If you're a veteran with a VA service-connected disability rating, a former prisoner of war, or a Purple Heart recipient, the exchange, recreation facilities, and commissary on base will be opening their doors to you starting in 2020.
In what's being billed as the largest expansion of new shoppers in the military commissary system in 65 years, veterans will be allowed back into many of the same retail outlets they had access to while in uniform starting on Jan. 1, 2020, thanks to a measure put in to the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act.
That includes the PX, commissary, and other retail stores on base, in addition to morale, welfare, and recreation (MWR) facilities, such as golf courses, bowling areas, campgrounds, and lodging facilities, per Military.com.
Yeah, that's right. When you get done stocking up on tacticool gear at the PX and booze at the 7-day store, you can go bowling right alongside your active-duty brethren and tell them what it was like back in your day.
As Patricia Kime at Military.com writes:
DoD officials told Military.com on Wednesday that an estimated 3.5 million new patrons will be eligible to shop. However, after analyzing store locations and their proximity to where veterans live, they expect that slightly more than a quarter of those patrons, or 800,000 people, will take advantage of the benefit.
According to Barry Patrick, associate director of MWR and Resale Policy in the Office of the Under Secretary for Personnel and Readiness, the DoD expects veterans in high-cost areas like Guam, Alaska, Hawaii and parts of California to take advantage of the benefit. Stores in states or cities with large populations of service-connected disabled veterans, including Florida, California, parts of Texas and Washington, D.C., may also see an increase in customers.
According to the NDAA, the Pentagon needs to report to Congress on how it plans to implement this new benefit for veterans by Oct. 1. Currently, defense officials are working to perfect technology at base gates to scan in VA-issued ID cards, according to Military Times.
If you're already enrolled in the VA health system, you should already have the ID card you need to get access to base, which is called the Veteran Health Identification Card. If not, you can apply online or call 1-877-222-8387.
While this latest change expands on-base shopping for veterans, the exchange is already open for veterans who want to shop online.