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Millions More Vets and Caregivers Are About to Get Commissary, Exchange Access

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The Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs are gearing up for what will be the largest expansion of patrons to the military commissary system and exchanges in 65 years, making sure that shoppers will be able to get on base and find the shelves fully stocked. Starting Jan. 1, Purple Heart recipients, former prisoners of war and all service-connected disabled veterans, regardless of rating, as well as caregivers enrolled in the VA's Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers program, will be able to shop at Defense Commissary Agency stores and military exchanges. They also will have access to revenue-generating Morale, Recreation and Welfare amenities, such as golf courses, recreation areas, theaters, bowling alleys, campgrounds and lodging facilities that are operated by MWR. At commissaries, however, there will be an added cost for new patrons who use a credit or debit card to pay for their groceries, in addition to the 5% surcharge commissary patrons already pay. Read more on Military.com.

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That's cool!  This should help a lot of veterans living on small paychecks.  I think the biggest savings is not paying sales tax on items.  The mark-up on commissary items is minimal.  I enjoy shopping on mil. installations. 

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Dave has a purple heart. It's been many years since we shopped on base. I doubt we'd go that far away to shop there now, though, since we'd probably spend on gas close to what we saved on groceries. In fact, I don't even know if our local Naval Air Station is still in service. When Dave was in Nam I used to take my friends there to go bowling.

Linda

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Yeah ND, I think those that actually use it will find the same as you and me do.

Linda,

I loved using the bases while traveling for the FamCamps, shopping the Commissary, and buying gas on base, which was usually a bit less than off base prices. It's a win - win.

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Having access to the campgrounds will be a plus for those vets that have not had that access.  I wonder if some FamCamps and military campgrounds will now move from a first come first serve to a reservation system like other famcamps and military campgrounds already use.  A few times I have arrived to a military campground that does not accept reservations just to be turned away due to it being full.  

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That's great, glad I'm subscribed here. I have to say when we walked thru the BX at my son's AF base I was not impressed by the prices. Are they better?

The CG access is something I could use. Maybe get a spot down in Key West...heh.

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BX prices should and most do, match local prices.  The BX is not in the business to be in competition with local outlets.  The real savings is in taxes.  Small items it's a wash, more of a convenience for basers.  On medium to larger ticket items the tax break can make a big difference.  Having to travel to a base to shop is not worth it but having a base between us and town, it is a great deal for us, and folks like us.  Most FAM camps are not destinations per say, but they are great and mostly inexpensive camps to stop at when traveling.  Saying that, there are some that I call destinations.  Look at the ones on coastal areas, or mountainous areas, most are better than commercial camp-grounds.  Yes, there are some I would rather stay at a commercial cg than on base.  Over all, if on your route, well worth stopping at.  Most of them.....

http://militarycampgrounds.us/milcamps

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I agree with ND about prices and tax advantages. The BX can be a great value for clearance and returns. And buying big ticket items as stated. The Commissary is a big savings on most items and a wash on others, but usually beats all every day prices off base. Some categories like

I moved to Colorado Springs as we both detest the "climate" here. We only came off the road to help our last remaining parents and handle their succession. For folks there who did not retire there are three bases that they can use. The US Air Force Academy, Peterson AFB, and Fort Carson. There's also Schriver AFS which uses Peterson's Commissary and BX, and Cheyenne Mountain which is only accessible to those stationed there for Stargate activities, secret tunnels to areas 51, 52, 53, among others, the alien body storage and reverse engineering alien technology centers. JUST KIDDING! I've never been inside. Anyway, we use Peterson because we are ten minutes from the Commissary there. 20 minutes from the USAFA commissary, and about 40 minutes to Ft. Carson I think. We haven't tried that one yet.

My wife's been there since May and me here in Louisiana to keep up the house and not have to pay $150.00 - 200900 a week to cut grass on the three acres or so of the 4.76 acres that I mow. I'm closing this Louisiana house sale mid October as it just sold last week. After I rejoin my wife up there I'll know more, but those are the commissaries and BXs she said are open to retirees. I don't know if all or just one will be available to vets there but will post back what happens in a few months so vets passing/stopping by the Springs will know if they can use one or all there.

Edited by RV_

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What I didn't see there was any indication of what exactly one needs to take advantage of this change. 

Quote

Since most new patrons lack the credentials needed to get on military bases, installations will accept the Veteran Health Identification card, or VHID, from disabled and other eligible veterans.

As far as I can tell from reading the article, vets like myself who have VA healthcare but with a co-pay and are neither disabled nor retired would not be included, but we do have that card. I wonder if the card is the determining factor? 

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This is premature. The phrase " from disabled and other eligible veterans" means other eligible. Until it comes out and implemented we won't be sure. Disqualifiers IMHO could be discharge other than honorable, banned from base locally by base commander, theft of Valor, etc. The rest should be eligible. All vets can get the VA ID card who are honorably discharged and served a minimum amount of time, which used to be 18 months for benefits. May be more or less time today.

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Does not seem to be ambiguous to me:

" Starting Jan. 1, Purple Heart recipients, former prisoners of war and all service-connected disabled veterans, regardless of rating, as well as caregivers enrolled in the VA's Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers program, will be able to shop at Defense Commissary Agency stores and military exchanges.

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Howdy!

I have a rating that is service connected but it is not a 100%. I for one would like to be able to begin making use of the military campgrounds around the country.

Thanks for the information.

” Happy Trails “

Chiefneon

Edited by chiefneon

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Thanks Agesilaus!

Good catch you're right. For now those are the rules.

Gary,

I believe you can because I'm seeing any rating:

"Starting Jan. 1, Purple Heart recipients, former prisoners of war and all service-connected disabled veterans, regardless of rating, as well as caregivers enrolled in the VA's Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers program, will be able to shop at Defense Commissary Agency stores and military exchanges.

They also will have access to revenue-generating Morale, Recreation and Welfare amenities, such as golf courses, recreation areas, theaters, bowling alleys, campgrounds and lodging facilities that are operated by MWR."

Source: https://www.military.com/daily-news/2019/09/20/millions-more-vets-and-caregivers-are-about-get-commissary-exchange-access.html

 

Edited by RV_

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On 9/23/2019 at 8:30 PM, NDBirdman said:

That's cool!  This should help a lot of veterans living on small paychecks.  I think the biggest savings is not paying sales tax on items.  The mark-up on commissary items is minimal.  I enjoy shopping on mil. installations. 

I think depends a lot on where you live. I find that I can find almost all groceries for the same or less than in the commissary and since groceries in Colorado are tax free it actually can be less because of no surcharge. Groceries stores can actually sell items for less than cost at times as "loss leaders" and the commissary is unable to do so.

Now, don't get me wrong. I will sometimes shop the commissary if I am on base for another reason, but I will not go just to shop. As for the other benefits it will be interesting to see how it is all implemented, especially the use of the Famcamps. 

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2 hours ago, Chalkie said:

especially the use of the Famcamps. 

It has always amazed me that in many cases bases allow their use by nonmilitary employees of the DOD but do not allow their use by veterans who didn't stay to retire. 

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On 9/28/2019 at 4:08 PM, Kirk W said:

It has always amazed me that in many cases bases allow their use by nonmilitary employees of the DOD but do not allow their use by veterans who didn't stay to retire. 

That is actually pretty standard. As it currently stands active duty are able to make reservations 90 days out and retirees/DOD employees can only reserve 60 days out. I have found that in one or two instances that has forced us to look elsewhere to be assured of a reserved spot. I guess I will need to wait until January 1st to see implementation rules if they are not published beforehand. 

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The rules have been finalized. Here is a quote from the email I received from the VA.

Quote

The Defense Department has announced expanded Commissary, Military Service Exchange and MWR access Jan. 1 and established a standard for physical access to military installations.

Veterans and Primary Family Caregivers who are eligible and want to take advantage of in-person benefits must have a Veterans Health Identification Card, or VHIC. Primary Family Caregivers must have an eligibility letter from VA’s Office of Community Care.

Veterans use VHICs for identification and check-in at VA appointments, but will also use them for base access under the new program.

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).

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.

The email continues with directions on how obtain the credentials needed. 

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On 9/24/2019 at 11:47 PM, agesilaus said:

That's great, glad I'm subscribed here. I have to say when we walked thru the BX at my son's AF base I was not impressed by the prices. Are they better?

The CG access is something I could use. Maybe get a spot down in Key West...heh.

That may be a possibility, NAS Key West now requires reservations during the peak season they are so busy. In case it pertains to you, NASKW has a little-known section for flag officer rank only.

Edited by Ray,IN

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BTW, Barksdale AFB LA completed the expansion and upgrades to the Famcamp there. Before I moved to Colorado I drove through and thought it was great!

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12 hours ago, pinger said:

Is gasoline any cheaper if the base has it?  

In my experience, usually not.  And if you make a special trip to the base just for gas/Exchange/commissary, you probably spent more time and money getting there and home than if you would have shopped off base.

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1 hour ago, remoandiris said:

In my experience, usually not.  And if you make a special trip to the base just for gas/Exchange/commissary, you probably spent more time and money getting there and home than if you would have shopped off base.

I agree! We go on base to see our doctors or pick up prescriptions and then, and only then, will go to the Commissary. About the only thing I can say is definitely cheaper in there is meat. Other than that, by the time you add on the surcharge, all other products are less expensive off base (at least here in Colorado where food items are tax exempt). The Class 6 store (liquor store) has some decent prices but I would rather support my locally owned neighborhood store. And the base, at least ours, does not carry diesel but the posted price of gas is no bargain especially with a loyalty card from the grocery store. 

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