Should we expand commissary access? The VFW says yes!

Eric Dehm
April 20, 2018 - 11:40 am

U.S. Marine photo by Pfc. Margaret Gale

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As things stand now, the only people authorized to shop at the exchanges and commissaries located on military bases are those on active duty, retirees, dependents of those two and certain government contractors/workers. The main reason for restriciting who can shop there is related directly to base access. These authorized groups already have that access, so there are no additional steps required for them to get to the commissary.

But, what about other honorably discharged vets? That's a question the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) is asking. They are focused specifically on those who have given so much of themselves while wearing the uniform that they were honored with the Purple Heart Medal, perhaps our nation's most revered military decoration. While opening up base access to all veterans may be a pipe dream due to strains it would likely put on base infrastructures, the VFW says they believe the DoD/DeCA systems are capable of handling a much smaller influx of those wounded in battle who do not meet the qualifications for retirement.

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Victoria Ross

While offering this benefit to a relatively small group of veterans may seem like a no-brainer to some, VFW Media Director Joe Davis says it's important to remember that until changes were made in 2017, there were Purple Heart recipients who were not even eligible for GI Bill benefits, as they had not completed the pre-requisite 2 years of service. 

That was generally seen as an oversight by those who wrote the GI.. Bill, whereas the exchange and commissary issue is something completely different, and falls under the purview of the DoD itself. While the VFW would love to see all Purple Heart recipients afforded every available benefit, there's one main roadblock in this instance.

"It's all about the gate access and that DoD ID card," Davis says. "It's a conversation that's beginning, I'm not gonna say we are at the end, but that's gonna be the difficult part. The final say, I don't think it's gonna be congress, it's going to be the Department of Defense. How do you control this? How do you issue these? How do you manage this?"

To hear more about the issue and more, including a movement by what Davis terms "budget hawks" to merge the exchange and commissary systems into one and do away with government subsidization of the commissary system, you can listen to the full interview below.

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