The New Year brought new perks for some military members and their families.
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The Department of Defense expanded shopping privileges at its commissaries to a number of new groups, including Purple Heart recipients, former prisoners of war, all veterans with service-connected disabilities and individuals approved as the primary family caregivers of eligible veterans.
The expanded eligibility went into effect Jan. 1.
Other patrons authorized to shop at commissaries by the Department of Defense include active duty, Guard and Reserve members, military retirees, Medal of Honor recipients, 100 percent disabled veterans and authorized family members.
Commissaries are discounted grocery shopping facilities located on bases. By law, the shop is required to deliver savings to shoppers, based on prices negotiated with manufacturers. Baseline savings are typically expected to be just shy of 24 percent.
Shoppers are subject to a 5 percent surcharge but no state and local food-related taxes. The surcharge is used for store upkeep and construction.
In addition to commissaries, newly eligible military personnel will also have access to military service exchanges, golf courses, bowling centers, recreational lodging, RV campgrounds, movie theaters and other facilities.
According to the Department of Defense, eligibility is limited because it does not have the infrastructure to handle an influx of more than 15 million additional veterans to the facilities.
Not only did the new year bring new benefits for some veterans, it also brought higher pay for service members.
As previously reported by FOX Business, the military budget for fiscal 2020 – of $738 billion – increased service member pay by 3.1 percent. It is the first time since 2010 that pay for military members will increase by more than 3 percent. Ten years ago, service members’ paychecks increased by 3.4 percent.
The raise will increase pay for enlisted members with less than two years of service to more than six years of service by amounts varying from $1,733 (E-1 with less than two years of service) to $3,837 (E-7 with over six years of service), according to the Navy’s pay chart.
An officer at the highest pay grade with more than 10 years of service will get a $12,579 bump.
The Department of Veterans Affairs will also get its largest funding boost in history – a 9 percent increase in funds, or $217 billion.