Veterans with Base Access Still Face Delays on New Commissary Benefit

(Defense Commissary Agency)
(Defense Commissary Agency)

Having prior access to a base won't be enough to allow newly eligible veterans to shop at its commissary and exchange Jan. 1, has learned.

Beginning Jan. 1, Purple Heart recipients, former prisoners of war, veterans with any service-connected disability will be eligible to shop at on-base facilities -- if they hold a Veterans Health Identification Card. But access will be delayed for those who do not have a VHIC as military officials negotiate access to secure military facilities for what may potentially be millions of new shoppers.

And that delay applies even to those prospective customers who are able to get on base under other forms of Defense Department or Coast Guard identification, such as contractors and DoD civilian employees.

This is because there's no other way to differentiate one Department of Defense or Coast Guard credential holder from someone who is eligible to shop at commissaries, exchanges and MWR facilities, like golf courses or movie theaters, a DoD spokeswoman said via email.


The DoD and Department of Veterans Affairs announced last month it will let eligible veterans gain access to these facilities in two phases.

The first group to be able to shop on bases are veterans with a VHIC that displays their status. They are joined by veteran caregivers registered in the VA’s caregiver program and equipped with a letter certifying their eligibility.

It has not yet been announced when the second group, veterans without this VA health insurance card, will be allowed base access.

"While DoD and Coast Guard civilian employees and contractors have access to installations through DoD and Coast Guard-issued credentials," the spokeswoman wrote, "if those credentials do not authorize commissary or exchange access in the capacity for which they were issued (specific affiliation with the DoD or Coast Guard), they cannot be accepted for access to benefits outside of that affiliation with DoD or the Coast Guard."

"Bottom line," she concluded, "the credential used must be authorized for access to the benefit."

-- Dorothy Mills-Gregg can be reached at Follow her on Twitter at @DMillsGregg.

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