WWII vet sorts out veterans license designation after oversight, new legislation

Investigations

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — A World War II veteran was turned down recently when he applied for a “veteran” designated driver’s license.

As a result of the oversight, a new bill has been introduced in Nashville that will change the wording of the law and make WWII vets eligible.

The form that is required to get the special license didn’t exist when WWII veterans were discharged more than 70 years ago.

Dave Stevenson left the service, honorably, in 1946. At the time, discharged veterans received a formal document — their honorable discharge, which includes their record of service.

Stevenson still has his original copy, but it’s not the kind of document required for the special license, which is a DD Form 214.

They didn’t have those forms back then.

Stevenson is an energetic 92-year-old. Married for 69 years, the retired professional engineer from Oak Ridge has followed rules all his life.

As an 18-year-old in 1945, he volunteered for military service.

“When you got of high school in ’44 and ’45, you knew you were going in the service. So, I chose the Navy,” Stevenson said.

In early 1945, thousands of men were drafted and volunteered to serve in World War II. But the conflict ended in the spring and late summer of that year. Dave remained in the Navy until July of 1946.

A few weeks ago, he visited a state license center to get a new driver’s license. He wanted a special “veteran” designation on his license as shown in this sample. It’s provided to all vets who were honorably discharged.

Dave carried his discharge with him as he went to a driver’s license office. The document shows the entire history of his World War II service and what happened next surprised the veteran.

“The clerk looked at it and took it to her supervisor and she said, we can’t accept that,” he said.

A state document from September 2013 says to acquire the designed driver’s license, the veteran must present a copy of their Department of Defense Form 214 (DD Form 214).

“There was no DD 214 (in 1946),” Stevenson said. “The department of defense came into existence in about September of 1947.”

He’s right — the Department of War was established in 1789. The armed forces were under its control. In September 1947, a new name was adopted. The War Department became the Department of Defense.

The discharge paper Dave presented was likely never seen before at the license center.

“It had to be a DD Form 214, that’s what the legislation says. It’s pretty clear cut,” he said.

For state Senator Ken Yager (R-Kingston), the situation was not ok.

“This sends a terrible message to all of our World War II veterans,” Sen. Yager told WATE 6 On Your Side.

Sen. Yager filed a new bill (SB 1613) in Nashville last week as a Co-Prime Sponsor. Yager says when Dave Stevenson brought the “veteran” designation issue to his attention, steps were taken to assist other World War II veterans.

“To make it possible for veterans who were discharged before September of 1947 to be able to receive this designation, It’s a bill that changes the law to allow veterans who don’t have that particular form because they were discharged before there was a department of defense, to provide other documentation in order to have the designation on their license,” Yager explained.

Dave’s plan now is to visit a driver’s center as soon as the new bill is passed.

“I’ll go get the strip on my driver’s license. Maybe I’ll get a free dinner somewhere,” he said.

Sen. Yager says he immediately found a co-sponsor for the revised legislation as well as a sponsor in the Tennessee House of Representatives.

Also, the first DD Form 214s were issued in 1950, replacing the older War Department and Naval personnel discharge documents.

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