You’ve earned new benefits at the Exchange, Commissary and MWR! Yes, you. Even if you didn’t hit your full 20 year mark or previously didn’t qualify, you will have access to the Exchange and MWR on base in January 2020.
Exchanges and MWR Opening Up for More Veterans in 2020
Starting January 1, 2020 additional groups of honorably discharged service members and their caregivers will be eligible to make purchases on-base, including at the Exchange, Commissary and MWR. Eligible patrons include:
- Purple Heart recipients
- former POWs
- all service-connected disabled veterans, of all ratings
- caregivers enrolled in the VA’s Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers program
This will allow these individuals access to tax-free or reduced cost goods and entertainment, stretching their budgets further.
Places Open for Expanded Business
Eligible patrons will be able to shop at the Exchanges, Commissary and revenue-generating elements of MWR.
This means that they will not be able to use the gyms, since these are subsidized by the DoD. However, they can patronize MWR-run on base restaurants, movie theaters and golf courses. On base hotels, bowling alleys and other for-profit enterprises are also going to be opened to identified categories of veterans and caregivers.
Things to Know Before Shopping
While you may be able to shop on base, you might also be looking at additional fees if you pay by credit or debit card. Right now, the DoD has a program in place to subsidize the cost of credit or debit transactions at the commissary. However, by law, they cannot cover this fee for the newly eligible beneficiaries.
Instead, they will charge 1.9% in fees for credit card transactions. Debit card transactions will see a 0.5% fee.
However, all newly eligible beneficiaries will be able to apply for the Military Star Card. There are no transaction or processing fees associated with this card, since it is an in-house payment method.
You can also avoid fees by paying with cash or check.
How Many Will Be Served
According to Military.com, the DoD estimates that 3.5 million individuals will become eligible for Exchange, Commissary and MWR benefits in January 1. However, based on demographic data they have determined that around 800,000 will actually take advantage of these benefits.
They expect that veterans and caregivers in Guam, Hawaii and California will be most excited to shop on base.
Getting On Base Again
Access to base is limited, requiring proper identification and/or an authorized pass to move past the gate guards. While some veterans may still have identification that provides base access, many do not.
For veterans, identity will be established by showing the Veterans Health Identification card or VHID. This will grant them access to base and to the qualifying shopping areas or other facilities.
Caregivers should receive a memo granting them access. They will be able to drive onto the base by presenting this memo and their REAL ID identification.
Once on base, veterans and caregivers should head to the visitors center to register their credentials. Following registration, they will be able to access base as if they had a CAC or other DoD ID.
More information will be forthcoming from the Exchange, Defense Commissary Agency and MWR across all services in the coming weeks. Look for promotional materials and information about how to access services and determine your eligibility by January 1.