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All veterans with a service-connected disability officially have access to commissaries, exchanges, and MWR rental facilities! This change, which became effective on the first day of 2020, includes all Purple Heart recipients, former POWs, and those who are designated as primary family caregivers through the VA’s Caregiver Program.
Which veterans are eligible for base access?
Before, only 100% disabled veterans were eligible for base and commissary privileges. However, certain benefits have been extended to all service-connected veterans.
This benefit does not apply to surviving spouses of deceased veterans. It is only valid for the veteran themselves.
Base access requires a Veteran Health Indentification Card or Caregiver Program Letter.
Veterans with a Veteran Health Identification Card can use that card to go on base now. The card must display the Veteran’s eligibility status. This means that “SERVICE CONNECTED,” “FORMER POW” or “PURPLE HEART” must appear on the card. If you are eligible but do not have that printed on your card, you will not be allowed on base.
If you do not have (or are not eligible for) a Veteran Health Identification Card but have at least one service-connected disability, then you will have access to online exchanges and American Forces Travel benefits. You will not have base access or in-person benefits, though.
If you are participating in the VA’s Caregiver Program, you will receive an eligibility letter from the VA’s Office of Community Care. If you lose the letter, you can request a replacement.
What can disabled veterans do on base?
Through this new expansion, service-connected disabled veterans will have access to:
- Military Exchanges (PX, BX, etc)
- Golf Courses
- Bowling centers
- Recreational Lodging
- RV Campgrounds
- Movie Theaters
- Vehicle Storage
- and more!
Facilities that are not part of MWR will not be available. For example, gyms and fitness centers are not part of MWR.
The MWR Ticket office is also not considered an MWR activity. According to the official FAQ, access to the MWR ticket office is at the discretion of the military departments or their designees. Most vendors, including Disney, place strict rules about who can buy discounted tickets. Don’t count on being able to use these services.
Please note that the Department of Defense is required to charge a small fee to newly-eligible commissary shoppers. This fee is to compensate for the added cost of processing credit and debit cards. The FAQ says that users will be charged a 1.9% user fee if they pay with credit. Debit shoppers will be charged a 0.5% user fee. These fee rates may be adjusted every year. The fees will not be reimbursed if you return products.
Here’s what to expect on your first base visit.
Be prepared to show your photo ID, vehicle registration and insurance at the gate. Some bases require you to register your vehicle before you can drive on post, and it’s best to be prepared in advance. You can always call ahead to figure out what you need.
Some bases limit visitor access. Even if the base allows visitors, each visitor will need to prove their own identity and fitness for access. All guests should be prepared with a REAL-ID compliant driver’s license or ID.
Veterans who are rated 100% should continue to renew and use military IDs.
Veterans who are rated 100% already had base access for themselves and their dependents. If that’s you, please continue to renew and use your military ID when you go on base!
Veterans who have this eligibility have more access and privileges than this new expansion covers. You may lose certain benefits if you start using your Veterans Health ID Card instead of your military ID.