The Lebanon County Veterans Affairs Office has started issuing free photo ID cards to veterans of all branches of the military who live in Lebanon County.

Veterans from all eras know the simple importance of their Form DD214: It’s proof that they served and essential to show entitlement to all kinds of government and private sector benefits.

But it’s also an 8 1/2 by 11 sheet of paper that gets lost, can’t fit in a wallet, and doesn’t last long when crumpled up and stuffed into a pocket.

That’s where county Veterans Affairs Director Scott Kohr, a Marine Corps vet, and his office can make things a little easier.

Local vets can now get a credit card size ID which certifies that their DD214 is recorded and on file at the Lebanon County Recorder of Deeds. The database is not open to the public.

Vets have been able to record their DD214s at the Recorder’s office for years, and many have done so. Recording provides a back up if the original is lost or if vets die without telling their family where to find it.

“Recording your DD214 is a safeguard for veterans and their families,” Kohr said, “but it doesn’t help if you need to produce one outside the courthouse.”

Now, in almost all cases, the new photo card makes it as easy to prove you’re a vet as it is to prove you’re a licensed driver.

Kohr said “almost all” because “any person or agency that requires proof of veteran status can, by law, insist on seeing a real DD-214. There are some businesses that won’t take an ID card.”

The service is provided to any veteran residing in Lebanon County. “Everything is free,” said Kohr, who estimates that there are upwards of 20,000 vets in the county.

Members of the Pennsylvania National Guard may also qualify if they retired from the National Guard or if they had been called up to active duty by the federal government. Kohr said that information would be on their DD-214 or NGB-22 form.

57 veterans had gotten ID cards as of last week. Kohr knows that’s not nearly enough and is doing all he can to spread the news. “So far, it’s been word-of-mouth, Commissioner [Jo Ellen] Litz has posted video, I am over at the VA hospital all the time, and we’re telling local veterans’ organizations.”

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The cost comes out of Veterans Affairs Office budget, which is funded by Lebanon County.

Kohr said the decision to issue veterans ID cards brings Lebanon County into line with almost every other Pennsylvania county. “I believe there are now only three counties left that don’t issue them.”

How to get a free Lebanon County Veteran ID Card

Where: The Lebanon County Office of Veterans’ Affairs, Room 106, Lebanon Municipal Building, 400 S. 8th Street, Lebanon. Telephone 717-228-4422.

When: The Veterans’ Affairs Office is open Monday through Friday from 8:30am to 4:30pm.

What you need: (1) Your form DD214. If it’s not already recorded at the Recorder of Deeds, bring along the original or a copy issued by the Defense Department. (2) Satisfactory proof of your identity.

If you can’t find your DD214: The Veterans’ Affairs Office can assist you in applying for a duplicate.

Article updated on Nov. 6 to clarify which National Guard members are eligible for this card.