As we wrap up 2019 and prepare to enter the New Year, there is an exciting new benefit coming to many veterans.
The Veterans Administration (VA) and Department of Defense have implemented a program to let certain veterans shop at base commissaries and exchanges. The program is slated to start Jan. 1. At this time, it will be limited to those veterans who are as follows: Purple Heart recipients, former POWs, veterans with any VA acknowledged service connected disability and caregivers registered with the VA’s Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregiver program.
It is important to know that the identification required for access to approved military bases is going to be with your Veterans Health Identification Card, (VHIC). This is different from the new Veterans Identification Card, (VIC), which came out in 2018. To have a VHIC you must be enrolled in VA Health Care and the card must show the veterans eligibility status, such as Purple Heart, Service Connected Disability or former POW.
If you are like me, you are wondering if your spouse can shop. The current answer is no, but access may be granted by getting a base visitor pass. Like all visitors they will need to pass a background check. The base entry point will be able to direct you to the proper office to gain a visitors pass.
One other thing to know is their will be a charge of 1.9 percent users fee for using a credit card. Most debit cards will have a 0.5 percent up charge. Cash and checks are accepted with no up charge. As I have been reading, there is no state or local sales tax but they do charge a 5 percent surcharge which goes toward the up keep of the facility.
This is just a general review of the benefit. You will need to watch for the complete regulations as they roll out this benefit.
For veterans honorably discharged, you have the ability to shop online through the Veterans Online Shopping Benefit. You can set up an account online for any of the military exchange websites. You can then online shop all branches of the military along with the VA’s Canteen Service.
For those of you already accessing base exchanges, there should be no change.
This is expected to affect over 4 million veterans. As with many new programs expect some frustration as you learn how to navigate the new system. My office will try to keep abreast of the program as it is rolled out. If you’re not sure if your eligible give me a call and I will see if I can help.
Dennis Cordle is the veterans' service officer for Washington County.