The Department of Veterans Affairs hospital gift shops, known as the VA canteen service, have added online shopping for the first time -- and the prices could be worth checking out.
Established in 1946, the Veterans Canteen Service (VCS) was created to provide merchandise and services at reasonable prices to patients, visitors and employees at VA hospitals. There are also several locations at VA benefits offices nationwide. Similar to the military exchange system, a portion of proceeds at the canteens goes back into services for veterans.
For example, homeless veterans get a free meal, and VCS donates beds to homeless veterans moving into permanent housing. And like the exchange, all purchases are tax-free.
Now, the VCS has moved into the electronic age and expanded its inventory. Any veteran enrolled in the VA health care system can now shop its website. Your family can shop there too.
The ShopVCS.com website offers many items for sale, including jewelry, tires, clothing, major appliances and more. You can also buy discounted tickets for sports events, concerts, theme parks and Las Vegas shows. And the site offers discounted hotel rooms, rental cars and more.
The VCS also provides Emergency Mobile Food Units that are deployed during natural disasters to feed thousands of veterans and service workers during times of crisis.
A quick search of the website shows the prices are on par with national chains and AAFES. You do pay for shipping, but there is no sales tax. As always, some deals are better than others. All honorably discharged veterans can shop online at AAFES, but the brands and selection at AAFES are sometimes different than the VCS Canteen.
Many hotel and travel deals beat the usual online travel websites, and the concert tickets are much cheaper than you can get elsewhere. You can pay with credit or debit card and PayPal.
For more discounts available to veterans, active-duty members and their families, check out our Military Discount Center.
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