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Expanding the Benefit – Veterans Newly Eligible for Commissary Shopping Privileges

According to the Department of Defense, starting Jan. 1, 2020, all service-connected Veterans, Purple Heart recipients, former prisoners of war and individuals approved and designated as the primary family caregivers of eligible Veterans under the Department of Veterans Affairs Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers (PCAFC) can use commissaries, exchanges, and morale, welfare and recreation (MWR) retail facilities, in-person and online.

For more information regarding these privileges and access to military installations, visit http://www.militaryonesource.mil/expanding-access


Who is eligible Jan. 1, 2020?

  • Veterans
    • Purple Heart recipients
    • former prisoners of war
    • Veterans with 0-90% service-connected disability ratings (For more information on disability compensation, visit https://www.va.gov/disability/eligibility/)
    • Medal of Honor recipients and Veterans with 100% service-connected disability ratings are already eligible under existing DOD policy.
    • Caregivers
      • On Jan. 1, individuals approved and designated as the primary family caregiver of an eligible veteran under the PCAFC will be eligible for these privileges.
      • For information about primary family caregivers in the PCAFC, visit https://www.caregiver.va.gov/.


Required credentials.

  • Veterans
    • On Jan. 1, Veterans eligible solely under this act who are eligible to obtain a Veteran Health Identification Card must use this credential for in-person installation and privilege access. The card must display the Veteran’s eligibility status (i.e., PURPLE HEART, FORMER POW or SERVICE CONNECTED). Apply here:  https://www.va.gov/healthbenefits/vhic/index.asp.
    • Veterans eligible solely under this act who are not enrolled in or are not eligible to enroll in VA health care, or who are enrolled in VA health care, but do not possess a Veteran Health Identification Card will not have access to DoD and Coast Guard installations for in-person commissary, exchange, and MWR retail privileges, but will have full access to online exchanges and American Forces Travel.
    • Medal of Honor recipients and Veterans with 100% service-connected disability ratings are eligible for DoD credentials under DoD policy.


  • Caregivers
    • Eligible caregivers must receive an eligibility letter from VA’s Office of Community Care.
    • If you are a primary family caregiver under the PCAFC and lose your eligibility letter, please call 1-877-733-7927 to request a replacement.  Please allow two weeks for processing.

Some installations have begun posting base specific guidance for newly eligible visitors. Check in with your local visitors center to learn more about the required credentials and processes for gaining long term access. The below link offers guidance provided by Fort Drum, NY.

Fort Drum NY Access guidance: https://home.army.mil/drum/index.php/about/news/news-archives-january-2020/expanding-access


For newly eligible shoppers gaining Commissary privledges solely under this act, a small fee will be applied to their purchases if they are made with a credit or debit card. This fee is required in order to cover the increase in costs to the U.S. Treasury when processing these additional commmerical credit card transactions. However, patrons using cash, check or their Military Star Card can avoid this surcharge altogether when using these forms of payment.


The Commissary Value - "It's Worth The Trip!"

Many states continue to charge a sales tax on groceries, making the Commissary benefit even more valuable in locations such as Mississippi or Alabama. Additionally, overall Commissary savings are periodically measured against traditional outside retailers, building confidence in the value of the benefit. The below calculations included applicable sales tax in commercial grocery stores as well as the 5% surchage applied at Commissary stores. A link to the origonal source material is available below the chart.

Commissary region Jan-March savings compared
to civilian stores
New England 22.2%
South Atlantic 20.4%
South Central 19%
Pacific 24.6%
Mountain 20.3%
North Central 22.5%
Alaska/Hawaii 37.7%
U.S. 22.2%
Overseas 43.8%
Global weighted average 25.7%

The above chart was taken from a May 2019 MilitaryTimes article by Karen Jowers, which can be viewed here: https://www.militarytimes.com/pay-benefits/2019/05/17/have-you-shopped-at-your-commissary-lately-savings-are-up-and-more-plans-are-in-the-works/


This is an exciting time for all of us, as it’s the largest expansion of eligible Commissary shoppers in over 60 years. The expansion goes beyond the Commissary, however, with the following MWR facilities providing access to the newly eligible where possible:

  • Military Service Exchanges
  • Golf Courses
  • Bowling Facilities
  • Recreational Lodging
  • RV Campgrounds
  • Movie Theaters


We hope that the newly eligible with take time to visit their nearby Commissaries and enjoy the value that is now available to them. We believe you'll find our products in store to be wholesome, healthy options for your family at a retail price that allows you to feel good about your purchase. Stay tuned for further information as we look to increase awareness, further enhance the value of the Commissary benefit and provide a positive resource for those looking for more information. We encourage you to reach out to us via Twitter, Facebook or e-mail if you'd like to engage with us about the Commissary benefit or our fresh produce offering. Please let us know if you have questions, suggestions or any other feedback you may wish to express. We’re here for you and ready to listen.




Additional Resources: