WWII veteran still sorting out driver’s license designation after oversight, legislation

Investigations

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — For the second time in 7 months, a World War II veteran has been denied a veteran’s designation on his Tennessee driver’s license because DMV officials said he didn’t have proper documentation.

WATE 6 On Your Side’s Don Dare first reported the story in January, when at the time, legislation was adopted to correct the oversight for World War II veterans.

The state’s designated driver’s license for veterans was introduced in 2013. To get the special license, a veteran needs to present a copy of their Department of Defense Form 214.

But, when WWII vets left the service, DD Form 214s did not yet exist.

The state of Tennessee insists these 90-year-old vets show proof of their DD Form 214 in order to get the veteran’s driver’s license — which has created a bit of a conundrum.

Dave Stevenson is a patient man. The 93-year-old retired Oak Ridge professional engineer does not get upset easily. But his patience is running thin with the Tennessee driver’s license office.

“Well, it’s beginning to be a little amusing at this point. Yes, my patience is a little thin,” Stevenson said.

Put simply, he would like to have a Tennessee veteran’s driver’s license, with the “veterans” designation, available, to those who were honorably discharged.

At the age of 18, Stevenson enlisted in the Navy as many young men did at the time. He served as an aviation machinist’s mate beginning in May 1945. When WWII ended in the spring and late summer of that year, he remained in the Navy until July 1946.

Stevenson still has his honorable discharge document prepared by the Department of War — as there was no Department of Defense in 1946. It shows his entire history of WWII service.

In January of this year, Yager filed a new bill that would allow discharge documentation presented to veterans of World War II to take effect July 1.

But on July 1, when Stevenson went to the driver’s license office and presented the document, he was denied the special veteran’s designated license for the second time.

“She looked at the document, she turned it over and she looked at her computer — for maybe two minutes — and said, I’m sorry we can’t accept that,” Stevenson said.

The 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. The capstone military service document. As he told us in January, his discharge paper was likely never seen before at the license center.

“They said it doesn’t verify or certify your veteran’s status,” Stevenson said.

“This sends a terrible message to all of our World War II veterans,” state Sen. Ken Yager said.

“The lady from the Department of Safety said if it isn’t the specific form designated in the law, we cannot accept it,” Stevenson said.

Stevenson didn’t present a NavPers 553 document — which he was never given in 1946.

“And on the back, it says transcribed from,” Stevenson said of the document he was given in 1946. “They’re splitting hairs. In bureaucratic language that is not a NavPers 553. It is transcribed from (it). It’s not a matter of life or death, but I’d like to have that strip on my driver’s license.”

On Tuesday the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security wrote saying Stevenson did not present a NavPers 553 document and the department is not authorized to issue the veteran license. The state encouraged him to write to the state’s Department of Veteran Services to secure the document.

Stevenson says he’s now wondering, how many other WWII Navy vets, who would also like that special license, are in the same boat he’s in.

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