I expected some women would be helped by my recent column in which I warned that a marriage certificate may not be satisfactory when applying for a REAL ID in Pennsylvania.
As it turned out, quite a few women had problems similar to those of the unhappy star of the drama, Tara Neal, a 47-year-old teacher who lives in the Northeast.
REAL ID resulted from a 2005 federal law that requires states by October 2020 to enhance security on driver’s licenses and ID cards to be acceptable for federal purposes, such as boarding a domestic commercial flight, or entering a military installation or federal facility that requires ID. (If you don’t have REAL ID, another form of federally acceptable identification, such as a valid passport, usually will suffice.)
When Neal brought her documents to the PennDot office in Neshaminy Mall, they would not accept her marriage certificate. It seems the portion of the marriage license that people take home is just a keepsake. In Philadelphia, the legal document is filed at City Hall, and you need a certified copy to get REAL ID.
The license is required because it helps establish the applicant’s legal name.
That’s what Richboro’s Sue Nelson, 72, learned when she went in to get a REAL ID at the Huntingdon Valley PennDot office.
Married for almost 48 years, she had taken her husband’s last name — Nelson — as hers, as was customary at the time. After marriage, she used her maiden name of Weigand as her middle name, as many women did. Everything she owns is in the name of Susan Weigand Nelson.
Still, even though that is the name on her Social Security card and her driver’s license, PennDot insisted on issuing the REAL ID in the name of Susan Nelson, claiming Weigand relinquished her maiden name when she married.
“The problem now is I must change my checks, credit cards, all titles to house, cars, everything I own, to the name they chose,” she tells me. Otherwise she will have to bear the cost and inconvenience of going to court to legally change her name to the one on her REAL ID card.
At least she got the REAL ID card. Not so for Athole Jacobi, 88, a retired anesthesiologist who lives in Bala Cynwyd, and who was turned away at the Media PennDot office.
All her documents — Social Security, Medicare, driver’s license — have her as Athole G. Jacobi, except her passport, which records her as Athole G. McNeil Jacobi, inserting her maiden name. Because her passport name did not match her other documents, she was rejected. “I can’t believe I’m the only person with this problem,” she says.
She’s not. I heard from another half-dozen women. In most cases the discrepancy between names was minor and evident to anyone looking at the marriage license. It’s hard to believe the clerk could not see this was the same person.
Four people told me their Social Security cards were rejected. What PennDot wants is the current bluish Social Security card with Ionic column on either side, PennDot spokesperson Melanie Baldwin tells me.
Amid the bad news, I discovered a happy wrinkle: You may be able to apply for REAL ID online. If you received your first Pennsylvania driver’s license, learner’s permit, or photo ID after Sept. 1, 2003, PennDot may already have your REAL ID documentation on file, according to a PennDot brochure. To find out if your data are already on file, go to www.PennDOT.gov/REALID
If you are in that database, there’s no need to make a personal appearance at an office.