COLUMBIA — Two South Carolina lawmakers said Thursday they will fix a glitch in a new law that apparently keeps some National Guard members from getting a special veteran’s designation on their driver’s licenses.
“There was never any intention to cut out anybody who wore a uniform and honorably served their country,” said Sen. Jake Knotts, a West Columbia Republican who sponsored the original legislation.
Knotts said he already has begun writing a revision and will introduce it in the upcoming session.
Rep. James Smith, a Democrat from Columbia and member of the South Carolina Army National Guard, said lawmakers “need to go back to the drawing board. It’s an important matter and it will be fixed. It’s clear what our intent was.”
The original bill was intended to allow those who served honorably in the Armed Forces to have the word “veteran” inserted below their photo.
The designation helps veterans get discounts and other benefits from local businesses.
Legislators passed the law in April, and the Department of Motor Vehicles announced in September that it was able to comply with the measure.
The law requires veterans to show the Department of Motor Vehicles the form known as a DD-214, a form National Guard members do not get unless they are called to active duty or serve in a combat zone under a federal status.
DMV spokeswoman Beth Parks said the agency must follow the law as it is written.
Robert Jeter of Boiling Springs told the Herald-Journal of Spartanburg that when he took his NGB Form 22 to the DMV as a record of his National Guard service, he was told he needed the DD-214.
Because he had that form as well, he retrieved it and had the designation placed on his commercial driver’s license. But Jeter told the newspaper that he was concerned about others in the Guard who had served, but would not have the right form since they had not been called up for federal active duty.
“They’re turning people away at the DMV saying we’re not veterans,” Jeter told the paper. “I’m trying to be a mouth for everybody who wouldn’t get their honor.”
Smith, who was deployed to Afghanistan for a year in 2008 as a captain in the Army National Guard, said the misunderstanding came about because so many of South Carolina’s Guardsmen and women have deployed in recent years.
“Whether you served at home, or were deployed, we think you should be eligible,” he said.