#HowTo Apply for National & CA State Park Passes

Did you know that, based on your service-connection rating, you may qualify for lifetime passes to National & State Parks? Over the past few years, the California Department of Veterans Affairs (CalVet) has passed out information on programs allowing Veterans and Servicemembers free access to national and state parks. Here is a tutorial on how you can apply for one or both passes but, first, some information on eligibility and what you’ll need.

America the Beautiful Access Pass for National ParksDistinguished Veteran Pass for CA State Parks
What is it?A free, lifetime pass that provides admittance to more than 2,000 recreation sites managed by five Federal agencies.A free, lifetime pass that entitles the holder to the use of all basic facilities in California State Parks at no charge.
Eligibility Requirements🌲 U.S. citizen or permanent resident of any age
🌲 Have been medically determined to have a permanent disability* that severely limits one or more major life activities
🌲 Permanent resident of California
🌲 Must have been Honorably Discharged
🌲 For Disabled Veterans: Must have overall/combined rating of 50% or greater service-connected disability.
🌲 Must be a verified Prisoner of War (POW).
🌲 Must be a verified Medal of Honor recipient.
What You Need to Apply🌲 Proof of citizenship/residency: U.S. State/Territory-issued driver’s license, ID or birth certificate; U.S. passport or passport card or; permanent resident card (Green Card).
🌲 Proof of permanent disability: Statement signed by a licensed physician; Federally-issued document attesting to medical eligibility for benefits (i.e., VA-issued Summary of Benefits Letter**) or; State-issued document (i.e., vocational rehab agency) attesting to medical eligibility for benefits/services.
🌲 NPS Form 10-596, Application for Mail Order Sales of the America The Beautiful – The National and Federal Recreational Lands Access Pass
🌲 Valid CA driver’s license or ID showing current residence address.
🌲 Proof of CA residency: Current property tax bill or; CA voter registration card or; Form 1098T, Tuition Payments Statement or; signed/dated/notarized rental agreement/contract.
🌲 Disabled Veterans: Proof of service (i.e. DD Form 214*** or VA Summary of Benefits Letter**) and a current VA-issued letter dated within one year of application stating overall/combined rating of 50% or greater service-connected disability.
🌲 For POWS: VA-issued letter or copy of personnel records verifying POW status.
🌲 For Medal of Honor Recipients: VA issued-letter or copy of military personnel records verifying Medal of Honor recipient status.
🌲 DPR 619, Distinguished Veteran Pass Application
Fees (if applicable)$10.00 for processing online or for mail orders but the pass itself is free.None.
* A permanent disability is a permanent physical, mental, or sensory impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, such as caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, and working.
** VA Summary of Benefits Letter can be obtained online using eBenefits: www.ebenefits.va.gov.
*** Request your DD Form 214 here: https://www.archives.gov/veterans/military-service-records

Once you’ve got all your documents together, you can submit your application packets in a few ways: in-person or online for national and mail for both. Due to the pandemic, in-person access to a park representative may be limited or unavailable. Additionally, mail orders may take longer than usual due to the pandemic. The key is to be patient. Below are the details for each pass type.

America the Beautiful Access Pass for National ParksDistinguished Veteran Pass for CA State Parks
In-PersonYes, you can at site locations across the country. If you apply in person, you don’t need to fill out an application.Not an option: These passes are issued by mail only.
OnlineYes, you can at the USGS Store.Not an option: These passes are issued by mail only.
Mail Your Application Packet HereUSGS
Attn: Access Pass

Box 25286
Denver, CO 80225
California State Parks
Attn: Distinguished Veteran Pass Program

P.O. Box 942896
Sacramento, CA 94296-0001
How Long Will It Take To Get Your Pass?Please all allow 10-12 weeks for processing and shipping.Please allow 8-10 weeks for processing
Will I Need to Renew My Pass?No.Yes, although it’s a lifetime pass, you’ll need to renew every five (5) years. CA Parks will send you a new card prior to the expiration starting June 1, 2022.
Need More Information?Click here…Click here…

Once you get your passes, you’ll be able to go to any National Park across the nation or throughout the State of California for free. To be honest, it is worth the time and the $10 fee. Now, get your card, pack your gear, and get out there and explore!