AAFES for All?

AAFES Logo“Attention Shoppers, effectively immediately ALL Honorably Discharged Veterans will be able to shop the AAFES online store.”

Sounds outlandish? Thinking you are hearing things? Think again! Although the story has only recently gained widespread attention, the AAFES command presented just such a proposal in a May 8th memo.

According to a report in Stars and Stripes, AAFES CEO Thomas Shull claims that allowing the almost 22 million honorably discharged veterans to shop at the online outlet could result in $1 billion per year in sales. Shull calls this a “win-win-win” as the increase in sales would boost the agency’s ability to purchase in bulk, allow more veterans to benefit from the reduced prices, and allow more money to be returned to MWR programs supported by the AAFES.

The bigger question is, what do you think?

Personally, I am split on my opinion.

On one hand, I am a veteran and would be one of the new approved users. I can see the advantages for both the veterans and AAFES. The new users would be able to enjoy the savings offered by the Exchange system and AAFES would benefit from potential increase in revenue which in turn would be funneled into the MWR program.

Besides being a veteran, I am also the spouse of a now retired member and we already enjoy the benefits of shopping at the nearby Exchange and Commissary. Each weekend we do our regular grocery shopping at the local base; my eldest daughter even works at the Commissary. Although we do not utilize the Exchange as much, mainly because of its size, but when we do it is usually for high ticket items on which the savings is greatest – especially when we do not need to pay state sales tax.

It is because of these weekly shopping trips, or rather what I observe during these trips, that causes me concern in regards to opening the system to more users. It is a common practice for authorized users to have multiple family members, sometimes multiple generations, shopping with them.  Pushing 4 and 5 carts through the store, filled to the brim with a half dozen jugs of milk, 8 loaves of bread and a quarter of the meat cooler, it is obvious they are shopping for more than one household. Despite ID card scanners at the checkout and attempts by the staff to police abuse, it occurs none the less.

What is to stop this same abuse if the Exchange system is opened to more users? More importantly, what is to keep similar changes from happening at the Commissary or MWR facilities?

Proponents argue that the expansion would be limited to the online store only. But, if profits can be increased via additional foot traffic at the brick and mortar stores, I believe it is only a matter of time. Again, proponents state that it would be too difficult to allow access to veterans, who lack the proper ID card for base entry. However, some system of verification would be necessary for the online store as well – what would stop bases from using this same verification system to allow these veterans visitor access?

Bottom line is, I do not know if this is a good idea or not. I hope that prior to making any changes, the AAFES command would avoid a knee jerk decision and evaluate the long term effects. More importantly, I hope they would ask the current users for input.

Disclaimer: The opinions in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the views of this website.  This author accepts all responsibility for the opinions and viewpoints in this article.

Tom Burrell

Tom Burrell

Tom enlisted in the US Marine Corps Reserves in 1987. Following service in Desert Storm, he transitioned to active duty with the US Coast Guard. In 1997 he left the USCG to pursue a position in conservation & maritime law enforcement. Tom is currently a Captain and he oversees several programs, including his agency investigation unit. He is also a training instructor in several areas including firearms, defensive tactics and first aid/CPR. In 2006 Tom received his Associate’s Degree in Criminal Justice from Harrisburg Area Community College and in 2010 a Bachelor’s Degree from Penn State University.
Tom Burrell
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15 thoughts on “AAFES for All?

  1. When are they going to update the exchange site to allow the “Honorably Discharged” veterans to gain access and be allowed to shop? I have been out for 2 years and DEERS has nothing on file for me.

  2. The idea of allowing all Honorably Discharged members to shop online is still only a proposal. Currently, shopping whether online or in store is limited to serving or retired members, dependants or certain disabled members while obtaining medical treatment.

  3. I used to think that retirees & Active duty personnel should be the “ONLY” people allowed. Since the exchange allows Government employees access, and have for years, ALL Honorably Discharged Veterans have more right to the exchanges, Commissary and Exchange. Since our government has done such harm to our veterans, pay caps, loss of portion of SGLI, being told that they will have to pay for their medical expenses, their families as well, Honorably Discharged Veterans be allowed before any civilian, non-combatant. Heck, years ago, the exchanges allowed the “SMLM” Soviet Military Liaison Mission (During the cold war) to use the exchanges in Europe, where else I can’t say. Figure it out? It’s about time that the Honorably Discharged be given something. If it were for a politician it would have been allowed years ago.

  4. I am all for allowing Honorably Discharged veterans having access. We served our country with pride and it would be nice to get something back.

  5. I am for the change. I too am a Honorably Discharged Veteran and I have long thought that my service warrants something. I think that those who retire warrant and deserve more (I.E. full benefits), but it is like my years of service meant nothing.

    Under the current system a solider who served 4 years but was deployed for almost all of them gets nothing while a soldier who serves 20 years but never deploys gets everything. I don’t think that is right.

    I believe that all honorably discharged veterans should be offered a ‘Veteran’s Card’. That card could be used by all make and manner of organizations (both private and government) to provide services and benefits.

    Just my $0.02.

  6. It would be nice to have access to sites like AAFES and other sites that allow Veteran to get great deals on gear. Oakley Standard Issue is now allowing Honorably Discharged Veterans get Oakley gear at a fraction of Retail.

  7. I absolutely agree with opening the AAFES up to all veterans. Not only am I a veteran, but have spent 37 years working for the DoD as a civilian. I have always lived within a short drive of a military installation and been unable to use the AAFES facilities, but was always able to utilize the gym, bowling center, golf course and other facilities by showing my CAC. Additionally, when stationed overseas in a civilian capacity (at the U.S. Embassy in Bogota, Colombia, Iraq and Afghanistan), I was allowed to use the PX and Commissary. If only to use the gas station on base, it would be a huge benefit that would cost the taxpayers little to nothing because the facilties are self-supporting.

  8. Kentucky has “veteran” driver’s licenses available–when you go to renew your license, you show your DD214 and “Veteran” is placed vertically next to your photo. Other states states may have similar programs. This solves the “proper ID to get on base” issue for brick-and-mortar stores, but not on-line access. Perhaps actually going to an Exchange and registering for on-line access by showing such ID or the DD214 itself?

    I could also agree with the limited benefits idea of the previous poster–I put in nine years, beginning in 1973 (RA), with one four-year tour in Germany, but that’s nothing like the hardships of multiple combat tours, so limit it to “honorably discharged combat veterans” to address the poster’s “REMF don’t deserve it” concern. That would disqualify me, but it wouldn’t be like I’m losing a benefit, since I don’t have any now.

  9. I’m all for allowing all veterans access to the PX and Commissary. With the declining military force many who have served honorably are losing this benefit, and revenues are down. I don’t think restricting it to combat veterans is reasonable, We all served and faced the risk of call-up for whatever time we were in. I registered for the PX online using my SSAN to identify myself without presenting myself physically to any registration point. For those who decry that the veterans will not get the benefit of the morale and welfare funds from the PX, I don’t either, I may be eligible but my medical conditions and location preclude me from benefiting from these programs. If this is a problem don’t shop the PX!

  10. Sure,why not. All our “other” benefits are slowly shrinking or are not worth the paper they are written on. I have been retired for 30 years now. I have never visited
    the Vaunted service-oriented VA, have never visited a military hospital, and rarely visit the Commissary or the Post exchange(local economy beats the DEALS). Tricare is the only BENEFIT worth a damn.

  11. How is this even a question? If you served our country honorably (the definition of which is very fluid depending on who you ask) then you should be allowed to use that service. But, why is it no surprise that most politicians *coughrepublicanscaugh* don’t weigh in on this, as they get all their services paid for by the tax-payers… but then again apathy is more their style.

  12. Are there feedback from DOD on whether all veterans will be allowed to use the exchange system. I for one am in favor of allowing all veterans in some shape or form shop at exchanges and I’m still confused why a person with 80% military disability isn’t allowed exchange privileges.

  13. Yes, I feel all Honorable Veterans should have access. We all served our country and this is a small price to pay for the sacrifices that are made. This will make it legal and prevent the fraudulent visits from those that should not be there….

  14. And then the local civilian dealers will complain about the unfair advantage given to the veterans. Their members of congress will then cause base exchanges to remove any advantage the military had to shop at the base exchanges. Sad to say, but always just about money.

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