FORT DRUM — More veterans can now shop at the Main Post Exchange or the other shops on post, thanks to the National Defense Authorization Act that was passed by Congress in December.
The legislation expanded AAFES (Army and Air Force Exchange Service), Commissary and FMWR (Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation) privileges to a larger number of veterans.
At Fort Drum, it means eligible veterans can use any of the shops on post and have access to the commissary and several FMWR facilities, including the Pine Plains Bowling Center, Outdoor Recreation and Auto Skills Center.
The patronage change that went into effect Jan. 1 is specifically for veterans who are Purple Heart recipients, Medal of Honor recipients, former prisoners of war or who have service-connected disabilities.
They are also for primary caregivers for veterans enrolled in the Department of Veterans Affairs Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers.
Previous eligibility was limited only to retirees and veterans with 100 percent disability.
As potentially more veterans visit Fort Drum to shop or recreate, they should also be aware of access procedures when entering post.
Whether they are carrying a Veterans Identification Card or a Veteran Health Identification Card, they must first stop in the Visitor Control Center at the Lt. Gen. Paul Cerjan Gate (Main Post Gate) for initial vetting.
Primary caregivers of veterans must bring the primary caregiver letter issued by the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Veterans with passengers in their vehicle still need to go into the Visitor Control Center to get a day pass.
Veterans with questions about their eligibility can visit www.va.gov/healthbenefits/vhic for more information.