Congress, Pentagon step toward allowing far more shoppers on base

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The Exchange at Offutt Air Force Base, Neb., is seen in May 2017.  NATI HARNIK/AP
From Stripes.com
The Exchange at Offutt Air Force Base, Neb., is seen in May 2017. NATI HARNIK/AP

Congress, Pentagon step toward allowing far more shoppers on base

by: Tom Philpott | .
Stars and Stripes | .
published: July 06, 2018

Defense Department officials have told Congress they conditionally support opening on-base shopping to disabled veterans, Purple Heart recipients and caregivers of severely injured veterans — changes to current law that would add at least a few hundred thousand weekly shoppers to commissaries and exchanges nationwide.

The initiative to allow more veterans access to military stores, which is gaining political steam, is found in the House-passed version of the fiscal 2019 defense authorization. Proponents argue it would reward with shopper discounts deserving veterans who live near military bases and also strengthen a beleaguered military resale system.

Commissaries in particular are seen as in trouble after 50 consecutive months of declining sales and pressure mounting to reduce the $1.3 billion annual appropriation needed to sustain current grocery discounts on base.

At the direction of Congress, the department completed a study last December on the feasibility of expanding access to limited base shopping to veterans with VA disability ratings of 30 percent or higher and also to Purple Heart recipients. The expanded shopping benefit eyed is described as “limited” because it would exclude on-base purchases of alcohol and tobacco products and of military uniform items.

Read more at: https://www.stripes.com/1.536168

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