Nearly 20 million honorably discharged U.S. veterans will soon have the opportunity to shop online through the Army and Air Force Exchange service. This change in policy comes after years of pressure to open shopping to all those honorably discharged men and women.
As of Veterans Day, November 11, 2017, all honorably discharged U.S. veterans will be able to shop the exchange online.
This new privilege will only extend to online shopping however, not shopping in the physical exchange. Through the website, veterans will be able to purchase any items except for uniforms, alcohol and tobacco products.
The exchange estimates that this could bring in between $226 million and $1.13 billion in annual sales. An increase in sales also means an increase in funds for MWR programs.
Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) receives the majority of its funding from exchange dividends. The more sales the exchange has, the more programs MWR can offer. MWR programs are in place to support the “readiness and resilience for Soldiers and Families.” Programs include child and youth services, libraries, entertainment, sports and fitness, automotive skills, crafts and more.
Recently, exchange dividends have been low and MWR has not had the funds to support their usual programs. The Army has had to use some of this money to improve its daycare centers since budgets have been cut so much. The low sales have been due to the decline in the active duty force and base closures as well as the ending of tobacco product discounts and smaller profits from cheaper gas being sold. Opening online sales to all honorably discharged veterans is expected to quickly solve this problem.
Veterans will enjoy saving on average 20 percent over commercial stores while those families with base access will be enjoying better MWR programs. It’s a win-win situation for all.
This has been a two-year effort to open online shopping up to honorably discharged veterans. In the fall of 2016 the Defense Department’s Executive Resale Board voted unanimously to open online shopping to veterans and the Deputy Defense Secretary approved it.
AAFES has been preparing for the expansion of shoppers by improving the website, call centers and warehouse and distribution systems. They are working with the Department of Veterans Affairs and Defense Manpower Data Center to determine a way to verify that exchange shoppers are in fact honorably discharged veterans.
Shopping will only be available to veterans online and only for the exchange.
There are currently no plans to open shopping at the commissary up to honorably discharged veterans. This is because the commissary is run differently than AAFES. The Defense Commissary Agency receives a $1.4 billion operational subsidy annually that is funded by taxpayers. An increase in shoppers at the commissary would result in a higher cost for taxpayers in accordance to the current system. DECA therefore, is not considering adding veterans to the list of eligible shoppers.
Honorably discharged veterans however are excited to able to shop at the exchange online, even if they can’t also shop at the commissary. The Army and Air Force Exchange service has received outstanding support for this program and is anticipating a huge turnout of veteran online shoppers on Veterans Day.
You can keep up with announcements as the date for launch of this program approaches and learn how you can establish your identity as an honorably discharged veteran through their website.