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Can Grown Children Qualify for Military Benefits?

(Photo: U.S. Army/Rachel Larue)

Dear Q&B,

My wife's father is retired Army. Does she have commissary privileges?

Eager Shopper

Dear Eager,

I've recently gotten many letters from wishful commissary shoppers or their parents. One retiree wanted to know if his daughter and son-in-law, who live near a base, can shop at the commissary. Another was like you -- he figured that since the commissary rules say only active-duty service members, Guard and Reservists, medical retirees, retirees, Gold Star widows, 100 percent disabled veterans and all of their respective dependents are granted commissary access that they could get in.

The good news is those rules are correct. All of those people and their dependents, including children, can use the commissary.

The bad news is that the military has a very specific definition of "dependent," and rarely does it include children of qualified shoppers who are over 21-years-old or married.

It also doesn't include children who are not receiving the bulk of their support from the qualified user. That means if a military member is divorced and is not providing over half of his children's support, his children do not have commissary privileges, according to Defense Department officials.

Those rules mean that your wife has not been eligible to shop at the commissary since she was 21 or, if you married before she turned 21, since the day of your wedding. The same rule applies for all of her other previous military benefits like health care (although there is an option to extend health care for a few years if she is an unmarried full-time student).

The only time an unmarried "child" over 21 can qualify to use the commissary is if they are incapable of self-support thanks to a mental or physical illness that existed before they were 21 or if they are still a full-time student. Even then, full-time students can use the commissary only until they are 23.

Sorry for the bad news.

Team Q&B

-- Do you have a question about your benefits? Email the Questions and Benefits team at

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