9 Investigates

Real ID: Vet who can’t get driver’s license turns to Channel 9 for help

KISSIMMEE, Fla. — A Kissimmee veteran turned to 9 Investigates for help because despite serving our country, he cannot even get a driver’s license in Florida.

It is because of restrictions within the Real ID Act, a federal law intended to strengthen and streamline identification from state to state.

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Investigative reporter Karla Ray looked into his case and learned that there may be major issues ahead as the country approaches a federal deadline for everyone to have a “Real ID.”

That deadline was recently extended again because of the coronavirus pandemic. All states will need to be in compliance by May 2023.

Florida has been issuing “Real ID” licenses since 2010. The licenses include a small star on them.

The requirements to get one can be surprising.

At almost 63, Alan McNamee has plenty of paperwork detailing his life and who he is, but one detail is derailing his efforts to get a new license.

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“When you were born? What was your name?” Ray asked him during an interview.

“Alan Munson,” McNamee said.

Alan’s name was unofficially changed when he was a toddler after his mother remarried. Throughout his schooling, it was never a problem.

Even when he joined the military, there was a special form for him to justify why his name did not match his birth records.

“They said, ‘When you sign that, that’s who you’re going to be for the rest of your life unless you go to court and have it changed,’” McNamee said.

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Since then, he has used McNamee on his mortgages, credit cards, and even his now-expired driver’s license, but it was never officially changed where it matters most.

“The only thing I have in my life that says ‘Munson’ on it was my birth certificate,” McNamee said.

That is problematic for him when it comes to getting a “Real ID.”

The law was passed after 9/11 to set a nationwide standard for identification. It requires a passport or birth certificate, a social security card or tax return and two documents providing proof of residence in order to get a “Real ID.”

McNamee does not have the combination needed showing the same name.

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“I can’t do anything,” he said. “I can’t give blood, vote, fly, get on a bus, get on a train. I couldn’t get on a cruise ship if I wanted to leave the country. I can’t get a driver’s license, cash a check, apply for a job.”

Studies show he is not alone. A pre-pandemic report published by the U.S. Travel Association found that almost 75% of Americans were unprepared for the original October 2020 deadline of full implementation of the Real ID Act.

An estimated 99 million Americans -- almost 40% -- did not have any form of identification that would be accepted for a Real ID.

“It’s the one document you have to have,” McNamee said.

Another option for McNamee would be to legally change his name and petition his home state of California to amend his birth certificate. But there is no telling how long that would take.

In the meantime, 9 Investigates connected McNamee with U.S. Rep. Darren Soto’s office, and members of his staff said they believe they might be able to provide him help.

Karla Ray

Karla Ray, WFTV.com

Karla Ray anchors Eyewitness News This Morning on Saturday and Sundays, and is an investigative reporter for the 9 Investigates unit.