Shopping at the commissary is a great benefit of being part of the military community.
Not all veterans are authorized to shop at the commissary however.
There are certain qualifications that must be met to be granted access. It isn’t up to the Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA) to decide who can shop there.
The Department of Defense Instruction 1330.17, DoD Commissary Program outlines all authorized patrons to include: active duty, Guard and Reserve members, military retirees, Medal of Honor recipients, 100 percent disabled veterans and their authorized family members.
The DoD exercises close scrutiny over patronage of military commissaries to ensure the continued effectiveness of military commissaries as an integral part of the military compensation package.
This privilege is also extended to USPHS Commissioned Corps, the NOAA Commissioned Corps and its predecessors, cadets and midshipmen of the Military Service academies and Wage Marine Personnel. There are certain categories of retired military that also are granted access.
These categories include: all military personnel that are on the official retired list, whether active or reserve, who retired with pay, were granted retirement pay for a physical disability or are entitled to retirement pay even if this pay is waived or pending due to the age requirement. Enlisted men and women that are transferred to the Fleet Reserve of the Navy or Marine Corps Reserve after 20 or more years of active service are also allowed to take advantage of the commissary privilege.
Another group that is also granted access to the commissary includes: officers and crew members of vessels, lighthouses keepers and depot keepers of the former Lighthouse Service that retired. This group includes retired civilian employees of the Coast Guard who were lighthouse keepers of the previously named Lighthouse Service and who retired as civilian employees of the Coast Guard as lighthouse keepers or who were on lightships or other vessels.
Retired wage Marines, including retired noncommissioned ships officers, and those who were on NOAA are also able to utilize commissary benefits. 100 percent disabled veterans who were honorably discharged that have a 100 percent service-connected disability or those that are 100 percent unemployable can use the commissary as well.
Families that are able to shop at the commissary include: dependent children and spouses, serving family members and unmarried former spouses. These benefits are also extended to DoD civilian employees and their families when stationed outside of the United States and outside of its territories. Official DoD organizations are able to purchase goods from the commissary as well.
Some service members will leave with a short time to maintain their commissary benefits. A member that is involuntarily separated from active duty can use the commissary for 2 years after the separation. This also includes members of Select Reserve of the Ready Reserve that are separated and granted access to the commissary for 2 years. Service members that receive sole survivor discharge can shop at the commissary for 2 years after service ends.
Employees of DeCA can purchase goods at the commissary for immediate consumption, such as for lunch while at work. Other civilians that are allowed to shop at the commissary include DoD presidentially appointed and Senate-confirmed officers and their families that live on a military installation that has a commissary. DoD civilian employees who are stationed TDY overseas can also use this benefit. Some military personnel of foreign nations can also use the commissary.
In overseas areas American National Red Cross and United Service Organizations (USO) can also take advantage of the commissary privilege. The Armed Services Young Men’s Christian Association can also shop at the commissary overseas. Emergency access may be granted to others overseas.
This is a very extensive list and a few more civilian personnel that can shop at the commissary can be found here under the DoD Instruction. Further information can also be found on this site.
Military service that does not continue through retirement are not allowed to use the commissary. This means even if you served in war and put your life on the line, you cannot use the commissary unless you stayed in until retirement.
In regard to disabled veterans, if the disability is less than 100 percent previous service members cannot shop at the commissary. Those on delayed entry into the service cannot use the commissary either.
You can contact the Pass and ID office on a military installation to ask if your situation grants access to the commissary or not. The commissary will not allow anyone to shop there without proper ID that specifically states commissary benefits.