Military Connection: Exchange Privileges for Vets: By Debbie Gregory

AAFES OnlineA new benefit could be coming soon for millions of Veterans. There are reportedly talks about expanding online shopping privileges at Army and Air Force Exchange Services (AAFES) to all honorably discharged Veterans from every branch. This proposed deal is for online shopping only.

Currently, only active duty personnel, retirees and their dependents are granted exchange privileges, which offer exclusive savings and tax-free shopping. Safeguarding the exclusivity of this privilege is nearly as daunting as securing access to the bases the exchanges are on, as every purchase is subject to an I.D. check.

Many who have served see their exchange privileges as one of the perks of military service, and one of the rewards of serving until retirement. It is this feeling that exchange privileges are indeed “a privilege” that has many active duty service members and retirees opposed to the expansion.

But the truth of the matter is that if AAFES is able to increase their consumer base online, they will increase their sales. And then the exchanges will have an easier time improving the quality of services that they provide in their brick and mortar stores for active duty and retirees.

AAFES CEO Tom Shull also sees the expansion of the exchange privilege to more Veterans as a modest way to thank them for their service and sacrifices.

Concerns have been raised that allowing the expansion of this benefit could require multiple policy changes, and pave the way for other benefit expansion, including shopping privileges at the brick and mortar stores on base. Representatives from AAFES claim that they have no intention of expanding benefits any further, and that legal reviews are underway to determine how to handle online shopping for all honorably discharged Veterans.

One of the major hang-ups with the proposal is figuring out how AAFES will share profits with Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) when Veterans from the Navy, Marine Corps or Coast Guard shop using their online program. Shull and the AAFES team appear confident that an agreement can be reached that benefits everyone.

Talks about expanding online AAFES shopping are expected to continue into late November. Shull believes that this expansion is not a matter of “if,” but “when.” This could be big news and big savings for the Veteran community.

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Military Connection: Exchange Privileges for Vets: By Debbie Gregory