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Authorized Shopping Frequently Asked Questions

Question Answer

Am I eligible to shop in the commissary?

Authorized commissary patrons as defined by Department of Defense Instruction 1330.17, Dod Commissary Program, include active duty, Guard and Reserve members, military retirees, Medal of Honor recipients, 100 percent disabled veterans, and their authorized family members. Please refer to this instruction for a complete list of authorized commissary patrons, including organizations and activities, along with qualifications and any exceptions such as access to U.S. commissaries overseas.

The Defense Commissary Agency has no authority to determine whether a person is authorized to shop in the commissary. If you believe you may be entitled to commissary privileges, visit your local installation Pass and ID office for information about military benefits and to obtain an ID card consistent with your entitlements.

Question Answer

What are the rules regarding access to commissaries located outside the US?

Commissary privileges overseas are covered under Status of Forces Agreements (SOFA), Visiting Forces agreements, treaties, etc. Since products sold in overseas commissaries pass across international borders and are customs, duty, and tax free; there are shopping restrictions. These restrictions are to protect the interest of the host nation and to resolve legal, customs, and tax issues. The agreements allow for some exemptions from host nation tax laws, but nonetheless, the privilege is substantially restricted and will vary from country to country. These agreements are negotiated between the Military Services, the U.S. State Department, and the host nation. Some countries allow exemptions from host nation tax laws; others require the payment of taxes, fees, or tariffs. Many do not allow the purchase of rationed items for visitors.

Other countries have minimum stay requirements to be eligible, but the privilege is restricted for military personnel, retired, DoD civilians, DoD contractors and their family members. In addition, commissary privileges for DoD contractors, stationed and TDY overseas are restrictive, and are not automatic – contracting officers/contracting officers representative (COR) must obtain and follow the theater commander's determination of overseas commissary privileges for contractors.

The Military Services, installation commanders, and the Defense Commissary Agency must enforce and cannot grant exceptions to the agreements. DoD civilians and DoD contractors in TDY status unless on emergency evacuation orders to the U.S. from overseas area not authorized commissary privileges. DoD civilians not on official duty from the U.S. to overseas are not entitled to overseas commissary privileges.

Read on for more information

Question Answer

I'm a military veteran with an honorable discharge, disability associated with my military service, and several decorations for valor.

Am I entitled to commissary privileges?

Based on your description of your status, you probably do not have entitlement to commissary privileges, because in situations involving military service that does not continue through retirement, the laws that authorize commissary privileges grant privileges only to those who are recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor, or who have been certified by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) as 100% disabled in connection with military service.

However, no one in DeCA can make a final determination regarding whether or not you have entitlement to commissary privileges. We recommend that you contact personnel in the Pass and ID Office on the military installation closest to where you live and ask that these folks assess your situation to determine whether or not you have entitlement to commissary privileges.

Question Answer

I think that I may have a disability associated with military service that entitles me to commissary privileges.

What should I do to find out whether or not I'm entitled to commissary privileges?

You should get in touch with personnel at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to find out what you have to do to have VA certify your disability.

If VA certifies you as having 100% disability in connection with military service, VA will send you a letter indicating that you are entitled to commissary privileges. You must take this VA letter to a Pass and ID Office on a military installation to have ID issued that will authorize you to shop in commissaries.

Commissary personnel cannot allow you to shop unless you have Department of Defense ID that authorizes commissary privileges.

Question Answer

I'm entering the service under a "delayed entry" program.

Do I have entitlement to commissary privileges between the time that I sign an enlistment contract and when I start active duty service?

No. Department of Defense regulations DO NOT authorize commissary privileges during the period prior to the time that you start Active Duty service.

When you start Active Duty service, you'll be issued an Department of Defense ID card that authorizes commissary privileges.

Question Answer

I'm a member of the National Guard.

Do I (and my family members) have entitlement to commissary privileges?

Yes, since November 2003, members of the Guard and Reserve – including the Ready Reserve, Selected Reserve, Individual Ready Reserve, Inactive National Guard, Guard and Reserve retirees and their authorized family members - have enjoyed unlimited access to commissaries in the United States, Guam and Puerto Rico. This change is the result of the 2004 National Defense Authorization Act.

Overseas shopping privileges are determined by Status of Forces Agreements and differ by country. Please contact the overseas installation ID office in the country you will be visiting/living to determine your commissary privileges.

At the commissary entrance or at checkout, you and your family members must show an appropriate Department of Defense Military or Family Member ID card.

Question Answer

I'm a reservist who will retire from the reserves in a few months at age 51 with enough service credit to qualify for full retirement benefits when I reach age 60.

What happens to my commissary privileges when I retire from the reserves?

Until you turn 60, you are what is called a "Gray Area" retiree. As of November 2003, Gray Area retired Guard and Reserve members and their authorized family members have unlimited access to commissaries in the United States, Guam and Puerto Rico. This change is the result of the 2004 National Defense Authorization Act.

Overseas shopping privileges are determined by Status of Forces Agreements and differ by country. Please contact the overseas installation ID office in the country you will be visiting/living to determine your commissary privileges.

At the commissary entrance or at checkout, you and your family members must show an appropriate Department of Defense Military or Family Member ID card.

Question Answer

May I bring a guest who is not an authorized patron with me into a commissary while I'm shopping?

Department of Defense regulations permit an authorized patron to bring guests into a commissary during shopping visits.

However, while you and your guest are in the commissary, you are responsible for the actions of your guest. Your guest is NOT authorized to make commissary purchases, and you are NOT permitted to make commissary purchases for your guest.

Also, you need to be aware that local military regulations in some areas prohibit guest access to a commissary. This being the case, we recommend that-if you plan to bring a guest with you during a shopping visit to a commissary-you contact commissary management prior to your shopping trip to find out if you'll be permitted to take your guest with you into the commissary.

While at commissaries.com, you can find e-mail and phone contact information for any commissary by clicking on "Locations," then clicking on a commissary name on a map or alphabetical list, and then clicking on "Location/Phones" on the commissary web page.

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Commissaries.com: The official online resource of the Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA) | 1300 E Ave., Fort Lee, VA 23801–1800