As we reported on Oct. 19 in a look at questions around the new Department of Veterans Affairs veteran identification card, some veterans told us they were encountering trouble when attempting to register with Vets.gov — a step that vets must complete to qualify for the national ID card when the VA begins accepting applications in November. It turns out there’s a workaround, but figuring that out required some help from VA spokesman Curtis Cashour. Now we’re going to use the information Cashour relayed to us to help you.
A series of emails from July between an Army veteran and a customer representative for ID.me, the third-party company that verifies users’ identities, suggested that veterans who wanted the ID card were out of luck unless they had a post-paid cellphone contract. “Without a non prepaid phone number in your name, it will not be possible to access Vets.gov,” an ID.me representative wrote in one email. “If your number [is] non-prepaid and the bill is in your name, please let me know so we can troubleshoot further.”
After we reported on those emails, ID.me Chief Marketing Officer Julie Filion reached out to Task & Purpose, letting us know that an update made on Aug. 15 should now allow veterans with prepaid phone plans to register with Vets.gov.
“It should no longer be an issue,” she said.
The fact that vets with prepaid phones had registration issues at all was due to anti-fraud concerns. “Veterans are one of the biggest victims of identity theft so it’s important that we have to make sure that the veteran who is trying to access the site is, in fact, that veteran,” Filion said. “You always have to balance security and access… We are constantly trying to expand access without compromising security.”
As seen in the screenshot below, when you visit Vets.gov, you are presented with three options: 1. sign in with DS Logon; 2. sign in with ID.me; or, in the event the user does not have either a DS Logon or an ID.me account, 3. create an ID.me account.
Veterans who have trouble registering through ID.me have another option that is not immediately obvious: Pick option one — “sign in with DS Logon” — even if you’ve never heard of DS Logon. Only then will you be able to find the option to create an eBenefits premium account, also known as DS Logon, which requires users to be enrolled in Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS). All service members and veterans who have served since 1982 were automatically enrolled in DEERS, according to the VA website, while “those who served prior to 1982 are being added from VA/DoD records.” For those eligible, DS Logon is probably the quicker option.
If you look right below the Login button, you’ll see a tab that says “More DS Logon Options.” Click it, and you’ll see four more color-coded tabs. The first is labeled “Need a DS Logon?”
Fill out all the info and you’re good to go.
“Within the last month, Vets.gov added a feature that allows Veterans with a DS Logon Premium account to access our site without having to re-verify their identity,” Cashour explained. “Users can sign up on the site and select DS Logon to enter their credentials and get access to the site.”
“Additional information is available on our FAQ page here,” he added, providing a link to the Vets.gov FAQ page featured above.
That may still not be enough guidance for most veterans to navigate the site alone. The first question on the FAQ page is “How do I sign in to Vets.gov — and what does signing in do for me?”
The answer: “To get started, you’ll create an account through ID.me, our trusted technology partner in helping to keep your personal information safe…. Or, you can sign in with your or DS Logon account.” Below that, the page has two broad categories to guide veterans: “Using ID.me to create your account” and “Signing in with your existing My HealtheVet or DS Logon account.” There is no tab for “Using DS Logon to create your account.”
UPDATE: This article was updated to reflect that ID.me changed their authentication processes to improve access for prepaid phone plan holders registering with Vets.gov through ID.me. Staffers for ID.me also found inaccurate information on the Vets.gov FAQ page after seeing it in a screenshot in this article. Vets.gov has updated that page, and we have updated our screenshot. (Updated 10/20/2017; 6:00 pm EST).