In the past, this created a problem. Your DD-214, in its original form, is bulky and inconvenient to haul around. It's not impressive to pull out a wadded copy from your jeans pocket or one folded 6 times from an overstuffed slot in your wallet. And worst of all, if you have to carry it around then you have to keep track of it at all times, as it contains your very sensitive and personal information that would be very attractive to identity thieves. This has led a number of veterans and organizations to seek a better solution.
One of the earliest (and crudest) methods was for veterans to try to miniaturize their DD-214 and then laminate it (so it could easily fit in a wallet). The problem these veterans soon discovered was that you couldn't read anything on it without a magnifying glass. Needless to say, carrying around a miniaturized version of your DD-214 along with your own personal magnifying glass didn't make things easier.
This prompted some local governments, organizations, and companies to try to come up with their own version of a "veteran's card," something that enabled a veteran to quickly and easily prove his service. Some of these recent attempts to solve the age old veteran problem appear more legitimate than others. The ones that appear more legitimate tend to come from local county governments, where veterans are to appear in person with their government issued ID and a copy of their DD-214 to pay for a Veteran ID Card. On the other end of the spectrum, some of the less legitimate ones are available to anyone (without even submitting a DD-214)! Unfortunately, none are based on any kind of nation-wide standard. And nearly all of them come with a major fault: non-veterans can still commit a fraud on the system to claim benefits that they are not entitled to.
A copy of a DD-214 (or even a blank copy of one) in even a pair of moderately skillful hands can be fraudulently altered. This has been going on since before computer image-editing software became mainstream. Con-artists would simply find a copy of a DD-214 and then "white-out" or paint over relevant portions to fill in with their own personal details, and then use the document to fraudulently retrieve benefits through the VA Hospital or any number of other benefits which veterans are entitled to. Nowadays, anyone with a printer, scanner, and decent computer can do the same thing even easier! These local governments and organizations may help solve the portability problem, but they aren't solving the "false valor" problem at all (if anything, they may be perpetuating it by making it seem more legitimate!) So what can be done about this?
Well, the ONLY way you can truly solve both problems (portability and false valor) is by receiving a card that has been independently verified by 3rd party. Think of it as a way of vetting service, or performing a bit of a background check. You request your DD-214 directly from the government records facility where it is kept, and then the facility sends it directly to a third-party verification company. The third-party verification company then pulls the important, but non-private, information directly from your DD-214 and creates a custom, verified, wallet-sized Veterans Card that goes directly back to you.
Okay, you say. But if someone can duplicate a DD-214 then surely they can duplicate a card too. Yes, BUT ONLY if there isn't another level of security. The only way to truly validate the card and its contents is by having some sort of quick method where ANYONE can quickly verify your card. So far, we've only seen one example where this double proofing is properly incorporated: the VetRecs Card (click).
The VetRecs Card works much the way we've described above. You request your DD-214 direct from the government, the government sends it to a company called Touchstone Research Group, then Touchstone pulls your info from your DD-214 and issues you a verified card. Along with the card, you get access to your secure digital DD-214 on their website, so you can easily access if it is absolutely needed (or use it to get a replacement card if you happen to lose yours). But the real catch is this new feature where ANYONE with a smart phone can verify the card, and thus verify your service. This added level of verification and security is what separates the VetRecs Card from all the others. The person simply scans the personalized QR Code on the back of the card with his or her cell phone, which brings up a screen that prompts you to enter your custom PIN (or they call it a PIC – Personal Identification Code). You simply enter your short PIC, click Submit, then poof, a green CardValid screen pops up confirming your card is legit and you are, in fact, the real deal. Each card has its own veteran's account linked and its own Validation PIC. It is like having a safe within a safe: any fraudulent veterans will be out of luck.
You can check them out by clicking this link - The Official VetRecs Card - or, you know, you can stick with the ole magnifying glass. But don't come back complaining when you burn a hole through your miniature DD-214!
HINT: Try the free QR Code Reader NeoReader from your favorite app store (or almost any other QR Code reader),
and Elvis' PIC E1v15 on just the QR code shown on his card above. Pretty neat!
But very bad for phoney veterans :-)