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3 Million to Gain Access To Military Shopping

military shopping

According to an article by Military Times, 3 million more people will gain access to military shopping in 2020. These new customers will be able to shop at the Commissary and the Exchange.  In addition, they will have access to some MWR programs.

** For latest updates, go here.

When Will They Gain Access

This will start on January 1st, 2020.

Why is This Happening?

 This change is happening because of changes made in the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA,) which was passed in 2018.

Who Will Now Gain Access?

  • All service-connected disabled veterans will now have access. Before, those with a 100% service-connected disability did have access, now that will be open to all veterans with a service-connected disability.
  • Purple Heart recipients
  • Former POWs
  • Primary caregivers of veterans

With these additions, about 3 million more people will have access to these shopping benefits.

What Needs to Be Done to Prepare?

As you can imagine, there will need to be some preparation before this goes into effect. The Departments of Defense, Veterans Affairs, and Homeland Security have been planning for the change for months. They needed to figure out how to get the new customers on post or base since they don’t all have your typical military IDs. They also need to figure out what the impact will be on the stores and make sure that there will be enough products for the new customers.

The Department of Homeland Security has been involved because this change also affects the Coast Guard. Stores near a bigger military veteran population will probably see a bigger change.

Disabled and other eligible veterans will be able to use their Veterans Health ID card. They will start scanning these cards in October and will still need to update technology at the commissary.

Primary Caregivers: What You’ll Need

For primary caregivers, the VA will post a memo to VA.gov in October, to be used for access at the front gate. They will also need to show a driver’s license or other authorized ID. There will later be a caregiver type ID card that can be scanned. The number of caregivers who are eligible for this benefit will also probably be going up in the future.

They will also need to charge a credit card fee at Commissaries for the newly added customers. They will not have to charge a fee when they use the Military Star Card, cash, or check. The fee itself isn’t determined yet.

New Military Shopping Benefits

It is nice to see these military benefits expanded to those who can really benefit from them. This change will help save more veterans and caregivers money and allow them to take part in programs they otherwise haven’t been able to do so before.

October 2019 Updates

According to Military.com, having heard from Barry Patrick, the Associate Director of MWR and Resale Policy in the Office of the Under Secretary for Personnel and Readiness, and Justin Hall, the Director of the MWR and Resale Policy in the Office of the Under Secretary for Personnel and Readiness, there have been a few updates about those who will be able to start shopping at the Commissary on January 1st, 2020 since we first published this article about the upcoming change.

  • The DoD expects about 800,000 to shop will actually take advantage of this new benefit. This figure is out of the 3.5 million who will be newly eligible. They expect many veterans in high-cost areas like:
    • Guam
    • Alaska
    • Hawaii
    • Parts of California
    • Parts of Texas
    • Washington D.C.
  • They have been using a data analytics tool to help know what they need to provide.  This will help them to adjust to this new change.
  • Pentagon officials have been working to guarantee that new patrons can get to the stores.  This is due to the face that most are on secure military installations.
  • When it comes to caregivers using the benefit, there will be a memo issued to those who are eligible to shop at the Commissary.  The memo will need to be used with any picture ID that meets the Real ID Act security requirements.  These include driver’s license or a passport.
  • After January 1st, 2020, newly eligible patrons will be able to go to the visitor’s center on the military installations.  Then they will be able to register their credentials.  Going forward they will be able to access the base or the post in the same way as those with CAC and DoD ID cards do.
  • Store computers are being tweaked to scan VHID cards and employees are being trained on identifying the new patrons.
  • There will be a fee for the new patrons when using a credit card or debit card only.  There will not be fees for those using cash, check or the Military Star Card. Those using commercial credit cards will be charged a 1.9% fee. Those using debit cards will be charged a 0.5% fee. New patrons will be able to apply for a Military Star Card on January 1st, 2020.
  • There will be a fact sheet that will help explain all the information new patrons will need.  This will include items such as how to get a VHID card and how caregivers can get the memo.
  • There will also be an information campaign to alert service-connected disabled veterans of this new benefit.



About the author

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Julie Provost is a freelance writer, and blogger. She lives in Tennessee with her National Guard husband and three boys.