The Purple Heart and Disabled Veterans Equal Access Act of 2018 recently passed into law. This bill allows vets with service-connected disabilities and Purple Heart award winners to shop at any military exchange location. The new law means that 18 million more U.S. vets now have military exchange and commissary shopping privileges.
Why Push to Expand Commissary and Military Exchange Privileges Now?
Previously, only these people could shop at military exchange retailers and base commissaries:
- Active duty military personnel
- Guard and Reserve members
- Military retirees
- Medal of Honor recipients
- 100% disabled veterans and their authorized family members
- Commissary employees
The new law extends the right to shop at all military exchange locations (both online and brick-and-mortar locations) to:
- Purple Heart recipients
- Medal of Honor recipients
- Former prisoners of war
- Veterans with service-connected disabilities
- Disabled veterans’ caregivers
The Purple Heart award goes to select U.S. veterans either wounded or killed in combat. Since establishing the modern Purple Heart award in 1932, it’s been given to 1.8 million military servicemen and women. So, what’s the driving motivation behind this recent legislative push? Lawmakers wanted to show their appreciation for veterans in a small, yet meaningful way. Now, disabled veterans and their caregivers can save money on everyday purchases while supporting local commissaries and military exchanges. In addition to in-person base commissaries, all honorably discharged veterans can also enjoy online military exchange shopping privileges. This measure included in the 2019 defense authorization bill passed both houses in August 2018.
How This Move Benefits Retailers as Well as Taxpayers
This new law should help on-base stores recover economically from steadily declining sales revenue. Senator Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, who co-sponsored the bill along with John Boozman, R-Arkansas, said this would strengthen the commissary system. In other words, it’s good for active-duty military personnel as well as area taxpayers.
The law’s sponsors say a healthy commissary system ranks among the most popular non-cash military benefits. While many vets live too far from bases to shop at them regularly, the new benefit will still help millions of people.
The following organizations actively supported the new military exchange shopping bill:
- The American Legion
- Association of the U.S. Navy
- Disabled American Veterans
- Military Order of the Purple Heart
- Veterans of Foreign Wars
- The Wounded Warrior Project
MWR Facilities Included In Military Exchange Expansion
In addition to opening up brick-and-mortar commissaries, the new law extends access to recreation facilities on military bases. These MWR (Medical, Welfare, Recreation) facilities offer an array of services to qualified veterans, such as:
- Outdoor recreation areas
- Golf courses
- Sports and fitness centers
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