Veterans and Gold Star Families now receive free lifetime access to national parks

Nov 10, 2020

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On the eve of Veterans Day, those who served in the U.S. armed forces or families that lost someone during military service have a new lifetime perk.

The Department of Veterans Affairs and Secretary of the Interior, David Bernhardt, announced free access to national parks, wildlife refuges and other federal lands managed by the Department of the Interior “starting on Veterans Day this year and every day onward.”

As the coronavirus pandemic remains a threat, this is especially good news for any servicemembers or surviving loved ones hoping to hit the road and get outdoors with socially distant activities. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends visiting parks in order to stay physically active — one of the best ways to keep your mind and body healthy.

TPG has covered the best national parks in the U.S. and writer Katie Genter has visited several this summer, recounting what it’s like to be in the parks during the pandemic.

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(Photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy)

Personally, I can’t wait to explore national parks in my region with my new RV. If you don’t have an RV, you can still use points to stay at hotels near national parks.

“With the utmost respect and gratitude, we are granting Veterans and Gold Star Families free access to the iconic and treasured lands they fought to protect starting this Veterans Day and every single day thereafter,” said Secretary of the Interior Bernhardt.

For this program, a Veteran is identified as an individual who has served in the United States Armed Forces, including the National Guard and Reserves, and is able to present one of the following forms of identification:

  • Department of Defense Identification Card
  • Veteran Health Identification Card (VHIC)
  • Veteran ID Card
  • Veterans designation on a state-issued U.S. driver’s license or identification card

Free access is equivalent to a national parks annual pass, called the America the Beautiful Pass, which currently costs $80 per year.

I found the easiest ways to get a Veterans ID card are right on the Veterans Affairs (VA) website, by contacting your local VA office where your state typically can issue you an ID card — or you can head to your nearest VA Health Clinic and register for VA Health services where you’ll receive the aforementioned Veteran Health Identification Card. I’ve used the health identification card nationwide without trouble to prove my veteran status for a myriad of purposes.

Make sure to check out our other veterans and active military travel coverage including the best travel perks and discounts for servicemembers and the best credit cards for active-duty military. This is one of the very few lifetime benefits afforded to veterans without any disability and I encourage all my fellow men and women who served to take advantage.

Featured by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy.

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