Veterans may be entitled to shop at commissaries and sales tax free

By James Bower | May 2, 2022

I once heard a story of man who was barely able to afford a ticket to make a transatlantic voyage. Since he could afford only the cheapest ticket, he took some crackers along with him so he wouldn’t starve.

Daily, he would pass by the dining room and look at other passengers enjoying fine meals. He would then go down to his cabin in the lower potion of the ship and eat a few crackers to sustain himself.

When the ship finally arrived at its destination, a crew member asked the man how he had liked the trip and the wonderful meals served on board. The man said he hadn’t had enough money to purchase them. The crew member then told the man that meals had been included with the price of his ticket. 

I tell you this story because I have talked with several veterans who — like our ocean voyager — had no idea they were entitled to certain privileges paid for with their service. Many veterans are not aware they can shop at commissaries and exchanges on military bases.

Prior to January 2020, this was not the case. Only a select few veterans, such as retired military and those service connected (SC) veterans rated 100 percent, could access these facilities. But the law changed and since then any SC veteran may now be able to shop at their local commissary and exchange. SC veterans can present their Veteran Health Identification Card (VHIC) to gain entry to DoD and Coast Guard installations and some commissary stores and at point of sale at commissaries and exchanges. 

You will have to stop at the visitors center of the installation to complete the authorization process. You will present your VHIC card along with your driver’s license or passport. After the completion of a background check, your VHIC card will be activated on post. Then you simply have the gate check your VHIC card, and you’re in.  

Another fact many vets are not aware of is their ability to shop online at My Exchange. All these facilities let you enjoy tax-free shopping.

James Bower is a member of the Greater Wichita Area Veterans Advocacy Board and owner of