- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Dear Sgt. Shaft,

I am the widow of a U.S. Air Force retiree. He died Jan. 2, 2004, at age 58. We were married 12 years at the time of his death, although had known each other for over 40 years. When my military ID expired, I was issued a new military ID at Buckley Air Force Base in Colorado as follows:

Sponsor: Richard W. Todd
Sponsor Service Status: USAF/RETDEC
Relationship: URW
Authorized Patronage: EXCHANGE MWR COMMISSARY
Date of Issue: 2006JAN23
Medical: DIRECT YES
Civilian: YES
Effective Date: 2004JAN02
Expiration Date: 2010JAN22

The expired Military ID was confiscated Feb. 6, 2010, at entry gate to Fort Sam Houston, San Antonio, Texas. A DA Form 4137 was given to me in return to use until my new military ID is issued. I was told at entry gate to present DA Form 4137 during checkout at the commissary on post (my destination).

But the checkout clerk at commissary said my DA Form 4137 was invalid for use because it did not indicate “Indefinite Expiration.” She said that “Expiration Date” on my DA Form 4137 meant I was ineligible for commissary privileges. She asked me how long I had been married to my husband. I told her 12 years. She told me I had to have been married to him for 20 years to patronize the commissary. (This was my first time as a widow).

I will present my DA Form 4137 at the ID Card Office at Randolph Air Force Base in a few days. I hope that my new military ID will reflect “Indefinite Expiration.”

Did the checkout clerk at the commissary give me correct information? What did I do wrong to lose commissary privileges?

Thank you for any assistance you can provide. — Diane H.

Dear Diane,

According to my sources an unremarried military widow who was a military spouse for only one day retains her ID card privileges, including commissary, if her spouse dies while on active duty or in retirement. The 20-year rule applies to former spouses. Your ID card should have had an expiration date of four years from issue, which it did. Surviving spouses should get a new ID card as soon as practical after their spouses death, and never let it expire. It can be renewed 30 days before expiration.

Letting an ID card expire, though, puts a spouse at the mercy of clerks and cashiers who may not know the intricacies of the ID card system. However, the DA-4137 should have been sufficient.

Only military retirees are first issued ID cards with “indefinite” expiration dates. Military spouses and widows over age 75 also receive a “permanent” ID card. They wont keep privileges forever — if they remarry they are required to surrender their ID card — but if their status remains unchanged, there is no need to renew after age 75. If younger than age 75, ID cards will be reissued every four years.

I hope this helps.

Shaft notes

Rep. Steve Buyer, Indiana Republican and ranking member on the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, recently reached out to Democratic leaders to bring about a bipartisan legislative effort to assist the record-level numbers of unemployed veterans. The most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows 968,000 veterans are unemployed compared with 807,000 last year. The data also show an alarming 18.3 percent unemployment rate for veterans between ages 20 and 24.

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