A press release issued by the department said that legislation passed in 2011 authorized the state to publicly recognize veterans' military service. However, they couldn't offer it until their latest redesign of Tennessee driver licenses and photo IDs. The release said that all licenses and IDs are now being mailed to citizens from a central location which is known as "central issuance." Several states, due to the REAL ID Act of 2005, participate in a "central issuance" system and also offer the veteran designation.
TDSHS Commissioner Bill Gibbons said, "We know that veterans have waited a long time for this special recognition. It is the least we can do to honor their service to our state and country. We are pleased to now be able to offer this designation to any honorably discharged veteran who presents the proper discharge form."
"To be recognized by the state through this new veteran designated driver license or ID is incredibly important to those who served our country," Veterans Affairs Commissioner Many-Bears Grinder said. "This new ID will also be a source of convenience for veterans who do not typically carry their discharge papers with them everywhere they go to prove their veteran status."
On Aug. 28, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security told Examiner that, as of Feb. 25, 19 states are in compliance with the REAL ID Act. The REAL ID Act was passed by Congress and signed into law by former President George W. Bush in response to the Sep. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. However, all of the hijackers entered the country legally and were issued legitimate driver licenses and IDs, according to the National Immigration Law Center. Nineteen hijackers had 13 driver licenses and 21 federal or state-issued IDs. Seven of the hijackers used "false statements of residency" to obtain IDs in Virginia.
The REAL ID Act remains controversial as some believe it is essentially a national ID card. Last year, U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., told Examiner, " ... I do not support turning more than 240 million driver’s licenses into national ID cards, with state taxpayers paying most of the cost. This is one more unfunded federal mandate imposed on the states." U.S. Rep. John Duncan Jr. agreed.
Forty-one states, including Tennessee, use MorphoTrust USA for their licensing systems. MorphoTrust is a division of Safran. Safran also creates unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) for the federal government. They also supply biometric systems for the FBI, Department of Defense, and the Department of State.
The REAL IDs use facial recognition software. And last month, The Cincinnati Enquirer revealed that Ohio has been using that technology, and their driver license photo database, to identify individuals on security cameras around the state.
On Sep. 3, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation told Examiner that the "TBI does not use driver's license photos for facial recognition software ... " The bureau referred us to the TDSHS, but it previously told Examiner that they don't do that either.
In 2007, the Tennessee legislature passed SJR248, which asked Congress to repeal the act. It also said that the state would not implement the act unless it was funded by the federal government. It appears that the resolution didn't hold much weight because, last year, TDSHS Commissioner Gibbons asked Governor Bill Haslam for $600,000 to fund the REAL ID's image verification system.
The release included instructions on obtaining a veteran designation:
Veterans must visit a driver services center and present a certified or original copy of their Department of Defense form 214 (DD-214), which is also known as discharge papers, to receive the special designation on a driver license or photo ID card. If the license or card is a renewal or duplicate of a non-commercial driver license, veterans may also visit one of the Department of Safety and Homeland Security’s county clerk partners.
The standard state issuance or renewal fees apply for the transaction. If it is not time to renew a driver license or photo ID, veterans may get a duplicate to replace a current non-commercial license or ID for $8 for the first duplicate and $12 for a second duplicate.