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VA ID not enough for free meal
Letter to editor
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Editor, There is one day every year when my husband and I look forward to enjoying a free or reduced-price meal or treat in honor of our service to the United States of America. We also like to mingle with other veterans and current service members. Sadly, we were denied this opportunity Nov. 11 at Applebee’s in Flemington.
We were among the early customers. After my husband showed his retiree identification card, I presented my photographic Department of Veterans Affairs military ID. The server said she did not think it would suffice. My husband and I both looked at her puzzled since that is the only card I have ever used at Applebee’s as proof of my 12 years of service. It is the same card I used last year and the year before. It’s same card I use when I go for any type of medical treatment at any VA hospital or clinic. We thought surely she was joking.
The server got her manager, who came to our table and told me that my ID would not be accepted as proof of my service. I felt like melting into the carpet.
The Applebee’s manager said I would need to bring in either a leave and earning statement, a photo of me in uniform or my DD Form 214 to qualify for a complimentary meal.
My husband politely asked the manager how his restaurant deals with people who only served a day in the military, or those who got out without retiring and don’t use VA facilities, or those who don’t carry around a DD Form 214, an LES or a military photo?
The manager, who said he served in the military for more than 20 years, said his restaurant’s website specifically listed acceptable forms of identification for a complimentary Veterans Day meal.
My issue was not the denial of a free meal. My husband and I have visited Applebee’s other times. We pay our bill and leave sizeable tips for our servers. We could have paid for our meal on Veterans Day, but after our confrontation with the manager, I felt sick. So, we left.
Tears rolled down my cheeks as we made our way home. I was frustrated but determined, so I searched high and low for some additional proof of my service. I found a photo of myself being promoted to technical sergeant, a photo of myself at basic training, a photo of myself in the deserts of Saudi Arabia from Desert Shield/Desert Storm, a photo of myself promoting another airman, a white plastic active-duty medical card and a 1992 Air Force leave and earning statement. It took me a couple of hours to find them, but I did.
I had no luck locating my DD Form 214, but I am sure it is in the upstairs attic, packed away in one of my boxes of military papers. I did not realize I would need to dig it out for a meal.
And I guess I need to let the VA know that the photo ID card it issues only to people who have served in the military — not dependents — is of no use at Applebee’s on certain occasions.
Don’t get me wrong — I like Applebee’s and will continue to visit the restaurant. But from now on, I will be driving to the one in Brunswick or Florida.

— Jennifer Scales

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