.99 or higher, and eligible data features with a monthly access fee of $24.99 or higher.  In addition, you’ll receive a 25% discount on qualifying accessories such as chargers or cell phone cases.
Wyndham Hotels and Resorts: Military veterans, through their Veterans Advantage membership, are honored with a discount up to 20% off the “Best Available Rate” via phone or web reservations.
CVS Pharmacy: Receive 20% off online, plus free shipping.  And the deal is combinable with all CVS promotions!

DD Form 214
Without using one of the sources above, you could fall back on using your DD 214 as proof of your military service.  As you know, when you separate from service you’re given your DD Form 214.  This is one of the most important documents you will receive upon separation, so one of the first things you should do is have this form registered at your local county registrars office.  They will usually scan a copy (for free!) into their system so you will always be able to go back and get a notarized, official copy of the document.  Please do this right away to ensure you have a very quick way of retrieving it.

In the event your DD 214 has been lost, there are steps you can take to replace it.  There are two methods for requesting your military records: electronically, or by paper.  The utilize the electronic method, visit the eVetRecs system.  For the paper method, you’ll need to mail (or fax) a Standard Form SF-180 to the following address:

National Personnel Records Center
1 Archives Drive
St. Louis, MO 63138

If you prefer to fax instead of mail the Standard Form 180, the fax number is: 314-801-9195.  No matter which method you choose, response time will vary.  The NPRC reports they are responding to requests for separation documents within 10 days about 92% of the time, but they ask that you do not send a follow-up request before 90 days have elapsed.


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