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Food Stamps, WIC, Debit Terminals at Most Commissaries Fixed

soldier in commissary

A computer glitch that blocked commissaries from processing food stamps, electronic WIC transactions or debit card cash back has been repaired at most commissaries stateside, Defense Commissary Agency officials said Wednesday.

Commissaries overseas should be back online for transactions requiring a pin pad by Jan. 2, officials said.

The shutdown at thousands of commissaries and civilian stores was caused by the expiration of the pin pads' security certificate early this month. The certificate, good for 10 years, was installed in 2004. But the terminals’ manufacturer, Hypercom, has since been absorbed by another company, Equinox Payments.

Officials there said the expiration was "unforeseen."

In the meantime, WIC transactions have been processed on paper, debit cards have been run as credit with no cash back available, and users of the food stamp program have had to take their benefits off base.

Commissary shoppers used $130.6 million in food stamps, officially known as the Supplement Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), in fiscal 2013, the most recent year for which data is available, according to the Defense Department. About $29 million in Woman and Infant Children (WIC) benefits were redeemed that same year. 

About 40 percent of the pin pads that went down at commissaries Dec. 7 could be fixed remotely with a software update, DeCA officials said. The rest had to be shipped to a DeCA depot for repair. That depot had about 500 units on hand, officials said, and was able to distribute them to stores right away, decreasing the outage's impact, they said.

The new security certificate, DeCA officials said, is good for 15 years with an expiration of Dec., 2029. 

-- Amy Bushatz can be reached at amy.bushatz@military.com