It will be at least a month before the 4.1 million newly eligible shoppers — such as all service-connected disabled veterans — will have access to the MyCommissary portal and its benefits, officials said.

The access problem doesn’t affect the new customers’ ability to shop in the commissaries on installations, or any of the other on-installation benefits.

Officials expect the access to be available by late February or early March, said Kevin Robinson, spokesman for the Defense Commissary Agency. “We ask the new customer groups to be patient,” he said.

That MyCommissary portal authenticates customers’ eligibility for the online access, but it can’t do that for the 4.1 million people who are newly eligible to shop as of Jan. 1.

In the meantime, these customers are missing out on some extra discounts, and convenience. The MyCommissary portal allows customers to register their commissary rewards card and upload extra discounts and deals that are available only to authorized shoppers. Customers pick up their new rewards card in the stores, but must register them through the secure portal. MyCommissary also allows customers to see current sales flyers with specific commissary prices which can’t otherwise be viewed, and to use the online ordering/curbside pickup service known as Click2Go at four currently participating commissaries in Virginia — Fort Eustis, Naval Air Station Oceana, Fort Belvoir and Quantico Marine Corps Base.

The MyCommissary portal wasn’t ready to accept these 4.1 million new customers because of the massive volume of data shared between the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Defense Manpower Data Center. It took longer than expected to complete the new authorized user validation tables, Robinson said, and work to update the MyCommissary portal couldn’t begin until those tables were complete.

“The tables are now complete and [the commissary agency] is making needed system changes to interface with the new validation tables,” Robinson said. Then, commissary officials must test the validation process, and make sure it’s seamless to customers.

New customers will be able to tell when they have access when the caveats about access for new customers are removed from the portal. Commissary officials will also make a formal announcement, Robinson said.

This problem doesn’t affect the pool of customers who have always been eligible for commissary shopping benefits — such as active duty, Guard and Reserve, retirees, Medal of Honor recipients, 100 percent disabled veterans and their authorized family members.

The newly eligible veterans and caregivers do have access to other parts of the website, which are open to the public. Anyone can buy commissary gift cards; can look at current sales flyers and information on current sales promotions, although there aren’t specific prices; information on the commissary agency’s Nutrition Guide program, including recipes; get information on sidewalk sales and on-site sales for Guard and Reserve units; and food safety and recall information.

Newly eligible veterans and caregivers also weren’t able to register for the DoD discount travel site on Jan. 1, but officials said that problem would be fixed as of Jan. 27. A veteran contacted Military Times to report that he was able to register for the travel site.

Karen has covered military families, quality of life and consumer issues for Military Times for more than 30 years, and is co-author of a chapter on media coverage of military families in the book "A Battle Plan for Supporting Military Families." She previously worked for newspapers in Guam, Norfolk, Jacksonville, Fla., and Athens, Ga.

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