WASHINGTON — Veteran ID cards to be issued by the Department of Veterans Affairs will be pushed back to 2017, according to House Veterans Affairs Committee sources, in order to fully test the GPS tracking functionality of the card mandated by Congress.
The implanted radio frequency identification chips, or "RFID trackers," are required by the “Veterans Identification Card Act of 2015,” signed into law by President Obama last July. House Armed Services Committee members say the chips are there "to help protect those who protect our freedom," but none would go on the record about the program, or who authored the amendment requiring the chips.
Similar technology is used in automotive and consumer applications but is proving unreliable in locations veterans typically frequent.
"Our first major challenge was penetrating the windowless clubhouses typical of veteran organizations," said program manager George Orville. "Once we fixed that bug, we moved onto electromagnetic noise from strip club sound systems. But signal interruption from dense structures — like reinforced concrete walls, freezers, aluminum foil hats, and lead-lined containers — really strain today's RFID technology."
Reports also surfaced during early testing about the tracking chips overheating while in a user's pocket, activating its self-destruct function. But Orville says those reports are blown out of proportion.
"Reports of injury from the self-destruct function are wildly exaggerated," said Orville, before boarding a black Chinook helicopter. "One or two users experienced some mild discomfort, but the tracking device worked as designed, allowing first responders to subdue the veterans before they became violent and out of control."
Despite the minor injuries and numerous setbacks, Orville is confident that he and his team will have the technology ready for mass production in the fall of 2017.
"We're thinking an early to mid-September release," Orville added. "Probably around the 11th."
Veteran's group leaders across the nation have condemned the tracking policy as unconstitutional, citing the 4th, 5th and 14th amendments, along with dozens of other federal statutes and Supreme Court precedents.
The veteran's themselves are another matter, however, due to the offer of a free "US Veteran" trucker hat emblazoned with the branch of service or tour of duty of their choice with every ID card.
"This is an egregious violation of the Constitution and, normally, we would not stand for it. No way," said VFW Post 2314 member Alex Little. "But have you seen the artist's rendition of those hats? I'll be the first one in line for my veteran ID card come 2017."