All honorably discharged veterans interested in shopping online at the military exchanges can begin their verification process immediately, exchange officials said, and some may be able to shop prior to the program's full launch.
Some veterans who register at VetVerify.org will be invited to be beta testers, with the ability to shop online earlier than the planned Nov. 11 launch date. Officials said the sooner veterans register on the site, the better their chances of being chosen as a beta tester.
The exchange websites offer tax-free shopping, as well as discounted pricing. Actual online pricing can be seen only by those who are authorized to shop at the websites: shopmyexchange.com; shopcgx.com; mymcx.com; and mynavyexchange.com.
VetVerify.org uses information from the Defense Department's Defense Manpower Data Center to verify a veteran's status; veterans will receive notification of their acceptance as online shoppers or, if their records are incomplete, will receive guidance on the steps they can take to update those records.
Doing this process ahead of time will allow veterans to start shopping Nov. 11, or earlier if they are among the "beta testers" chosen to try out the system in advance of the launch.
This new benefit, which would increase the online shopping base by an estimated 13 million veterans, applies only to shopping online at the military exchanges, not at the physical buildings on military installations. Until now, online military exchange shopping was available only to active-duty, reserve and Guard members, retirees, 100 percent disabled veterans and their dependent family members, and certain others.
"It's an honor to now provide this service and benefit to our well-deserving veterans. Once a Marine, always a Marine," said Cindy Whitman Lacy, Marine Corps Exchange Director of Business and Support Services at Headquarters Marine Corps Manpower and Reserve Affairs, in a statement today announcing the verifying website.
"This initiative is one of many ways to keep our community connected."
Army and Air Force Exchange Service CEO Tom Shull formally proposed the idea of expanding the benefit to honorably discharged veterans on May 14, 2014, noting that it would provide a modest benefit to those who had served but left the military short of retirement.
"The exchanges began working to recognize the service of millions of veterans without exchange privileges while generating additional financial support for critical budget-constrained quality-of-life programs," Shull said, in a statement. "We are proud to stand with our sister exchanges as we welcome our veterans home to their military family and protect and preserve hard-earned military benefits."
The exchanges currently provide more than $300 million a year from their profits to support military quality of life programs. The veterans online shopping benefit is expected to increase that monetary support. In a Jan. 18 DoD memo, officials noted that AAFES will invest about $1.8 million a year to cover costs associated with the expansion of the online platform. If 0.3 percent of the newly eligible veteran group, or about 45,000 veterans, shop online, that cost is expected to be recouped.
"We are excited to be welcoming our shipmates back to the NEX," said retired Rear Adm. Robert J. Bianchi, CEO of Navy Exchange Service Command, in a statement. "Inviting veterans to shop online is just another way for us to honor them for their patriotism and service to our country."
Senior reporter Karen Jowers writes about military families, quality of life and consumer issues for Military Times. She can be reached at email@example.com.