As the free ID cards from the Department of Veterans Affairs for all honorably discharged veterans began to appear in mailboxes this month, veterans likely noticed something unusual on the back: the Office Depot logo.
The logo, which also appeared on a mock-up card last year, appears under an advertisement for the VA's crisis hotline and the words "Saluting you today and every day. Thanks for taking care of business."
Office Depot is printing and shipping the cards for free, Andrew Tomlin, vice president of print services for Office Depot Inc., said in a statement.
"Office Depot is partnering with the Department of Veterans Affairs to produce and ship VA ID cards at no cost," he said.
But Tomlin said the company does not offer a veteran discount for those who have the card. "At this time, there is no discount tied to the ID cards," he said.
According to the Office Depot website, the company instead offers a 20 percent veteran discount to members of the private discount company Veterans Advantage.
Congress in 2015 ordered the VA to provide the free cards as a way to help veterans show proof of service to private businesses without carrying their DD-214 discharge papers, which contain sensitive personal information such as their Social Security number. Lawmakers, however, did not approve any additional funding for the VA to produce or ship the cards.
VA officials said Office Depot agreed to provide the cards through until the end of fiscal 2020.
"Office Depot recognizes the sacrifices that our veterans have made, and its logo represents the company's support as well as its partnership in print production and delivery of the ID cards," Curtis Cashour, a VA spokesman, said in a statement. "Office Depot will cover the cost of printing and mailing the Veteran ID Card until September 2020."
The front of each card features a photo of the veteran, the veteran's name, the title "Choose VA," two official seals and an identification number. It also states, "This card serves as proof of service in the Uniformed Services of the United States and does not reflect entitlement to any benefits administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs."
The card program has faced a series of technical challenges since starting last November, when its online server crashed under a glut of applications. Officials closed and then reopened applications early this year. The cards, which were originally to be mailed beginning in March, were instead sent to approved applicants starting May 4, officials said.
About 98,270 veteran applications for the card have been received as of May 14, Cashour said. Of those, 26,034 had been approved and 10,735 had been mailed.
Veterans must apply for the card online. Card applications are not available at VA facilities. Veterans can also download and print a version of the card directly from the VA's website.
-- Amy Bushatz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.