Expanded patronage: On Jan. 1, commissaries welcome home select veterans to their new shopping privileges

by Keith Desbois
DeCA

FORT LEE, Va. – Starting Jan. 1, all service-connected disabled veterans, Purple Heart recipients, former prisoners of war and primary veteran caregivers will be eligible to shop at commissaries worldwide.

“I want to be one of the first to welcome home this group of veterans to their commissary,” said retired Rear Adm. Robert J. Bianchi, DOD special assistant for commissary operations. “Whether they shopped at the commissary when they were on active duty, or are first-time shoppers, we are sure they will enjoy the savings and excellent customer experience associated with this benefit.”

The newly eligible customers, about 3 million in all, will also be able to shop the military exchanges and use certain morale, welfare and recreation activities. The expanded privileges and access are the result of the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act.

The Department of Defense, Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Homeland Security (the expansion also applies to Coast Guard facilities) have partnered to make the expansion possible. Details of eligibility and military installation access follow:

  • Disabled and other eligible veterans: The Veteran Health Identification card (VHIC), with “Purple Heart,” “Former POW” or “Service Connected” printed on the front, will be required for access into the installation and entry to the stores.
  • Caregivers: The benefit applies to the approved and designated primary family caregiver of service-connected disabled veterans who are registered in the Department of Veterans Affairs Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers to receive shopping privileges. Visit the VA’s caregiver page for more information. Beginning in November, the VA will start sending memos for caregivers to be used for access at the front gate, along with a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license or other approved government-issued photo ID.

“Our new patrons have earned this benefit through their service and subsequent personal sacrifice to our nation or by caring for a veteran with a service-connected disability,” Bianchi said. “We are honored to open our doors to these heroes and eligible caregivers.”

For more information on this new program, go to www.militaryonesource.mil/expanding-access, or to determine eligibility, visit a local VA medical facility; call 1-877-222-VETS (8387), Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m., Eastern time or apply online at VA.gov.

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