6th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
/ Published December 10, 2019
Starting on Jan. 1, 2020, veterans with service-connected disabilities and their primary caregivers will have shopping privileges at the MacDill Air Force Base Exchange, commissary and eligible base recreation facilities with a Department of Veterans Affairs issued Veteran Health Identification Card (VHIC). Veterans must be enrolled in the VA health care system to receive a VHIC. To enroll, you can complete an application for enrollment in VA health care by telephone without the need for a signed paper application. Just call 1-877-222-VETS (8387) Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. Eastern. You can also apply for VA healthcare benefits online at www.va.gov/healthbenefits/enroll, or in person at your local VA medical facility. Once your enrollment is verified, you can have your picture taken at your local VA medical center, and a VHIC will be mailed to you. (Graphic by Department of Veterans Affairs)
Beginning Jan. 1, all service-connected disabled veterans, Purple Heart recipients, former prisoners of war and primary veteran caregivers will be eligible to access military installations worldwide including MacDill AFB.
The newly eligible customers, about 4 million in all, will also be able to shop the military exchanges, commissaries and use certain morale, welfare and recreation activities. The expanded privileges and access are the result of the Disabled Veterans Equal Access Act of 2018.
The Department of Defense, Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Homeland Security (the expansion also applies to Coast Guard facilities) have partnered to make the expansion possible. Details of eligibility and military installation access follow:
Disabled and other eligible veterans: The Veteran Health Identification card (VHIC), https://www.va.gov/healthbenefits/vhic issued by the VA with “Purple Heart,” “Former POW” or “Service Connected” printed on the front, will be required for access into the installation and entry to the stores. Veterans with a 0% service-connected disability rating who earn above the HUD income threshold not eligible for a VHIC, will be issued a VA Health Eligibility Center form for installation access and entry to the stores.
Caregivers: The benefit applies to the approved and designated primary family caregiver of service-connected disabled veterans who are registered in the Department of Veterans Affairs Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers to receive shopping privileges. Visit the VA’s caregiver page, https://www.va.gov/health-care/family-caregiver-benefits/comprehensive-assistance/ for more information.
“During their initial visit to MacDill AFB, eligible veterans must visit the Michael Moffitt Visitor Control Center, located near the Dale Mabry Gate, with a valid REAL-ID compliant driver’s license, passport, or other acceptable form of identification and register their VHIC and REAL-ID into the Defense Biometric Identification System,” said Kevin Siharath, 6th Security Forces Squadron chief of the visitor control center. “After their VHIC is registered into the DBIDS system, for subsequent visits to the base, veterans may go directly to any of the installation’s entry gates.”
Pre-identified primary caregivers of eligible veterans will be mailed a letter by the VA. These letters are valid for one-year from the date of issue by the VA. The VHIC or the caregiver letter will be used for access to the exchange, commissary and MWR facilities. On their initial visit to MacDill AFB, eligible caregivers will need to take their letters along with a valid REAL ID-compliant identification to the VCC to be registered into the DBIDS system as well.
“All individuals granted access to the installation must undergo a background check and abide by all applicable rules and regulations regarding base driving privileges to include the wearing of proper safety equipment for motorcycle riders and the use of hands-free cell phones,” added Siharath. “Additionally, all individuals entering the base are subject to random vehicle inspections. Veterans with felony convictions, arrest warrants, or other types of derogatory information related to criminal history or terrorism will not be permitted entry.”
Up to five family members and other guests may accompany eligible disabled veterans or caregivers solely under this Act onto the installation and into facilities but are not authorized to make purchases and must remain with the sponsoring veteran or caregiver at all times while on the installation. All guests of veterans and caregivers must have proper forms of identification, such as a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license or U.S. passport and undergo the same on-the-spot fitness check as the eligible veteran or caregiver—the same as any visitor to the installation.
Additionally, veterans may request a waiver to the limit of five guests if they are conducting a special event on the installation such as a birthday party, golf outing or wedding. The waiver request must be submitted in person at the visitors center by the requestor at least seven calendar days prior to the scheduled event. The requestor must provide a typed list that includes each guest’s full names and state driver’s license numbers. The waiver request must also include the event’s exact time, date and location. The requestor will be notified by email or phone when the waiver request has been approved or disapproved.
Information about the Exchange’s in-store shopping privileges for veterans is available at Exchange's Community Hub at https://publicaffairs-sme.com/Community/veterans. Additionally, all honorably discharged veterans may shop online at the Exchange. Veterans can determine their eligibility to shop online at www.ShopMyExchange.com/vets.
Eligible veterans may also use their VHIC to shop at the base commissary. The DoD is required to charge a small fee to new users who are eligible solely under the Purple Heart and Disabled Veterans Equal Access Act of 2018, to cover any increase in costs to the U.S. Treasury for processing commercial credit and debit cards. There's no extra charge when paying by cash, check or using the credit card offered by the military resale system, the Military Star card.
For information about base recreation facilities to include regular and holiday hours, veterans may go to the 6th Force Support Squadron at https://www.macdillfss.com/default.aspx. Information about the Exchange is available at www.shopmyexchange.com and the commissary at www.commissaries.com.
Medal of Honor recipients and veterans with a 100% service-connected disability rating already are granted installation access and use of base facilities. There are no changes to the process for these veterans to obtain their ID cards.
The Michael Moffitt Visitor Control Center located at 6901 South Dale Mabry Highway is open Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. and on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. They are closed on Sundays and all federal holidays. Please contact the VCC at (813) 828-2737 for more information.
“Team MacDill is honored to expand access to our commissary, Exchange and Morale, Welfare and Recreation facilities to our disabled veterans and caregivers,” said, Col. Stephen Snelson, 6th Air Refueling Wing and installation commander. “Thank you for your outstanding service to our nation. We hope you enjoy your visit to MacDill!”
For more information on this new program, visit https://download.militaryonesource.mil/12038/MOS/Factsheets/expanding-access-fact-sheet.pdf