Military Families’ Commissary Benefit Threatened

Military families consistently tell us how much they value their Commissary and Exchange privileges. Families rely on the savings they get by shopping at the Commissary, and for families stationed overseas, the Commissary allows them to enjoy products from home that would otherwise be unavailable or unaffordable. The National Military Family Association has long worked to promote and protect these critical benefits to military families’ quality of life.

Knowing how important the Commissary is to military families, we are increasingly concerned about potential threats to this benefit. Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) has recently written a report about Department of Defense spending, The Department of Everything, which specifically targets the subsidy provided to the Commissaries by the federal government. This subsidy, about $1.5 billion per year, is used to pay for Commissary operating costs. This in turn allows the Commissary to keep its prices low. Eliminating the subsidy, as Senator Coburn proposes, would force the Commissary to raise its prices to make up for the loss of federal funds. Currently, military families who shop at the Commissary save more than 30% on their groceries. Without the Commissary subsidy, families will see those bills go up.

Commissaries will also potentially be affected by sequestration. Unless the President and Congress are able to reach a debt reduction agreement by January 2, government funds provided to the Commissary will drop by 9.4%. In order to absorb this loss of funding, Commissaries may be forced to reduce hours, cut services, or lay off some employees. This is especially concerning because so many Commissary employees are affiliated with the military, either family of active duty members or military retirees, retiree spouses or military veterans. Many employees would see work hours and, therefore, incomes cut.

We urge you to let Congress know how much you value your Commissary!

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Comment: "The Department of Everything, which specifically targets the subsidy provided to the Commissaries by the federal government." I would appreciate serious comments, not the hyperbole... A retired U.S. Soldier.
Submitted by: Ricardo on May 25, 2014
Comment: Those who serve our country deserve every benefit possible. Their sacrifice & that of their families warrants the assurance that the benefits rug won't be ripped out from under them. Congress, it's time you join the rest of this country in honoring our service men & women and stop trying to balance budgets that will never be balanced on their backs.
Submitted by: Yvonne on April 15, 2014
Comment: It is always funny to me that the people that advocate the closure of the commissary and exchange are the ones that don't really have to worry about their monthly income and making ends meet.
Submitted by: Mike on April 11, 2014
Comment: 3/24/2014... Just recently entered the Ramstein AFB Commissary as was told that retired military had to pay Germany taxes! Honestly what's the point of having a commissary benefit if we're going to get nailed at the end of the year for an undisclosed amount of taxes. The whole notion makes having the commissary privileges pointless. After twenty years of service, one of the few times I'm able to visit a commissary (as there are allot fewer of them), I'm not allowed to used it! What a $&@€ joke this is! Guess next time someone looking at the military for a career asks about the military, I'll enlighten them as to just how well the promises made to us have been honored. /R KS
Submitted by: KS on March 25, 2014
Comment: My husband is a military retiree - 23 years in the Air Force. This man (as well as all four of his brothers) gave their lives to our country by serving it honorably, never dreaming that the promises it made to them would be broken. My husband's service left him with diminished hearing, neuropathy in both feet, and other neurological issues. His brother (20+ years in the Army) died just a month ago from liver and kidney failure as a result of the Agent Orange he was exposed to while serving in Vietnam. It is absolutely unconscionable that our so-called leaders would even consider cutting benefits to our service men and women. How often do we need to say it - freedom is not free. It is hardly like our military families are asking for hand-outs. They are sacrificing daily, and many continue to serve long after they leave active duty as they deal with the mental and physical effects resulting from their service. The commissary, exchange, and insurance benefits are the very least we can do to honor their service. There are so many other places where spending could be cut. It is critically important that we honor the sacrifices of and protect our servicemen and women as they have honored and protected us with their lives. To do anything less is a national shame.
Submitted by: JMBM on March 24, 2014
Comment: This is awful, there are a tremendous amounts of retired members, disabled members, and even younger families that rely on this benefit to barely make ends meet. This is disturbing, especially after shelling out money to benefit other countries like the Ukraine, but make things harder for the people at home. I hope that military families are paying attention to this so that can help vote these folks out of office next go around.
Submitted by: JW on March 21, 2014
Comment: Men and women of the military have protected this country with life and limb. We depend on the benefit of the commissary to make ends meet. This is especially true of the enlisted and retires. Congress needs to look at the billions of dollars we give away to our supposed friends (usually really our enemies) and cut some of the foreign aid sent to them. They say that pay will be raised to compensate for the closing of commissaries but where is the savings in that and what about retires on a fixed income. I think this is a bad idea and a good way to demoralize the troops and their families who could convince their spouses to leave the service and reduce our forces to a dangerously low level. BAD CHOICE.
Submitted by: M. Spouse on March 20, 2014
Comment: THAT IS BS
Submitted by: LAW on March 18, 2014
Comment: Senator Coburn why don't you take a paycut along with the rest of you Senators that do not give a darn about the men and woman keeping your job so you can buy food for your loved ones. You must not have a heart?
Submitted by: bango on March 10, 2014
Comment: When my husband joined the military we were poor and the commissary was the only place we shopped for food. Please reconsider It is unfair to take something so important out of our lives.
Submitted by: on March 10, 2014
Submitted by: jabo on February 25, 2014
Comment: Military families are paid extremely well and in 2014 SHOULD no longer be subsidized for everything in their lives - housing, entertainment, food, clothes, vacations, discounts at local stores. Do we not believe that it is time that Military Families start to live in the reality of the world - things cost money and you need to live WITHIN a budget in order to afford these things - I do not believe that the current situation for all of the benefits of the US Military serve these families well. I am a spouse of a serving military member so please do not think I have no idea of what Military life is all about.
Submitted by: craven.2 on February 25, 2014
Comment: Surely Chuck Hagel realizes that once they drastically reduce the subsidies to commissaries, that it will drive business to private providers and will result in closure of DECA facilities thus eliminating the benefit entirely. Our young soldiers, marines, corpsmen, retirees, and enlisted families rely heavily commissary savings to make ends meet. So much for thanking these folks for their service.
Submitted by: DHR on February 24, 2014
Comment: Dear JB, Thank you for your comments. We take the comments we receive on our website, emails, letters, and social media and share them with Congressional leaders. We often use quotes in our testimony directly from military families to illustrate the importance of an issue. You may also contact your Congressional leaders directly by phone, email, snail mail, or social media such as Twitter or Facebook. You may want to contact the Congressional leader in the area that you vote as well as the area where you currently reside, if they are different.
Submitted by: The Association on January 15, 2014
Comment: I saw where there is a website we can sign that goes to Washington to urge them not to discontinue this benefit. Could you post this on YOUR website so we make a difference rather than just vent! Thanks!
Submitted by: jb on January 14, 2014
Comment: We are asked to make “sacrifices” for the good of all. Rather than cutting more from the military, why not look towards some other “programs” to cut from. How about Obama Phones? Those only cost the government a little over 2 billion dollars last year. The SNAP program cost over $80 billion in 2012. I guess I should “retire” as I’ve done a few years in the military and get out and start getting “what is owed to me”. If I’m not mistaken, I qualify for two years of unemployment. Some are doing just that! I guess one can’t really blame them. Anyway, $80 billion…. So let’s add more military personnel to it than there is now, as if there are not enough junior military personnel receiving assistance already. Maybe we can have make it so all E-5 and below can qualify for assistance. In 2007, military personnel used over $30mil in food stamps. In 2011 that figure more than tripled. Progress, right??? Let’s make some more cuts to those who signed contracts with our government…and were foolish enough to believe they would be honored. Let’s get rid of the commissaries and place everyone into Obamacare. I probably should not jest, as that could very well happen. We are that short sighted? Look at all the good Cash-for-Clunkers did? Dealerships had to hire more people to man the computers 24/7 to process the applications to the gov’t program for approval. They actually lost money because dealers had to credit people for their car/truck/SUV because the website took days to a month to approve the applications. So some dealers just straight up lost out on those purchases. Again, the gov’t was not prepared for the overwhelming numbers and the website could not handle all the traffic. Sounds familiar, right? Strange how we learn nothing from our past. So if you were on the fence to buy a new car, this pushed over to buying a new gas guzzler and probably placing you into further debt. I wonder now how many people have had those vehicles repossessed because they could not afford this new monthly bill? If you could not afford one though; no worries, the cars you might gotten parts from at a junk yard were destroyed as they belonged to the gov’t. Good luck finding an engine or driveline parts for an older vehicle. Lastly, I am proud that those who have bled and paid the ultimate price for our country, can now give even more to illegal immigrants in the form of welfare. WTF? I can understand their plight but to take from veterans…. So this is one way to decrease the numbers of people in the military…cut retirement plans and get rid of commissaries. What’s next I ask? Warrantless Wiretapping, closure of Guantanamo Bay, out of Afghanistan, no more war deployments, Patriot Act over-turned, universal health-care that will save Americans money, no shut door policy making – bills will be shown on C-SPAN for all to see, 2nd Amendment, Fast & Furious, EPA shuts down all lead smelting plants in the USA as of Dec 13, IRS targeting Americans, Solyndra, Benghazi, redistribute wealth…. Seriously, what’s next I ask you?
Submitted by: Oki on December 18, 2013
Comment: This is terrible! Military families, especially in the lower enlisted grades, depend on commissaries to help put food on the table. I was one of those families and know what it means.
Submitted by: GIJournalist on December 16, 2013
Comment: This is a good way to discourage a voluntary military service. Seems there are a lot more married military today than in the years gone by. And it is certainly a blessing for the retired military. Those who have not served have no clue to the benefits of the Commissary and Military Exchange provide our Service Members...
Submitted by: Papasan on December 15, 2013
Comment: Keep the commissary open
Submitted by: Annie on December 13, 2013
Comment: The fact that this is even being considered is cause for outrage. Congress can vote to give themselves benefits (like 179,000 a year after leaving Congress), let them stand up for those who defend our country! Our forefathers would be outraged! We all need to watch how our Congressman vote on this issue.
Submitted by: Madashell on December 11, 2013
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