Starting on January 1, new rules went into effect that allow over 4 million veterans to have access to base commissaries, exchanges and more. Here’s the who, what, where, when and how of the new change so you can start to get your savings right away!
Who is eligible?
The new commissary and exchange rules allow anyone that falls into one of the following groups to shop on base:
- Purple Heart Recipients
- Former POWs
- Vets with any service connected disability
- Caregivers registered with the VA’s Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers Program
- Reserve Members who fit these guidelines
What do you need to get access?
You’ll need some form of proof that you’re eligible to shop on base. That proof can come in a few different forms, depending on your specific situation.
Using the Veteran Health Identification Card (VHIC)
In order to take advantage of the new commissary and exchange rules, your VHIC card must show your eligibility status on the front of the ID, underneath the photo, to be accepted into facilities.
Examples: Purple Heart, Former POW, Service Connected.
Check the VA website for more information.
Shopping without a Veteran Health Identification Card (VHIC)
If you don’t have a VHIC you can get a Letter from the VA with an acceptable REAL ID compliant identification, which includes passports and some state drivers licenses.
If you don’t qualify for a VHIC (vet with 0% non compensable rating), you would need a REAL ID along with a Health Eligibility Center Form H623A.
Call 877-222-VETS (8387) for more information.
Caregivers will also need a VA letter and at least 1 of the 7 types of IDs below:
- Department Of Defense Access Card
- REAL ID or other ID issued by the State, Territory or District of Columbia
- US Passport
- Foreign Passport showing an unexpired immigrant or non-immigrant visa or entry stamp
- Federal Personal ID
- Transportation Worker ID
Where can veterans shop?
Veterans now have access to shop at all of the following locations under the new rules:
- Base Commissaries
- Base Exchanges
- Some MWR/MCCS Facilities like: golf courses, bowling alleys, movie theaters, marinas, kennels, Temporary/PCS Lodging Facilities (on a space available basis)
- Each military branch will decide if the MWR Ticket Office or ITT (Information, Ticket and Tours) will be accessible.
- Gyms, Daycares and Military Uniform Stores ARE NOT accessible.
How does it work?
When arriving at the base, the vet/caregiver will have to have an initial, basic, on the spot background check and show all the required paperwork and proper ID cards. Depending on your situation, this may just be a one-time thing.
- Vets/caregivers with felony convictions, arrest warrants or derogatory information related to criminal history or terrorism will be prohibited from entering the base
- Vets with the proper paperwork can get approved for recurring access which lets them bypass the Gate Guard Command/Control Center and go directly through the gates.
- Spouses may be able to enroll in recurring access if they have all the ID information that is required to access base.
The Vets VHIC or letter will be used at Point Of Sale by either scanning or manually entering the code when using the VA HEC Form H623A to pay for their purchases.
The Commissary charges a 1.9% fee for credit card purchases and a .5% fee for debit cards. If you’d like to avoid the fee, pay for your purchases using cash or check. You can also avoid the fee by applying for a Military Star Card. You can also use your Electronic Benefit Transfer Card (if you’re enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Benefit programs)
The Exchange does not charge any fees during the Point of Sale.
If you don’t live near a base, you can still take advantage of the savings! All honorably discharged vets have access to Online Base Exchange Websites
The goal of establishing these new commissary and exchange rules was to reward and thank our veterans who have stepped up to the plate, sacrificed for our country and earned their status as a United States Veteran.
As Representative Daniel Lipinski, D-Ill, (co-author of the proposal) puts it, “All of these people who fall into these categories are heroes, have given so much for our country above and beyond even what other service members have given. It’s important to recognize that.”
Feature Image courtesy of Clint Stone, U.S. Army