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4 Things to Know About the New Exchange Veteran Benefit

January 27, 2017

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Many veterans are very excited about the news that the military exchange system — the Army and Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES), Marine Corps Exchange, Navy Exchange and Coast Guard Exchange — will soon open to all honorably discharged veterans for online shopping.

But while the plan is pretty clear cut, there still has been some confusion.

The expansion is for online shopping only. The rule change doesn’t allow veterans to use the Exchange in person — that privilege is still reserved for retirees and 100 percent service-connected disabled veterans. Instead, the expansion is only for online shopping. A system in works by the Defense Department will certify each new user as being qualified by checking them against records. It’s unclear how that system will look. And although it’s certainly possible for family members to shop under a veteran’s login, in theory this is only for veterans, not dependents.

It doesn’t include all items carried by the Exchange. Officials note that the new benefit excludes the purchase of tobacco, alcohol and uniforms. While tobacco and alcohol aren’t available at the Exchange online ever, uniforms are. Still, users will not be able to purchase items in that category.

It won’t start for awhile. The online shopping benefit is slated to start next November, just in time for Veterans Day. That means you can’t access it yet.

The expansion does not include the commissary. Most veterans know that the commissary and Exchange are two different systems operated in two different ways. The commissary is not a part of the Exchange expansion, and does not have an online retail component. So why don’t they open the commissary to veterans? Because instead of bringing in extra money, it would cost taxpayers more

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