With identity theft as the major fraud reported by Americans in 2003, the Department of Veterans Affairs has designed a new identity card for veterans that will safeguard confidential information.

“The new card ensures veterans' personal information is protected,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Anthony J. Principi. “It also helps prevent the theft of important benefits and services from veterans that they earned by their service to our country.”

The card, formally known as the Veterans Identification Card (VIC), will have veterans' photos on the front and identify them as enrollees in the VA's health care system. The card includes the words “service connected” under the photo if the veteran has a service-connected disability.

Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in the nation. The Federal Trade Commission listed identity theft as the number one fraud reported by consumers in 2003. Requests from veterans and their congressional representatives were instrumental in bringing about these latest changes.

“The new VIC ensures the security of veterans' personal information as well as ensuring that only eligible veterans receive the benefits and services they've earned,” said Kristin Cunningham of the business office for VA's health care system.

Veterans should request the new card at their local medical center. Processing will take five to seven days once eligibility is verified. VA hopes to complete the conversion to the new, safer card by mid-November. The existing cards will remain valid until veterans receive the new cards.