Feds’ Eligibility For Shopping at Military Exchanges to Increase

Many federal employees who are veterans will become eligible for shopping through the military exchange system later this year.

The hiring of veterans into federal jobs is going up. The latest data show the percentage of veterans are almost half of new full-time federal employees.

About one of every three people working in the federal government are veterans.

As a result, a new benefit formerly only available to military personnel and retired military may be of interest to many readers—including those currently working as civilians in the federal workforce and many retired federal employees as well.

Online Shopping At Military Exchanges to Open for Veterans

The Department of Defense has made a policy change effective on Veterans Day, November 11, 2017. The change will allow some 16 million honorably discharged veterans to shop online for discounted products through the military exchange system. Most sales through the military exchanges are free of state and local taxes. Prices are often lower through the military exchange system.

Prior to this change, eligibility for shopping through the military exchanges was limited. Eligibility included active duty, National Guard and reserve members and retirees, dependent family members and 100 percent disabled veterans. Most veterans were excluded.

The benefit of shopping at commissaries is not changing to include all veterans. And, because the new benefit is limited to online shopping, traffic in exchange stores should not impacted.

Exclusions and Reasons for Expanding

The shopping privileges will exclude purchasing military uniforms, alcohol and tobacco products.

The expanded benefit will not allow veterans’ dependents to order products through the military exchange system. But, as online shoppers know, spouses and family members will probably just use the log-in credentials for an eligible veteran.

A press release from the Department of Defense says that opening up online shopping to honorably discharged veterans will strengthen the exchanges’ online businesses. Their projections are that adding honorably discharged veterans to potential shoppers will double the amount of business. The theory is that this expansion will enable the organization to obtain better prices and offer a more competitive assortment of merchandise.

The significantly higher earnings projected for this program will be used to fund morale, welfare and recreation programs in support of service members’ and their families

The Army and Air Force Exchange Service has seen declining sales in recent years. The organization cites several factors for the decline. Active military members leaving Iraq, Afghanistan and Europe so facilities are closing; Exchange stores are losing customers as more active military families choose to live outside U.S. military bases; and Walmart has added stores closer to U.S. bases.

Expanding the potential market should help rejuvenate lost sales for the AAFES. The expansion may also mean a loss of sales for private sector companies such as Wal-Mart and Amazon that have a large online presence.

Establishing Eligibility

How will the exchange system determine eligibility?

Currently, people shopping on military exchange websites create accounts verifying their military credentials. Adding millions of new veterans, particularly veterans who served before the military draft ended in 1973, will be challenging. In all likelihood, some of these veterans may not be able to begin using the benefit when it initially goes into effect.

About the Author

Ralph Smith has several decades of experience working with federal human resources issues. He has written extensively on a full range of human resources topics in books and newsletters and is a co-founder of two companies and several newsletters on federal human resources. Follow Ralph on Twitter: @RalphSmith47