The military commissary began in 1825 as a place to purchase goods at Army posts, paying at-cost pricing. Initially, the commissary was open only to active-duty military, and then in 1841, it opened to family members as well. The goal of the commissaries was to provide nutritious food no matter where the military was located – from near a city to the frontier away from the developed areas. A commissary was at every Army post, no matter the location. This included expanding to the Philippines and China in the early 1900s.
The Defense Department commissioned a study in 1989 that recommended the consolidation of the different military service branches’ commissary systems into one and in 1990 the Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA) was established. The commissaries of today continue to provide groceries and products to military families at a lower costs. Congress has mandated a 5-percent surcharge on the items to cover the costs of building new commissaries and modernizing and updating current ones.
When living in areas of a high cost of living, and in overseas locations where it may be difficult to get familiar groceries, the military commissaries have relied upon resources. The savings of groceries including no sales tax can save families lots of money. In a time when the cost of living is increasing all around the world, every little bit helps.
The patron list has historically included active-duty members and their families and expanded to include military retirees and their families in 1879. Now that COVID-19 restrictions have lessened, the patron groups are open to disabled veterans, Purple Heart recipients, former prisoners of war and their certified primary caregivers.
Peggy Jebavy says
How would retirees’ families be ab;e to shop at a commissary unless they came with the retiree? They don’t have military ID cards.
Old Air Force Chief Master Sergeant says
I a m an Air Force Retiree and my wife has her own Dependent ID Card and she can shop in any AAFEX, NEX, or other branch’s Exchange or Commissary with or without me…
I have friends where the military retiree is the wife and her husband carries a Dependent Card and he is eligible to shop everyplace she is…
Now, I remember some issues a while back when the health care program was expanded to include the Grown Offspring (I will not call them children or dependents as they could be as old as 26, married, living in another state, and independently employed with their own health care program) and these offspring could get Dependent ID cards for TriCare Health Care Coverage and the cards also enabled them to also shop in the exchanges and Commissaries…
Widows Spouses will always keep their Dependent ID cards, and some Divorced Spouses are eligible to keep their Dependent ID Card (you will have to research the criteria…).
Margaret E Greenfield says
Yes, a retiree’ spouse does have an ID card.
Marsha Villalva says
My dad is a disabled vet and he uses the VA for all his care. My sister lives with him and takes care of him. Would they be able to get a military card to shop at the commissary? My husband is retired Air Force.
Joe E. says
I am able to use the white ID card the VA gave me for my medical care which includes language that I have a service- connected disability.
Joe E. says
I use the abovementioned ID card to get onto the base and into the commissary, PX/BX/NEX, etc.
Old Crow says
Marsha, the following is an excerpt from Commissaries.com concerning extended eligibility. It would appear that, in fact, your father and sister would be eligible for identification of some sort to allow them to shop the commissary.
“Access was expanded to include:
Veterans with any service-connected disability
Purple Heart recipients
Former Prisoners of war, and
Individuals approved and designated as the primary family caregivers of eligible Veterans under the Department of Veterans Affairs Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers”
Good luck in your endeavor.
STEVEN R CHIRCH says
Your Dad’s Health card from the VA is what can get him onto the base to shop at the commissary and exchange. It will only cover him, but he can get a paas for the caretaker to go with him, just need dto jump through the hoops and get it done.
He would be able to get a card to allow him on base since he is the disabled veteran, and your sister would need to be his certified caregiver listed on his VA account. Hope this helps!
David Sanchez says
When are regular service members with a honorable discharge allowed to shop at the commissary again?
Tony T. says
Wow, so why did I spent over 20+ years for these services? Now, thoses that spent 2+ years and got out are getting the same special services as a 20+ year retired veteran. If only I was able to look into the future and see this happening I would have stay in 2+ years! Anyway, there is nothing that we can do about these changes.
Denise Hall says
Please clarify if retirees and their families can use the commissary.