VA smart cards link to benefits

The Department of Veterans Affairs will distribute 200,000 smart cards to

military veterans and agency employees by next June to help them apply for

their benefits over the Internet.

In the first major step to distribute smart cards across the federal

government, 3-G International Inc. has been selected to provide the security

and authentication to make the program work.

During the first phase of the $3.6 million contract, VA Express cards

will be distributed in the Chicago area. The smart card distribution paves

the way for the use of 3GI's Passage software with up to 4 million VA Express

cards for veterans and VA employees.

The company will issue the smart cards — similar in size to a credit

card — under a reseller agreement with Maximus Inc.

The cards contain administrative, clinical and eligibility information

as well as a veteran's digital signature on a microchip. The technology

will enable veterans to conduct digitally signed transactions over the Internet

for such benefits as education reimbursements, disability checks and survivor

benefits.

"We're providing network security capability and authenticating who

it is to the [VA]," said Tom Gregg, 3GI's chief executive officer.

The company also is providing authentication software and services for

more than 500,000 smart cards to other agencies, including the Defense Department,

the Navy, the Air Force and the General Services Administration, according

to Gregg.

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