Just this past weekend as we were browsing the aisles at the commissary an announcement was made over the store intercom alerting shoppers to the fact that military Exchanges’ online shopping will soon be available to all veterans. It’s a newly added benefit that has seen a tremendously positive response.
But what about commissary privileges?
A MilitaryShoppers article looked at who is authorized to shop at the commissary and opened up discussion about whether commissary privileges should be extended to all veterans.
Cathy B suggested that commissary privileges “should be granted to all those veterans rated under 100% on a limited basis of 12 shopping trips a year plus a bonus trip during November in honor of Veterans Day.”
Carl felt differently. “Someone who did 4yrs should not get the same privileges as someone who did 20 or 30 yrs,” he wrote.
Reading through the comments, it’s easy to see that this is a hot topic for our readers and rightfully so. Shopping at the commissary does offer considerable savings on most products. Let’s address a few of the most common points of contention and some misconceptions.
Disabled Veteran Benefits
While it’s true that veterans with a 100% disability rating from the VA can shop at the commissary, veterans who receive at least a 30% disability rating from the military, are considered medically retired and do retain commissary benefits.
The 2 disability ratings are different. One is given by the VA and one by the military service itself. So many disabled veterans, especially those whose employment options are limited due to any service-connected injuries or conditions, are already granted privileges.
All Veterans Should Get to Shop
This is an idea express by many readers, but there are some logistical and economic factors that make a blanket open door policy difficult.
As some of our readers mentioned, how do we grant access to those who do not retain ID card privileges?
While the Exchange opened shopping to all veterans, that benefit was only extended online. And the Exchange is a self-sufficient, profit-positive business model that benefits from an increase in the size of its customer base. The more buyers you have, the greater your power to leverage those buyers when negotiating prices with manufacturers and suppliers.
The commissary is a taxpayer subsidized model. The bigger the customer base, the greater the subsidy required to continue to stock shelves and pay employees.
And where would we draw the line? Technically, if you’ve served a day, you are a veteran.
Does one day of service entitle you to benefits?
What if you’ve never been deployed?
Who would make that determination?
Are There Other Ways to Make it Work?
Some readers suggested that a special ID card could be issued or “benefit cards” like what the National Guard and Reserves use for their “once a month” shopping privileges prior to 9/11. This might be a viable option, but there would be additional costs associated with creating and maintaining the records necessary to make a program like this work.
Another suggestion made was to charge a fee, much like the national warehouse stores. This fee might prove an additional revenue stream to help close commissary budget shortfalls.
But it is important to consider what a huge influx of potential customers would do to the shopping experience. More shoppers creates additional strain on gate security and road resources. Parking, while usually ample, is limited, as are shelf space and checkout lanes.
An influx of customers could potentially see frequent outages of staple products and longer checkout lines. Which in turn, devalues the benefit being offered to those who are currently entitled to receive it.
I wholeheartedly understand why so many want to share the commissary benefit with all veterans. It is a sentiment born out of loyalty and a sense of community.
Should we see a revamped profit-earning business model like the Exchange emerge opening up commissaries to all veterans would make sense.
However, when you consider the financial and logistical impact, it becomes clear that opening the commissary doors to all veterans is just not a feasible option at present.