Military veterans have earned the benefits they are offered by the nation, and Bill Schultz, El Dorado county recorder and director of veterans affairs, wants to make sure they know they have community support.
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Schultz developed a Veteran Identification Card that he is rolling out on March 9 at the Sunday breakfast scheduled at the Veterans Memorial Building in Placerville. The card, when presented to participating businesses in El Dorado County, offers veterans discounts on goods and services. Currently, there are businesses nationwide that offer discounts to veterans, but the veteran must present a copy of his/her DD 214 to receive it. A small, laminated card is a better fit in a wallet and more durable than a piece of paper.
The process is simple and quick. There is a very brief application that the veteran completes and brings along with his/her DD 214 or other separation papers. After the Veteran Affairs technician verifies the DD 214 and checks the veteran’s photo ID, a photo of the veteran is taken and he/she is asked how they want their name to appear on the card and the primary branch of military they served. A forward-facing monitor shows the veteran everything being printed on the card. A couple of minutes later a laminated ID card pops out of a machine and the process is complete.
The only information presented on the card is the veteran’s name, as they want it to appear, and their primary branch of service, along with their photo. No address, phone or other information appears.
“The information they fill out on the application is entered into our state certified, secure system,” said Schultz. “Then, if they want veterans benefits at some later time, the information is already there and the process is smooth and quick. This is also very helpful for families if their veteran should die, because there are benefits they can apply for.”
That is another purpose for the card — to qualify veterans for benefits they may be eligible to receive.
“But you don’t have to be entered into the system in order to receive an ID card,” said Sean Conley-Widing, one of two veterans hired part-time to create the cards.
If a veteran doesn’t have a copy of their DD 214, Veterans Affairs can help. “We may already have a copy on file if they have been in before,” said Schultz, “or after filling out the application we can access the national database and obtain a copy for them.” Requested DD 214s can take 30-90 days to receive from the national database, but Veterans Affairs will contact the veteran when the DD 214 is received and then they can complete the process for their ID card.
Schultz said there are approximately 17,000 military veterans in El Dorado County, but the Veterans Affairs Department only sees about 2,000-3,000 of them each year. “Some don’t think they need the benefits now, or they think because they served two years or didn’t serve overseas, that they don’t qualify. They earned those benefits and we want to help them. We’re here to serve veterans and their families,” he said.
Retired military and those with medical disabilities may already have ID cards, but they can still come in and get a discount ID card. Veterans Affairs office staff will assist with filling out applications for benefits, obtaining copies of DD 214s and discussing benefits for which the veteran may be eligible.
“We’ve gotten a lot of support for this,” said Schultz, “including some funding from the California Veterans Affairs and the El Dorado County Board of Supervisors.”
Schultz, a Korean and Vietnam veteran himself, is most excited about taking the ID card process to the streets. “All of the equipment we use is mobile and we plan to start taking it to the libraries, the American Legion Hall and every place we think veterans will be gathered,” said Schultz. “I’m looking forward to taking it to South Lake Tahoe. There are a lot of veterans up there and it’s like they are in a different world. We just have to help them.”
“Veterans won’t have to come to the Veterans Memorial Building,” said Conley-Widing. “We’ll be going to them.”
Hotels like Best Western and Marriott; restaurants like Denny’s, Burger King, Quizno’s and Taco Bell; the Geek Squad; Target; Walgreens; Radio Shack; Sally Beauty Supply; NAPA Auto Parts; Auto Zone; AT&T; Sprint and Verizon as well as a host of retail and entertainment businesses currently offer discounts with the ID card and the number of locally participating businesses is growing daily. Participating businesses receive a poster reading “We Support Veterans” for their window.
“It does two things,” said Schultz. “It lets veterans know that the community supports them and shows which businesses offer that support. “A list of participating businesses, both local and nationwide, will be on the El Dorado County Veterans Affairs Website at edcgov.us/Veterans. Businesses wishing to participate in the program can e-mail EDC Veterans Affairs at email@example.com.
Contact Wendy Schultz at 530 344-5069 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @wschultzMtDemo on Twitter.