The Department of Defense released a policy memorandum on Dec.16 that spells out how members of the National Guard, Reserve, Retired Reserve and their families can immediately take advantage of the new law granting them 24 commissary visits annually.
In October, Congress passed the 1999 Defense Authorization Act, which increases the number of commissary visits from 12 to 24 that Ready Reserve members can make annually if they satisfactorily complete 50 or more retirement points for military service in a calendar year. The expanded commissary benefit is also available to Reserve retirees eligible for retired pay at age 60, but who have not yet attained the age of 60. The benefit also applies to the dependents of these Reserve and retired Reserve personnel.
During the remainder of calendar year 1998, eligible personnel and their families can make 12 more commissary visits, in addition to the 12 they were already authorized. Store officials will simply initial alongside the current 12 blocks on their DD Form 2529, "DoD Reserve Component Commissary Privilege Card," after the first 12 visits have been recorded.
For calendar year 1999, the military Services will issue two 12-visit DD Forms 2529 to authorized Reserve and Retired Reserve members. For calendar year 2000, the Reserve commissary privilege card will be revised to contain 24 blocks for recording the dates of visits in lieu of the current 12 blocks.
"Service in the National Guard and Reserve is now more challenging and more difficult then ever before," said Charles L. Cragin, acting assistant secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs. "Doubling the commissary access for Reservists and their families helps to level the playing field and improve their quality of life. For that reason, it was very important for us to get the policy out quickly."
The new policy also states that National Guard members on state active duty for federally declared disaster operations and their dependents will be permitted to use commissary stores during the period of their state service. The required documentation will be a military order stating that the National Guard member is serving in support of a federally declared disaster.
Commissary privileges are part of the non-pay compensation to which active and Reserve forces members are entitled. According to the Defense Commissary Agency, a Reserve component member with a family of four can save approximately $2,000 on grocery purchases each year, using the 24 commissary shopping visits.
For more information, call Lt. Col. Terry Jones, Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs, at (703) 695-3620.