Kevin Hunt - The Bottom Line
The Bottom Line
December 1, 2012
Home Depot lost a customer recently when it stopped honoring Tom Colapietro's Naval Reserve identification card for the retailer's 10 percent discount for veterans.
Colapietro, a Navy veteran who says he spent thousands of dollars at the local Bristol Home Depot, was told he'd need a new card from the Disabled American Veterans to comply with the store's discount policy. Colapietro took his Naval Reserve card, and his business, to the nearby Lowe's for the 10 percent discount.
Now the state of Connecticut isn't too happy with Home Depot. After a Bottom Line column last week about Colapietro's experience, the state decided it was a good time to announce a program that, starting Jan. 1, will issue driver's licenses and identification cards designating veteran status with an American flag.
Even as official state-issue identification, though, the new licenses do not comply with identification required by Home Depot for its 10 percent veterans' discount. Under its current policy, Home Depot will accept three types of Department of Defense-issued cards: A United States Uniformed Services Privilege and Identification Card for retirees, retired reservists and their dependents and dependents of active-duty personnel or retirees; a Common Access Card issued to active-duty military and reserve personnel; and a Veterans Administration identification card.
Many veterans, including some who qualify for the state's new driver's license and ID card, are not eligible for the Home Depot discount. (Both Home Depot and Lowe's allow all veterans a 10 percent discount on Memorial Day, the Fourth of July and Veterans Day.) Colapietro did not retire from the Navy and is not an active reservist.
"The [new] driver's license does not denote, specifically, a veteran's status in terms of being retired or disabled," says Home Depot spokesman Stephen Holmes. "We've kept a national policy for IDs across our stores to avoid confusion and lack of consistency, so I'm not aware of any change we're making on this front."
The state appears ready to fight for its cards as official veterans identification recognized anywhere, including Home Depot.
"There is another large segment of honorably discharge veterans who served their country and deserve the same recognition," said Melody A. Currey, commissioner of the state Department of Motor Vehicles, and Linda S. Schwartz, commissioner of the state Department of Veterans Affairs, in a joint statement Thursday, "even though they did not make military service a career or receive disabling injuries. We hope that Lowe's and Home Depot will reconsider and also offer their everyday discounts to these veterans, too . . . and use a soon-to-start new veteran's designation on the Connecticut driver's license as proof of identity."
The state says the new driver's licenses and ID cards will help first responders, emergency rooms and healthcare providers link veterans with services and programs available from the state Department of Veterans' Affairs and the Veterans Administration. Although the program starts officially on Jan. 1, the state has been accepting applications since Nov. 1. Applications are available from the Department of Veterans Affairs or at the state's new website dedicated to veterans (www.Veterans.ct.gov), at ct.gov/dmv/veteranslicense or by calling the veterans' info line: 866-928-8387.
To qualify, a veteran must provide proof of military service, with a minimum of 90 days of active federal service. (A DD Form 214, or DD-214, issued by the Department of Defense, or a pre-1950 WG AGO Discharge certificate is required.) Proof of an honorable discharge or a discharge under honorable conditions is also required.
A Lowe's spokeswoman says the retailer will honor the new Connecticut driver's license and ID card with the veteran's designation for a 10 percent only on the appropriate holidays — Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Veterans Day weekends. Home Depot will likely honor the license on those holidays, too, even though it doesn't meet the basic qualifications.
"This is as fine of an identifier as anything else that someone is a veteran," says William Seymour, a state Department of Motor Vehicles spokesman. "We are in the business of documenting an identity for the veterans in the state of Connecticut. How could people reject state credentials?"
Like Home Depot, Lowe's gives daily discounts to people serving in, or retired after 20 years from, the military with a valid military ID. Any disabled veteran receiving Veterans Administration benefits who has a valid Veterans Identification Card also is eligible.
It's apparent both Home Depot and Lowe's have not enforced its daily-discount policies uniformly in its stores. Sometimes, neither customer or cashier knows the rules.
"Quite frankly," says Holmes, "what may have been the case, even before 2010 [when Home Depot started its daily-discount program for veterans], some stores maybe have been giving the discount every day. They might not have been following the policy that we had at the time."
Bill Dove of Broad Brook, a retired reservist, says he's had trouble getting a veteran's discount at Home Depot even with a qualifying card — a blue, for retired, United States Uniformed Services Privilege and Identification Card. Dove says Home Depot cashiers have written instructions that include a color photo of eligible card, red for retired veterans under 60.
"I even got a supervisor involved and showed her my retired status," says Dove, "all to no avail. So I sent an email to [Home Depot headquarters in] Atlanta. The response was what I'd call sticky sweet, as in 'so sorry that you do not qualify.' But here is the kicker — they also sent the current policy, which specifically does recognize the retired status."
Colapietro, now a 10-percent-discount regular at Lowe's, has given up on Home Depot.
"They originally said the discount was for veterans," he says. "They can keep it. I'm not jumping through any more hoops for 10 percent. That's what I think they are trying to do — make it more difficult so the vets say, 'Forget it.' I guess they have a right to set their own policies, but why offer it then take it away?"
Will Lowe's be next? Colapietro might not know it, but his lapsed reservist card technically does not qualify for that retailer's military discount, either.
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