The Defense Department has announced expanded commissary, Military Service Exchange and MWR access beginning Jan. 1, 2020, and established a standard for physical access to military installations.
Veterans and primary family caregivers who are eligible and want to take advantage of in-person benefits must have a Veterans Health Identification Card, or VHIC. Primary family caregivers must have an eligibility letter from the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Community Care.
Veterans currently use VHICs for identification and check-in at VA appointments, but will also use them for base access under the new program.
Veterans eligible solely under this act who are eligible to obtain a VHIC must use this credential for in-person installation and privilege access. The card must display the veteran’s eligibility status (e.g., Purple Heart, former prisoner of war or military-service connected).
Veterans eligible solely under this act who are not enrolled in or are not eligible to enroll in VA health care, or who are enrolled in VA health care, but do not possess a VHIC will not have access to DOD and Coast Guard installations for in-person commissary, exchange and MWR retail privileges, but will have full access to online exchanges and American Forces Travel.
Medal of Honor recipients and veterans with 100 percent service-connected disability ratings are eligible for DOD credentials under DOD policy.
How to get a VHIC
Veterans must be enrolled in the VA health care system to receive a VHIC. To enroll, veterans must complete an application for enrollment in VA health care by telephone without the need for a signed-paper application. Just call 877-222-VETS (8387) Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. EST. Veterans can also apply for VA healthcare benefits online at www.va.gov/healthbenefits/enroll, or in person at a local VA medical facility. Once enrollment is verified, veterans can have their picture taken at their local VA medical center, and VA will mail the VHIC.
ID needed to get a VHIC
To ensure a veteran’s identity, enrollees must provide one form of primary identification when requesting a VHIC. Acceptable forms of primary identification are:
State-issued driver’s license
U.S. passport or passport card
Other government ID
This ID can be issued by federal, state or local government agencies provided it contains a photograph, name, date of birth and address. If the address is not on the proofing document, veterans can provide separate documentation to confirm their address. Acceptable address documents include:
Other mailing document
Voter Registration card
How long does it take?
Once the picture is taken, veterans should receive their VHIC within 10 days. If they have any questions, veterans should contact their local VA medical facility where they receive care or call 877-222-VETS (8387).
The VHIC provides:
Increased security for personal information — no personally identifiable information contained on the magnetic stripe or barcode.
Unique member identifier — Department of Defense assigns an electronic data interchange personal identifier that allows VA to retrieve the veteran’s health record.
A salute to military service — The emblem of the veteran’s latest branch of service is displayed on the card. Several special awards will also be listed.
Accessibility — Braille “VA” helps visually impaired veterans to recognize and use the card.
Anti-counterfeiting — Microtext helps prevent reproductions.
Lost or stolen?
If the VHIC is lost or stolen, contact the VA medical facility where the picture was taken to request a new card, or call 877-222-VETS (8387). Veterans will need to provide identification information when reporting lost or stolen cards.
Eligible caregivers will receive an eligibility letter from VA’s Office of Community Care.
If a primary family caregiver under the PCAFC loses their eligibility letter, please call 877-733-7927 to request a replacement. Please allow two weeks for processing.
For installation access, entry to some commissary stores and at point of sale at commissaries, exchanges, and MWR retail facilities, eligible caregivers will need to show an acceptable credential along with their eligibility letter. Acceptable credentials may include:
DOD common access card (when otherwise eligible)
DOD uniformed services identification card (when otherwise eligible)
REAL ID-compliant driver’s license issued by a state, territory, possession, or the District of Columbia
REAL ID-compliant non-driver’s identification card issued by a state, territory, possession, or the District of Columbia
Enhanced driver’s license issued by a state, territory, possession, or the District of Columbia
U.S. passport or passport card
Foreign passport bearing an unexpired immigrant or non-immigrant visa or entry stamp
Federal personal identity verification card (when otherwise eligible)
Transportation Worker Identification Card
Upon the first visit to an installation, eligible veterans and caregivers must stop at the visitor control center. Depending on the type of installation, veterans may enroll for recurring access, which allows them to proceed to the gate for entry upon subsequent visits without having to stop again at the visitor control center.
As with all other individuals seeking access to DOD installations, all eligible veterans must pass a basic on-the-spot background check prior to enrolling and an automated check each time they enter the installation. Veterans with felony convictions, felony arrest warrants, or other types of derogatory information related to criminal history or terrorism will not be permitted entry.