A record number of people hit the Army and Air Force Exchange Service's website over the Veterans Day weekend, officials said, likely thanks to the rollout of a new online veteran shopping benefit.
The benefit, which allows all honorably discharged veterans to shop at the exchange systems' online stores, first began accepting users in April and had its user-wide start date Nov. 11.
Previously, some users who registered via the program's verification system, VetVerify.org, were selected as "beta testers," while others were told to wait until Nov. 11 to shop.
The new benefit brought a 120 percent surge in Veterans Day weekend online sales, AAFES officials said in a release. On Nov. 11, sales tripled year over year; on Nov. 12, sales doubled compared to last year.
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In the months prior to the launch, more than 24,000 new veteran users spent $5.6 million through the new benefit, officials said.
That spending isn't just a big cash increase for AAFES -- it also means more money for the Defense Department's Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) programs. That's because, by law, AAFES and the other exchange services pump 70 percent of earnings into MWR coffers.
To use the new system, veterans must be verified through VetVerify.org. Those who have trouble getting in or whose records are reported as not located should visit the site's frequently asked questions section for help.
The new benefit applies only to online shopping and does not allow veterans access to bases or to shop at commissary stores.
-- Amy Bushatz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.