14 November, 2019 05:42

[Editor’s Note: Apologies for no clips yesterday, I’ve got a bi-monthly visit from the flu that’s hopping from one kid to another, and our other two clips producers aren’t around to pick up the slack due to travel and other stuff.]
Good morning Legionnaires and veterans advocates, today is Thursday, November 14, 2019 which is International Girls Day, National American Teddy Bear Day, National Spicy Guacamole Day and Loosen Up, Lighten Up Day.
Today/Yesterday in Legion History:

  • Nov. 13, 1919: Lemuel Bolles, a founder and first national adjutant, packs all The American Legion’s official records into one dry-goods box and carries them the organization’s first national offices loaned by the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce at the Meridian Life Building, 307 N. Pennsylvania Street, in Indianapolis.
  • Nov. 14, 1982: The American Legion concludes a four-day “National Salute to Vietnam Veterans,” the highlight of which is the formal dedication of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on Nov. 13, attended by thousands. The Vietnam Wall would by 2017 be engraved with the names of more than 58,300 military personnel who died as a result of their war wounds, primarily between 1959 and 1975. It eventually becomes the most attended veterans memorial in the nation, receiving more than 3 million visitors per year.

This Day in History:

  • 1851: Moby-Dick is now considered a great classic of American literature and contains one of the most famous opening lines in fiction: “Call me Ishmael.” Initially, though, the book about Captain Ahab and his quest to catch a giant white whale was a flop. Its author, Herman Melville was born in New York City in 1819. Melville’s sixth book, Moby-Dick, was first published in October 1851 in London, in three volumes titled The Whale, and then in the U.S. a month later. Melville had promised his publisher an adventure story similar to his popular earlier works, but instead, Moby-Dick was a tragic epic, influenced in part by Melville’s friend and Pittsfield, Massachusetts, neighbor, Nathaniel Hawthorne, whose novels include The Scarlet Letter. [Shout-out to Berkshire Couty!]
  • On November 14, 1970, a chartered jet carrying most of the Marshall University football team clips a stand of trees and crashes into a hillside just two miles from the Tri-State Airport in Kenova, West Virginia, killing everyone onboard. The team was returning from that day’s game, a 17-14 loss to East Carolina University. Thirty-seven Marshall football players were aboard the plane, along with the team’s coach, its doctors, the university athletic director and 25 team boosters–some of Huntington, West Virginia’s most prominent citizens–who had traveled to North Carolina to cheer on the Thundering Herd. “The whole fabric,” a citizen of Huntington wrote later, “the whole heart of the town was aboard.”


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Army Times: Senator asks Army secretary why recruiters are using Chinese-owned social media apps
By: Kyle Rempfer1 day ago
The top Senate Democrat wants answers from Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy by Dec. 6regarding the use of Chinese social media apps among soldiers.
Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., sent a letter to McCarthy on Thursday asking whether the Army consulted, or plans to consult, with intelligence officials and the Department of Homeland Security about the use of apps like TikTok as platforms for recruitment.
Schumer also asked McCarthy whether the Army has “conducted an analysis of alternative recruiting platforms prior to its decision to leverage TikTok?”
The questions come as the Army unveils plans for a new advertising campaign that aims to use digital analytics and social media platforms to target and recruit young people who show an interest in skills relevant to military service.
“While I recognize that the Army must adapt its recruiting techniques in order to attract young Americans to serve, I urge you to assess the potential national security risks posed by China-owned technology companies before choosing to utilize certain platforms,” Schumer wrote in his letter.
U.S. Army Recruiting Command, or USAREC, said it continuously reminds soldiers to remain vigilant about the risks of sharing personal information and data over social media, a warning that extends to TikTok.
“According to USAREC, recruiters are allowed to use various platforms to create awareness and connect with today’s youth but they are taught not to discuss any personally identifiable information (PII) over any social media platform,” Army spokeswoman Lt. Col. Robin Ochoa told Army Times.
“When PII needs to be discussed, they must move to email, phone of face-to-face for personal discussion," Ochoa added.
Social media has long been under public scrutiny over the massive amounts of personal data that can be harvested from users, often without them fully aware.
American social media companies have also been accused of hoarding user data and sharing it in unethical ways. However, the ambiguity of the Chinese system and the lack of legal mechanism’s to challenge Chinese government requests is concerning to Schumer’s office.
That concern has been amplified as Chinese tech companies rise in prominence and the extent of the Chinese Communist Party influence over those companies remains illusive.
In recent months, national security experts have raised concerns about TikTok in particular. TikTok’s parent company is currently undergoing a national security review by the U.S. Treasury Department, according to multiple reports.
Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., also joined Schumer in October to ask for an intelligence assessment of not only TikTok, but other Chinese-owned platforms. The two lawmakers fear those firms may still be required to adhere to the laws of Chinese data-sharing regulations even though the data they collect is stored in the United States.
A TikTok spokesman told The Associated Press that their company has “no higher priority than earning the trust of users and regulators in the U.S," including “working with Congress.”
TikTok maintains that it’s not beholden to Chinese laws that compel native companies to support and cooperate with the intelligence work of the Chinese Communist Party.
The kinds of data potentially at risk includes user content and messages, IP addresses, user locations and metadata.
“Further, due to a lack of transparency and without an independent judiciary to review requests made by the Chinese government for user data or other actions, there is no legal mechanism for Chinese companies to appeal if they disagree with a request,” Schumer wrote in his Nov. 7 letter to McCarthy.
TikTok has more than 110 million downloads in the United States alone, and the compounding problems raised by apps that store and utilize user data aren’t relegated to recruiting.
In 2018, it was found that running routes and movement patterns around sensitive installations were often catalogued by fitness apps.
WaPo: More intervention from Trump in war-crimes cases could come soon, officials say
Dan Lamothe
November 12, 2019 at 6:40 p.m. EST
President Trump could soon intervene in at least one of several cases in which U.S. service members have been accused of war crimes, according to people involved in the process, despite concern among some Pentagon leaders that such action could damage military discipline and morale.

Families and attorneys for the accused saw the Veterans Day weekend as a possible window for Trump to issue pardons or help in other ways. The president has not spoken publicly about the cases in recent days but has questioned whether the service members were treated fairly and believes he has support among his political base to act, said the officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

“The president doesn’t seem to be constrained by any sort of timeline for these decisions, which contributes to higher intrigue and reasserts his prerogative as commander in chief," said one U.S. official with knowledge of ongoing conversations.

Defense Secretary Mark. T. Esper discussed the issue with Trump last week, the official said, but it was something of a “courtesy” in which Esper likely “rehashed all the things [the president] expected to hear."

Trump has expressed an interest in pardoning service members accused of crimes, especially after the cases have been discussed on television, one former senior administration official said. In May, Trump pardoned former Army 1st Lt. Michael Behenna, who was convicted in the 2008 murder of an Iraqi prisoner suspected member of al-Qaeda.

The discussion was renewed on Nov. 4 when Fox News personality Pete Hegseth announced that Trump was interested in taking action in the cases by Veterans Day. Trump is know to speak regularly with Hegseth.

Alyssa Farah, a Pentagon spokeswoman, referred The Post to Esper’s previous comments on the issue. The Pentagon chief acknowledged last week that he had discussed the issue with Trump but declined to say whether he supports exonerating the service members involved.
“But I do have full confidence in the military justice system and we’ll let things play out as they play out,” Esper added. “I offered ― as I do in all matters ― the facts, the options, my advice, the recommendations and we’ll see how things play out."

The cases include that of Army Maj. Mathew L. Golsteyn, a former Special Forces officer who faces a murder trial in the death of a suspected Taliban bomb maker; former Special Warfare Operator Chief Edward Gallagher, a Navy SEAL who recently was acquitted of the most serious charges against him but convicted of a lesser war crime; and former Army 1st Lt. Clint Lorance, who was convicted of second-degree murder in 2013 and is serving a 19-year prison sentence for ordering his soldiers to open fire on three men in Afghanistan.

Trump could act next in the case of Lorance, who lost his case after nine members of his unit testified against him.

Lorance’s relatives traveled to Fort Leavenworth in Kansas from several states this week in anticipation that Trump could set him free, said David Gurfein, a retired Marine who is assisting the family as the chief executive officer of United American Patriots, a nonprofit that raises money to help people charged with war crimes.

Lorance’s supporters have argued that Army prosecutors in his case hid details, including that biometrics showed the men were affiliated with the Taliban. The U.S. Army Court of Criminal Appeals ruled in 2017 that the information would not have been permitted at a new trial.

Gurfein said he is “very optimistic” Lorance could be released soon, though the details for how that would occur are not clear. An announcement could come Wednesday, Gurfein said, citing conversations with people who are “closest to the president.”

Gurfein said he also anticipates action in Golsteyn’s case soon, but a defense official said that is not clear, especially considering how different the facts of the cases are.

The options available to the president in Lorance’s case include granting a full pardon, shortening his prison sentence or disagreeing with previous findings in the case.

Golsteyn’s case, involving the 2010 death of a man in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province, has been at the center of an Army investigation for years. The incident came under scrutiny in 2011 after he applied for a job with the CIA and disclosed during a polygraph test that he had killed someone on deployment and burned the body, according to Army documents and a previous interview with Golsteyn.

The Army closed the case without bringing charges against him in 2013, electing to punish him administratively instead, revoking his Special Forces tab and taking away a Silver Star awarded for valor. But, citing undisclosed new evidence, the service re-opened the case and brought a murder charge against him in late 2018, prompting Trump to tweet on two occasions that he would review the case. A court-martial is scheduled for next year.

“The case of Major Mathew Golsteyn is now under review at the White House,” Trump tweeted in October, tagging Hegseth in the post. “Mathew is a highly decorated Green Beret who is being tried for killing a Taliban bombmaker. We train our boys to be killing machines, then prosecute them when they kill!”

Golsteyn has acknowledged killing the man but said the incident occurred during a lawful ambush after he was detained and released. In a statement released Monday night, Golsteyn said he is “incredibly grateful” for Trump’s attention on the case and that Esper’s intervention over the last week has raised new questions about fairness.
“I am glad that the absence of impartiality in the military justice system is being exposed on a national scale so that it can be remedied, but saddened at the same time over the clear lack of moral courage in our senior leaders in DOD,” he said.

In Gallagher’s case, a murder trial against him fell apart in June after another SEAL in his unit testified in court that he had actually killed a wounded Islamic State detainee in Iraq at the center of the case. Gallagher was convicted instead of taking a photograph with an Islamic State corpse and demoted him one rank to petty officer first class.

Gallagher is seeking to have his old rank reinstated before he retires, said his attorney, Tim Parlatore. Gallagher appeared on a Fox News segment with Hegseth over Veterans Day weekend, but his attorney said he is not speaking with the White House or trying to influence Trump.

Rachel VanLandingham, a military justice expert at Southwestern Law School in Los Angeles, said that Trump has the right to taken action in the cases as commander in chief. But she argued that doing so will have consequences, and that acting in Golsteyn’s case before it is tried would undermine commanders.

“No president in my knowledge since the enactment in 1950 of the [Uniform Code of Military Justice] has so interfered in an ongoing court-martial with its panoply of due-process safeguards,” she said. “What Trump is doing is the opposite of due process — it’s tyrannical.”

Josh Dawsey contributed to this report.

Stripes: New study shows veteran benefit discrepancies between states

By NIKKI WENTLING | STARS AND STRIPES Published: November 11, 2019

WASHINGTON — Several years ago, Iraq War veteran Kayla Williams and her family moved to Pennsylvania, where she and her husband received $500 each semester toward her two children’s school costs, thanks to a statewide benefit.

The only problem? They had relocated from Virginia — a state that provides free tuition to children of disabled veterans. Williams’ husband, also a veteran, has a 100 percent disability rating from the VA.

“I was shocked by that difference,” Williams said. “My husband had the same level of disability, but the difference between free tuition and $500 each semester was so stark. I thought, ‘I have to know more.’ ”

Williams and her family moved back to Virginia after just one year in Pennsylvania because of a job opportunity. Williams led the Center for Women Veterans at the Department of Veterans Affairs before taking her current position as director of the military, veterans and society program at the Center for a New American Security, a Washington think tank.

In her new role, Williams looked back at her family’s move to Pennsylvania and decided to investigate the differences in benefits for veterans, state by state.

She discovered that different states offer a wide variety and number of benefits, from a high of 60 benefits in Illinois to a low of 22 each in Hawaii and Oklahoma. Many of them were enacted by state legislatures after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, creating what the Center for New American Securities describes as a “sea of goodwill.”

However, no state does a very good job of promoting the benefits or providing an easy process to apply for them, the think tank found. Williams’ findings were released Monday, on Veterans Day, in a new report titled, “From Sea to Shining Sea: State Level Benefits for Veterans.”
“To do this research has been totally eye-opening,” Williams said. “We were really struck by how hard it was to find these benefits. What’s the point in having a benefit if people can’t figure out how to use it?”

To address that problem, the Center for a New American Security created an online databasethat allows veterans to search for and compare state benefits. The tool was also launched Monday, along with the report.

In her research, Williams discovered states in the Midwest and Northeast provide a higher number of benefits on average than states in the South and West. That fact was surprising, Williams said, because southern states typically have higher rates of military enlistment.
“It’s a big assumption that the South is so patriotic and they love the military, and they join the military, so they’ll support them after,” Williams said. “But that isn’t necessarily how it played out.”

The study couldn’t pinpoint a single state that had the best benefits for veterans because what’s offered varies so greatly state by state, she said. While Illinois has the most, it’s unclear if the benefits there are more valuable in total than what another’ state may offer.

“There’s just a lot of variation in who’s eligible, what the benefits are and the value of the benefits,” Williams said.

The report contains takeaways for state leaders and veterans. State officials should make the benefits easier to apply for and receive, the report says, and analyze whether the benefits they offer are serving the state’s intended goals.

For veterans, the think tank recommends building a better awareness of state-level benefits and factoring those into decision-making when choosing where to live. Unlike with her family’s move to Pennsylvania, Williams plans to research state benefits when it comes time to choose a new home.

“This needs to be one thing that we weigh when we decide if we’re going to move,” Williams said. “Weighing this, knowing this is something to consider if we want to move, is the biggest lesson that I’ve taken away — that it can be so significant.”

See the Center for a New American Security’s benefit finder here.
Read the report here.

Military Times: What you need to know now that Tricare, FEDVIP enrollment season is underway
By:Karen Jowers1 day ago
Open enrollment season for Tricare and the Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Program began Monday, meaning now is the time for military beneficiaries to switch between Tricare plans or buy or swap dental or vision coverage.
Between now and Dec. 9, Tricare beneficiaries can change between Tricare Prime and Tricare Select, or, if they are not already enrolled, sign up. Beneficiaries who want to remain in their current program do not have to do anything. If no action is taken, they will be covered through the next calendar year, unless they become ineligible for another reason.
Each Tricare plan has its own features and cost structure. Tricare Prime has no out-of-pocket costs for active duty families, unless they see a doctor outside their Prime network without a referral or fill prescriptions at a retail pharmacy or through mail order. For retirees, Tricare Prime requires an annual enrollment fee as well as co-payments for appointments and procedures other than those at a military treatment facility.
Tricare Select for most beneficiaries requires no enrollment fee but has a higher fee structure. It allows beneficiaries to select their own physicians and see specialists largely without a referral.
There are a number of options under Tricare Prime and Select; beneficiaries can compare them on Tricare’s website.
If beneficiaries want to change plans outside open season, they can do so only if they experience a qualifying life event, such as losing other insurance coverage, marriage, childbirth, adoption or other change.
Open enrollment season for the Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Program, or FEDVIP, also began on Nov. 11 and runs through Dec. 9.
During this period, retirees can get dental coverage or swap plans, and military family members, retirees and other eligible Tricare beneficiaries can obtain vision coverage.
For 2020, FEDVIP will offer at least 10 dental and four vision carriers for patients to choose from. Information on individual plans, including rates, premiums, cost-shares and annual and lifetime maximum benefits can be found on the BENEFEDS website.
The site also includes information on eligibility as well as a comparison tool that lets beneficiaries compare up to three plans side-by-side based on locality.
This open season marks the second for military retirees and other beneficiaries since the Tricare Retiree Dental Program was abolished in December 2018. Last year, the enrollment window was extended through March and more than 1.4 million Tricare beneficiaries signed up, including 1.97 million who previously had been in TRDP.
At least 300,000 Tricare beneficiaries enrolled in a FEDVIP vision plan.
As with Tricare, beneficiaries currently enrolled in a FEDVIP dental or vision plan who are satisfied with their plan and don’t want to change do not have to take any action.
A “virtual benefits fair” is being hosted through Dec. 9 on the BENEFEDS site. Chat sessions with representatives are scheduled for Nov. 15, Nov. 22 and Dec. 4. Registration is required.
To check eligibility, enroll or for more information, visit the Tricare Open Season web page. www.tricare.mil/OpenSeason

Military Times: Women veterans measure at center of congressional controversy advances
By:Leo Shane III   15 hours ago
In a post-Veterans Day legislative blitz, House lawmakers passed nine veterans policy measures on Tuesday, including a sweeping bill expanding women veterans support services that had been at the heart of a committee controversy last month.
That bill, the Deborah Sampson Act, passed with an overwhelming 399-11 vote and would require more oversight of women’s health care within the Department of Veterans Affairs, establish a new Office of Women’s Health in the agency, and extend coverage of healthcare for newborn children of veterans from seven to 14 days.
The legislation — named for Revolutionary War veteran Deborah Sampson Gannett — has been stalled on Capitol Hill for the last few years, but supporters are hopeful the Senate will take up the latest version before the end of the year. Several controversial provisions, like changing the VA motto to eliminate male-specific language, are not in the draft passed this week.
Still, supporters call the remaining provisions crucial for reforming VA operations and culture.
“By passing this bill in the House with such strong bipartisan support, we are sending the message to America’s women veterans that we see you, and we thank you for your service,” said Rep. Julia Brownley, D-Calif. and sponsor of the measure.
“Together, we will continue working together to ensure that we are supporting and honoring women veterans and transforming VA so that all of our nation’s veterans receive the benefits and services they have earned and deserve.”
The bill passed out of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee last month without any Republican support after the GOP committee members walked out of a legislative mark-up following a dispute over amendments procedures.
On Tuesday, committee ranking member Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., said on the House floor he remains frustrated that majority Democrats won’t let a pair of legislative proposals — one on veterans’ child care issues, one on veterans’ gun ownership rights — get full debate in the committee.
But he also said those disputes should not take away from the importance of bill’s improvements to veterans programs.
“It includes provisions that would help all veterans – women and men – who experience military sexual trauma, intimate partner violence, sexual assault, or sexual harassment to get the support and the care that they need,” he said. “I stand here in strong support of the Deborah Sampson Act and all the good that it would do for the millions of women veterans that it would serve.”
The measure includes additional funding for primary care and emergency care clinicians in VA’s Women Veterans Health Care residency programs, a requirement for gender-specific services are at every VA medical facility, a mandate for a new policy to end harassment and sexual assault at all VA locations, and a new assessment on the availability of prosthetics specifically for women veterans.
Senate officials have discussed finalizing some or all of the legislation as part of a large veteran-themed legislative package later this year.
In addition to that bill, the House passed eight others without any opposition, including measures to expand GI Bill eligibility rules, broaden VA remote health care services, and increase oversight of certain VA construction projects. All must be approved by the Senate and signed by the president before becoming law.

Military.com: Trump Says US on the Hunt for New Islamic State’s Leader

13 Nov 2019
The Associated Press | By Lolita C. Baldor
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said Tuesday that America now has its eye on a new Islamic State leader, telling the Economic Club of New York that "we know where he is."
Trump didn’t mention the name of the new target, but he is likely referring to Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi, the man who has been named to replace Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as head of the terror group. Al-Baghdadi took his own life last month as U.S. commandoes closed in on him in northern Syria.
In a speech Tuesday, Trump said the U.S. got al-Baghdadi, then got "his second" and now, "we have our eye on his third. His third has got a lot of problems because we know where he is, too."
Little is publicly known about al-Qurayshi, and the group typically identifies its leaders using pseudonyms that refer to their tribal affiliation and lineage. The group does not have a clear hierarchy and few details are known about the remaining top leaders.
Related: Here’s Video of the Special Operators Closing in on ISIS Leader Baghdadi’s Compound
U.S. Army special operations forces chased al-Baghdadi into a dead-end tunnel on a compound where he had been hiding, and he set off a suicide vest he was wearing.
The "second" that Trump mentioned was likely Abu Hassan al-Muhajir, a close aide of al-Baghdadi and a spokesman for the group since 2016. He was killed in a joint U.S. and Kurdish military operation just hours after al-Baghdadi’s death. Another "second," however, could be Fadhil Ahmad al-Hayali, who was described as the group’s No. 2 and was killed in August 2015 by a U.S. airstrike in Iraq.
This is also the second time in two days that Trump has warned about the U.S. targeting a leader of the group. Speaking in New York City on Monday at the opening of the 100th annual parade organized by the United War Veterans Council in Madison Square Park, Trump said "al-Baghdadi is dead. His second in charge is dead. We have our eyes on number 3."
Al-Baghdadi led IS as it sought to establish an Islamic "caliphate" across Syria and Iraq. It’s unclear what impact his death may have on the group, but U.S. officials and military commanders have said repeatedly that pockets of insurgents remain in Iraq and Syria and are still intent on conducting attacks.

Military.com: Everything You Need to Know About Vets’ and Caregivers’ New Base Access

13 Nov 2019
Military.com | By Dorothy Mills-Gregg
New commissary and exchange customers will be granted on-base access in two phases, based on whether they have a Department of Veterans Affairs health insurance card, according to new information released by the Pentagon.
The VA and Defense Department have fleshed out some of their plans to let 4.1 million new customers enjoy access next year to commissaries, military exchanges and recreation facilities located on secure military installations.
Here’s what the latest plans mean for eligible veterans and their caregivers:
Am I eligible? Where can I shop when it comes into effect?
Purple Heart recipients, former prisoners of war, veterans with any service-connected disability and caregivers registered with the VA’s Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers program will be able to shop beginning Jan. 1. Reserve members who fit this description will also have access.
Related: New Commissary, Exchange Access Delayed for Many Veterans
These veterans and caregivers will be able to shop at commissaries and exchanges and use some MWR facilities, such as golf courses, bowling alleys and movie theaters. Services that rely on appropriations to operate, including military uniform items and child development programs, will not be available.
The DoD has been working with the VA, Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Treasury to give these new customers access, integrating them into the complex security systems of military installations.
Retired service members, Medal of Honorrecipients and veterans with a service-related disability rating of 100 percent will continue to have access to on-base facilities and can obtain a DoD identification card to get on base.
I’m an eligible veteran. What do I do to get access?
Veterans with a VA’s Veteran Health Identification Card (VHIC) will be able to shop online and get on base to shop in-person at commissaries, exchanges and some MWR facilities.
Veterans who don’t have a VHIC will be able to shop only online, with access to MWR online and AmericanForcesTravel.com, until the DoD figures out how to give them secure access to bases, officials said.
"When DoD and VA identify a credentialing solution for all Veterans eligible under the Purple Heart and Disabled Veterans Equal Access Act of 2018," the guidance states, "DoD will roll out a new phase of access to accommodate current veterans who are not eligible to obtain a VHIC but are eligible for these privileges."
Currently, all honorably discharged veterans can shop online through the Veterans Online Shopping Benefit. They can set up an account for any of the military exchange websites: Army and Air Force Exchange System, Coast Guard Exchange, Marine Corps Exchange, Navy Exchange Command, and the Veterans Canteen Service.
Veterans with a VHIC can check in with the base visitor control center to gain base access beginning Jan. 1.
Everyone will have to pass a basic, on-the-spot background check with initial access, and have an automated check each subsequent time. Veterans or caregivers with felony convictions, felony arrest warrants or derogatory information related to criminal history or terrorism will be prohibited from entering.
Depending on the type of installation, these VHIC-carrying veterans will be able to enroll in recurring access, which lets them bypass the visitor control center each time by entering through the gates.
What is a Veteran Health Identification Card and can I use a Veteran Identification Card?
VHIC cards are issued to veterans enrolled in VA health care. In order to use the VHIC, it must display the veteran’s eligibility status, like Purple Heart, former POW or service-connected disability.
The VIC is issued to any honorably or generally discharged veteran and is not an accepted identification to provide access to the installations.
More information about the VHIC card can be found at Va.gov/healthbenefits/vhic. The guidance states the VA expects it might see an increase in the number of veterans requesting consideration for service-connected disability ratings and applying for health care benefits to obtain a VHIC.
What is the process for a caregiver?
The process for caregivers registered in the Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers to access the commissaries, exchanges and MWRs is similar to that of VHIC-holding veterans. However, caregivers will receive a letter issued by the VA Office of Community Care saying they qualify as a primary family caregiver of an eligible veteran.
To be admitted on base and to purchase items from the commissary or exchange, they will need to bring the VA letter plus one of the following types of identification. For a full list, refer to the guidance on page 8.

  • DoD common access card
  • REAL ID-compliant driver’s license or other ID 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
  • VHIC
  • Transportation Worker Identification Card

Within 30 days of receiving their eligibility letter, caregivers will be able to shop at the exchanges online like non-VHIC holding veterans, except for the Veterans Canteen Service.
Caregivers who are not a part of the VA’s official program do not qualify for shopping privileges. The DoD might expand access to non-registered caregivers in the future, the policy says.
Can my spouse shop on my behalf?
No, at least not right now. Currently, an authorized caregiver will be classified only as someone approved and designated as the primary family caregiver of an eligible veteran under the Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers.
The DoD said in this new guidance it will consider expanding caregiver privileges to the disabled veteran’s spouse when the VA formalizes approval and designation of general caregivers under the program.
In the meantime, there’s nothing to stop a spouse from getting a base visitor pass and going to the store with the veteran. However, like all base visitors, they will need to pass a background check.
I already have access to shop in commissaries and exchanges. How will this affect me?
The guidance states most locations will "experience little to no impact on current operations," but there might be a "low to moderate impact" to installations in high cost-of-living areas.
"Commissary, exchange and morale, welfare and recreation retail facilities are preparing to welcome home these patrons without disrupting the current service experience for authorized patrons," it states.
What will it cost me?
The commissary sells its grocery items at cost and boasts "an average worldwide savings of 23.7 percent over commercial grocery shopping." While it has no state or local food tax, it imposes a 5 percent surcharge meant to help with store upkeep and construction of new stores.
As required by the Act, these new customers will have to pay an additional charge if they use a commercial credit card or debit card. These credit cards or a Signature debit card will result in an additional 1.9 percent user fee, while other debit card transactions will have a 0.5 percent user fee. This fee will not be refunded when returning a product.
Veterans and caregivers can avoid these fees by using cash, check or the credit card offered by the military resale system, the Military Star card. Customers using electronic benefit transfer cards, like Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, will also avoid the fee.
There will be no such charge at exchanges or for MWR purchases.

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