Purple Heart Recipients to Get Commissary, MWR Access

Customers bag groceries at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado. (U.S. Air Force/Joshua Arends)
Customers bag groceries at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado. (U.S. Air Force/Joshua Arends)

Starting in 2020, Purple Heart recipients will have a new benefit from the Department of Defense: military commissary and Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) access.

That's because Purple Heart recipients are among a group of veterans newly granted on-base shopping and MWR privileges as part of the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The president is expected to sign the measure into law.

Commissary grocery prices are priced by law below similar products at off-base stores, plus a five percent surcharge for active-duty troops, Guard and Reserve members, retirees and their respective families, as well as 100 percent service-connected disabled veterans.

MWR services, including military lodging, are designed to be affordable for users and often priced below similar amenities off base. Both benefits are subsidized through federal or other funding.

Purple Heart recipients aren't the only ones gaining new access. The law, passed in 2018, allows several new categories of users, including veterans with any service-connected disability rating, former prisoners of war and Medal of Honor recipients.

But the privilege will come with an additional fee. Congress ordered Pentagon officials to designate what that fee will be; it's expected to be released sometime in 2019.

Accessing the benefit will likely require some kind of base access card, which most new users do not already have.

Pentagon officials will also need to decide how to manage that access issue before the benefit kicks off. So far, no details on that have been released.

-- Amy Bushatz can be reached at amy.bushatz@military.com.

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