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These Shoppers Will Soon Gain Commissary Access

Commissary employees and Nellis Air Force Base undergo produce training. (Defense Commissary Agency)
Commissary employees and Nellis Air Force Base undergo produce training. (Defense Commissary Agency)

A new group will soon be able to shop at military commissaries -- commissary employees.

About half of the commissary's 14,000 or so employees can already use the store because they are also military spouses, retirees or family members. That means about 6,000 employees will newly gain shopping privileges, commissary officials said.

The other half, commissary officials said, will be able to shop thanks to a new rule from the Defense Department. The change is expected in the next few months.

The new rule was first reported by the Military Times.

Currently, commissary and exchange shopping is only open to active duty troops and retirees and their dependents; Guard and Reservists and their dependents; 100 percent service-connected disabled veterans and their dependents; Medal of Honor recipients; and surviving families. Honorably discharged veterans can also shop on the Exchange websites, but cannot use the Exchange in person on base.

The commissary's change allows only employees to shop, not employees' families. It also doesn't extend those shopping privileges to the Exchange, and it does not include tobacco or, soon, alcohol, which are sold at the commissary via a partnership with the Exchange. It also doesn't allow former employees to shop.

And, finally, it doesn't allow shopping for commissary baggers. Baggers are not commissary employees.

That all veterans are not permitted to shop at the commissary is a frequent point of contention for Military.com readers. They say the privilege should be expanded, and that doing so would increase commissary revenue.

But thanks to the way the system is currently set-up, where most items are still sold at-cost plus a five percent surcharge, expanding shopping benefits to well over a million new potential customers would actually cost the system money. That's because, as it stands, the commissary looks to Congress to provide an over $1 billion subsidy that largely funds the system's workforce. More shoppers would require even more funding.

Expanding privileges to that category would also take an act of Congress and a change to current law. It would also require bases to change their access standards and processes, as potential shoppers who do not otherwise hold military IDs would start seeking access.

A previous version of the headline on this story mischaracterized the timeline for the start of this benefit. The benefit will be starting soon.

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