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Millions Of Vets Eligible To Shop On Base Beginning This Year

A  sailor walks out of Naval Station Norfolk Main Exchange, Wednesday, July 3...

Credit: Associated Press

Above: A sailor walks out of Naval Station Norfolk Main Exchange, Wednesday, July 31, 2013 in Norfolk, Va.

Beginning this week, bases around the country were opened to millions more people to shop.

The new law went into effect January 1, 2020. Roughly 4 million people nationwide will be allowed to shop on base. They include Purple Heart recipients, former Prisoners of War, all veterans with service-connected disabilities, and family of vets enrolled in the Veteran Health Administration Comprehensive Assistance For Family Caregiver program.

“Well, they can shop at the Navy Exchanges,” said Amy Stingly, the access control manager for Navy Region Southwest. “They will have access to the commissary for groceries. The gas station that is just down the street. There is a movie theater that they would be able to utilize. And they can also buy discounted tickets.”

But first, they have to get on base. Navy Region Southwest will require a background check. To shop at Naval bases in San Diego, they will have to go to the Pass and ID office for bases at Naval Base Point Loma, Naval Base San Diego or Naval Air Station North Island.

“The criminal history — background piece — is the longest piece of the puzzle,” she said. “It would take usually 48 hours to get a return on criminal history. So it’s your best bet to come to Pass and ID, fill out the paperwork and come back in two days and pickup your credential.”

One of the officials with the exchange said vets have been turned away after trying to present their paperwork at the gate, rather than going through the review.

Veterans enrolled in Veterans Administration healthcare should bring their VA identification card. Vets who aren’t enrolled in VA care can get a letter from the VA. The VA will also issue letters to caregivers who qualify. Locally, the Navy hasn’t seen a big rush so far.

“Surprisingly we did not see a big influx of customers,” she said.

The VA San Diego estimates there are more than 62,000 veterans in San Diego County who will be eligible to shop at local bases. One draw is gasoline. Pumps don’t charge the federal gas tax. And gas tends to be a little cheaper on base, meaning this new program could get a lot more popular whenever gas goes over $4 a gallon in San Diego.

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Steve Walsh
Military Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI cover military and veterans issues for KPBS and American Homefront, a partnership of public radio stations and NPR. I cover issues ranging from delpoying troops along the California border to efforts to lower suicide rates among veterans.

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