About 250,000 people have registered for a new benefit from the military exchanges that allows all honorably discharged veterans to shop online, officials with the Army and Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) said Monday.
In the past, exchange access -- both online and at brick-and-mortar stores on military bases worldwide -- has been reserved for active-duty troops and their families; Reserve and Guard members and their families; military retirees; 100 percent service-connected disabled veterans; and the families of fallen troops. Medal of Honor recipients are also given access.
The new benefit, however, allows all honorably discharged troops to access the exchange services' online stores, regardless of how long they spent in uniform.
To access the new benefit, each veteran must submit to VetVerify.org a variety of personal information, including his or her Social Security number.
Beginning Nov. 11, Veterans Day, all qualifying applicants will be able to use the exchange websites to shop. Some applicants will be cleared as "beta testers" and given immediate access to the sites. Other will be required to wait until the official launch date.
Users will be able to access online stories for AAFES, the Navy Exchange, the Marine Corps Exchange and the Coast Guard Exchange.
About 13 million veterans qualify for the new benefit, officials said. Products purchased through the exchanges are tax free, and a percentage of revenue benefits Morale, Welfare and Recreation programs.
The new benefit does not give veterans access to any military base or allow them to shop in-person at the exchange or commissary. It also does not give access to gasoline, tobacco, alcohol or uniform purchases, officials said.
Veterans who have trouble applying should visit VetVerify's frequently asked questions page for more information.
-- Amy Bushatz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.