Exchange officials have verified 18,011 honorably discharged veterans for online shopping privileges, including nearly 15,000 in the first four days of the new verification process, officials said Friday.
And no, the site that handles the verification, VetVerify.org, isn't a scam.
A number of veterans have contacted Military Times and exchange officials with identity theft concerns, but "there is no need to worry about the security or authenticity of the site," said Chris Ward, spokesman for the Army and Air Force Exchange Service, which administers the verification process. "VetVerify.org is a shared service for all the four military exchanges with the sole purpose of supporting the newly approved veterans online shopping benefit."
The verification process began Monday, allowing honorably discharged veterans to get their credentials in order before the online exchanges open to veteran shoppers Nov. 11. The new benefit is for online shopping only, and doesn't extend to exchange stores on installations.
The exchange provided a breakdown of the verification process as of noon Friday:
- Of the 38,622 applications, 18,011 have been approved. Of those approvals, 3,200 came as part of a soft launch of the process, prior to Monday's announcement.
- Of the applicants who likely are honorably discharged veterans, about 73 percent have completed the process successfully. The site relies on veteran records that exist in the Defense Manpower Data Center database; if a veteran's records are not there or aren't complete, the veteran will receive instructions on how to upload the information.
- Nearly 14,000 applicants either weren't veterans or already were eligible to shop at exchanges.
All 3,200 veterans who were verified prior to Monday's launch received early access to the online exchanges, part of a beta testing program that will give some veterans the chance to shop prior to Nov. 11. Officials will add more beta shoppers as they continue to verify veterans for shopping privileges, Ward said.
"We are allowing them to shop and provide us feedback on their online experience," Ward said. "Beta testing is critical to verify that the entire process from verification, to the ability to set up a profile, to the shopping experience, is a great one."
Along with evaluating the technical support end of the veterans benefit, exchange officials will monitor shopping patterns so they'll stock the right mix of items on their online sites. At this point, among the veterans who have been shopping, officials have not seen any major differences in online shopping patterns compared with current shoppers, Ward said.
Veterans who have problems with the verification process can contact the VetVerify.org customer call center, toll-free, at 844-868-8672.
Senior reporter Karen Jowers writes about military families, quality of life and consumer issues for Military Times. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.