Patronage expansion program grants Veterans Commissary, Base Exchange and MWR privileges

  • Published
  • By 92nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
  • 92nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

Commissaries, military exchanges and morale, welfare and recreation facilities are ready to welcome veterans with service-related sacrifices, as well as primary caregivers of veterans to enjoy the privileges of the new patronage expansion program.


The patronage expansion program took effect Jan. 1, 2020, and extends commissary, exchange and MWR retail facility privileges to veterans awarded the Purple Heart, Medal of Honor recipients, former prisoners of war, those with service-connected disabilities and their qualifying caregivers.


Veterans must acquire a Veteran Heath Identification Card from the Department of Veterans Affairs to take advantage of these privileges on a military installation. A VHIC is only issued to those enrolled in the Department of Veterans Affairs health care program and the card will display the veteran’s eligibility status, such as: Purple Heart, Former POW or Service Connected.


Family who are VA approved primary caregivers of eligible veterans will be permitted to use the commissary, exchange and MWR retail facilities on the same basis as a member of the armed forces.


Primary family caregivers must present an eligibility letter to grant privileged entry onto Department of Defense and Coast Guard installations. The VA’s Office of Community Care will send out eligibility letters to enroll qualifying primary family caregivers.


All veterans and caregivers will need to check-in at the Visitor Control Center to validate identity, purpose and background when visiting an installation the first time. Identification presented at the visitor control center can be enrolled if the background check is successful. Patrons and caregivers may enroll for recurring access and avoid having to check-in at the visitor control center each time if the installation has access control system enrollment capabilities.


Acceptable credentials are as follows:

  • DoD common access card (CAC) (when otherwise eligible)
  • DoD uniformed services identification card (when otherwise eligible)
  • REAL ID-compliant driver’s license issued by a State, territory, possession, or the District of Columbia
  • REAL ID-compliant non-driver’s identification card issued by a State, territory, possession, or the District of Columbia
  • Enhanced driver’s license issued by a State, territory, possession, or the District of Columbia
  • U.S. passport or passport card
  • Foreign passport bearing an unexpired immigrant or non-immigrant visa or entry stamp
  • Federal personal identity verification card (when otherwise eligible)
  • Veteran Heath Identification Card
  • Transportation Worker Identification Card


While this patronage expansion applies to in-person access in the United States and U.S. territories and possessions, access in foreign overseas locations may be limited by status of forces and other international laws and agreements with host nations. Veterans wishing to access overseas installations should inquire with the VA and the installation directly for access limitations.


No surcharges or user fees will be added to military exchange purchases, however, the Defense Commissary System is statutorily required to charge a five percent surcharge on all purchases to pay for commissary construction, equipment and maintenance.  Even with the surcharge, patrons receive an average worldwide savings of 23.7% over commercial grocery store shopping.


Veterans that do not or cannot obtain a VHIC will not have access to DoD and Coast Guard installations for in-person commissary, exchange and MWR retail privileges. However, all honorably discharged Veterans are eligible for online military exchange shopping through the Veterans Online Shopping Benefit.


Veterans not eligible for in-person privileges should follow instructions to establish an account at any of the following military exchange websites or the VA’s Veterans Canteen Service:


For questions regarding eligibility for VA benefits, call 1-800-827-1000 or visit:

For information on eligibility to apply for a VHIC, visit:

For more information on the patronage expansion program read this fact sheet: