USA — Puerto Rican Troops, Families Need New Birth Certificates

WASHINGTON, June 21, 2010 — Ser­vice­mem­bers and their fam­i­lies who were born in Puer­to Rico will need to obtain a new birth cer­tifi­cate start­ing July 1, although the Defense Depart­ment will hon­or the cer­tifi­cate they used to estab­lish their iden­ti­ty and to enroll for mil­i­tary ben­e­fits pri­or to that date, a defense offi­cial said.

The Puer­to Rican gov­ern­ment, in coop­er­a­tion with the depart­ments of State and Home­land Secu­ri­ty, has enact­ed a new law that inval­i­dates all Puer­to Rico birth cer­tifi­cates issued on or before June 30. The law, which takes effect July 1, is intend­ed to com­bat the fraud­u­lent use of Puer­to Rico birth cer­tifi­cates to obtain U.S. pass­ports, Social Secu­ri­ty ben­e­fits and oth­er fed­er­al ser­vices, accord­ing to the Puer­to Rico Fed­er­al Affairs Admin­is­tra­tion.

With­in the Defense Depart­ment, offi­cials will accept only the new, cer­ti­fied birth cer­tifi­cate for ini­tial enroll­ment into the Defense Eli­gi­bil­i­ty Enroll­ment Report­ing Sys­tem as of July 1, said Hei­di Boyd, senior pol­i­cy ana­lyst for Defense Depart­ment ID card pol­i­cy. DEERS is the department’s data­base of ser­vice­mem­bers, their fam­i­ly mem­bers and oth­ers who are eli­gi­ble for mil­i­tary ben­e­fits, includ­ing the Tri­care mil­i­tary health plan.

How­ev­er, the birth cer­tifi­cate used by ser­vice­mem­bers and their fam­i­lies to enroll in DEERS pri­or to July 1 will remain valid and they will remain enrolled, Boyd said.

“Iden­ti­ty is very impor­tant for [the Defense Depart­ment], and we need as much as we can to estab­lish iden­ti­ty,” she said. “But we’re not going to take someone’s ben­e­fits away. We’re going to make sure every­one gets the cov­er­age and enti­tle­ments they’re sup­posed to get through this process.”

Still, Boyd rec­om­mends that ser­vice­mem­bers, their fam­i­lies, Defense Depart­ment civil­ians and con­trac­tors born in Puer­to Rico apply for a new birth cer­tifi­cate for iden­ti­fi­ca­tion pur­pos­es, includ­ing ID card renew­al.

“Peo­ple with an old birth cer­tifi­cate should do the best they can to get a new one as quick­ly as pos­si­ble,” she advised. “And we’ll do every­thing we can to make sure the process is easy for them and ben­e­fits are not dis­rupt­ed.”

Peo­ple can apply for a new cer­tifi­cate online at, or through the mail by com­plet­ing an appli­ca­tion avail­able at

While peo­ple can apply now, the gov­ern­ment won’t start issu­ing the new birth cer­tifi­cates until July 1, Boyd not­ed.

The Defense Depart­ment also is work­ing with the Puer­to Rican gov­ern­ment to estab­lish an expe­dit­ed mail-in sys­tem for mil­i­tary mem­bers, accord­ing to Christo­pher Arendt, deputy direc­tor of acces­sion pol­i­cy. This sys­tem, he added, still is in the plan­ning stages, and peo­ple should con­tin­ue to apply online until it’s launched.

After July 1, peo­ple who have applied for but haven’t yet received the new birth cer­tifi­cate and require DEERS enroll­ment or an ID card issuance or renew­al can obtain a tem­po­rary 90-day card through their mil­i­tary ser­vice branch, Boyd said. She also encour­aged ser­vice­mem­bers and their fam­i­lies to keep alter­nate doc­u­ments, such as a pass­port or driver’s license, on hand to estab­lish iden­ti­ty and eli­gi­bil­i­ty.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)