The Purple Heart and Disabled Veterans Equal Access Act of 2018

Updated: July 22, 2020

Table of Contents

    Every year, the government must create a defense budget that includes a wide range of considerations. Known as the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), this legislation authorizes funds for all DoD missions, procurements, and programs. But the NDAA can also include modifications (where submitted) to DoD policies, the creation or expansion of certain programs, and changes to the rules governing who can access them.

    The Purple Heart and Disabled Veterans Equal Access Act of 2018 A good example of that can be found in the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019, which included a provision known as The Purple Heart and Disabled Veterans Equal Access Act, which was drafted in 2018 and included in the 2019 NDAA. What does this equal access act do?

    Expanded Access To Services And Facilities

    When the Department of Defense decided to expand commissary, military exchange, and Morale, Welfare, and Recreation retail access, the first hurdle was who to extend that expanded access to. The Purple Heart and Disabled Veterans Equal Access Act of 2018 permits more access to services and on-base amenities for the following people:

    • All veterans with service-connected disabilities
    • Purple Heart veterans
    • Former prisoners of war
    • Primary family caregivers of eligible veterans under certain VA programs

    These veterans and family members with expanded access could total more than four million strong. The expanded access includes:

    • Commissaries
    • Military Exchanges (BX/PX)
    • Golf courses
    • Bowling centers
    • Recreational lodging
    • RV campgrounds
    • Movie theaters

    Some veterans are already able to take advantage of a more restricted version of this access thanks to something known as Section 1065 of 10 U.S.C.

    Section 1065 of the U.S. Code is important as it defines a group of those who may have access to facilities (determined independently of the 2018 legislation) including some addressed in the 2018 Act–you may or may not meet a type of potential user approved “solely under” 10 U.S. Code guidelines. Some may be eligible under it alone, or they may have qualifying circumstances that make them eligible under both.

    Qualifying Under Section 1065 Alone Versus Qualifying Under The Equal Access Act Of 2018

    You’ll find that 10 U.S. Code rules become important when determining how much expanded access is granted depending on whether the veteran is eligible “soley under” Section 1065 or whether the full range of expanded benefits are offered (for those who are now included under the Act). What does this mean?

    According to the DoD official site, veterans who meet one of the new eligibility criteria “who are also uniformed service retirees, Medal of Honor recipients, veterans with 100% service-connected disability ratings or veterans with 100% unemployability ratings due to a service-connected condition” are eligible to apply for a DoD identification card and receive privileges (under the Act of 2018) that have more advantages than under Section 1065.

    Who Does NOT Qualify Under The Act

    There are those who feel all veterans, regardless of other status, should be eligible for access to AAFES and MWR facilities the same as military retirees, Purple Heart recipients, etc. However, under current rules, veterans do not automatically qualify under the Act UNLESS they meet one of the criteria for access.

    According to a DoD press release, “Unless otherwise authorized” commissary, BX/PX access, and other privileges are extended to veterans who meet one of the following criteria:

    • Veterans who are Purple Heart recipients
    • Veterans who are former prisoners of war
    • Veterans who have a VA-documented service-connected disability rating (up to 90%)

    The DoD recognizes a difference between those who are eligible for BX and commissary access due to meeting the rules of Section 1065 in 10 U.S.C. and those who are eligible under the Act. A press release issued by the Department of Defense notes that veterans meeting the criteria under the Act may qualify for “broader privileges” than those under Section 1065. Which veterans qualify under these circumstances?

    • Military retirees
    • Medal of Honor recipients
    • Veterans with 100% service-connected disability ratings
    • Veterans with 100% unemployability ratings

    These vets qualify for a Department of Defense-issued identification card and privileges broader than those granted under Section 1065.

    Family members of the eligible veterans listed above do not have the same privileges–only those directly able to qualify are offered the expanded access. In other words, if you do not have qualifying military or federal service, you don’t get commissary and BX/PX privileges.

    How To Use Your Expanded Access To Facilities And Programs

    There are important details you should know that govern the use of the Purple Heart and Disabled Veterans Equal Access Act privileges.

    The first is general access to the military installation where the facilities you need are located. Those who are not military retirees will need to go to the base visitor center with two forms of unexpired ID (which may be required to meet REAL ID Act guidelines) to request access to the base with a pass or other form of approval. Certain ID requirements may apply (see below).

    A background check may be required, and you may be restricted with respect to bringing guests–different bases have different requirements. You may have to register a privately owned vehicle, you may be required to obtain a base decal or parking sticker (many bases have moved away from this but it may still be required near you), etc.

    Using your new privileges means understanding what you can and cannot do once on the installation. Photography, for example, even with cell phones or other mobile devices, may be prohibited. You may be advised not to enter certain parts of the base due to being restricted areas, training zones, live-fire shooting ranges, etc.

    ID Requirements

    Veterans “solely eligible” under Section 1065 of Title 10, United States Code include the following:

    • Veterans who are Purple Heart recipients
    • Veterans who are former prisoners of war
    • Veterans with a VA disability rating between 0-90%

    Those who meet the requirements above who are “eligible to obtain a Veteran Health Identification Card” (VHIC) are required to use it to get on base. In order to be accepted, the VHIC must display the veteran’s status as one of the following according to the DoD:

    • “PURPLE HEART”
    • “FORMER POW”
    • “SERVICE CONNECTED”

    In some cases the Dod “temporarily accepts” VA Health Eligibility Center Form H623A, (indicating placement in Priority Group 8E), when presented with an “acceptable credential, like a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license or a U.S. passport.”

    Acceptable credentials may include:

    • REAL ID-compliant driver’s license
    • REAL ID-compliant non-driver’s identification card
    • Enhanced driver’s license
    • S. passport or passport card
    • Foreign passport bearing an unexpired immigrant or non-immigrant visa or entry stamp
    • Federal personal identity verification card, when otherwise eligible
    • VHIC
    • Transportation Worker Identification Card

    As mentioned above, there are provisions for veterans who meet one of the new eligibility criteria but are also:

    • Military retirees
    • Medal of Honor recipients
    • Have 100% service-connected disability ratings
    • Veterans with 100% unemployability ratings due to a service-connected condition

    These vets are eligible for a DoD-issued identification card “and privileges broader than those granted under Section 1065”. In such cases, use the DoD-issued ID to access the base you want to visit.

    Where You Can And Cannot Use Your Expanded Privileges

    Here’s a list of the places in the Department of Defense, MWR, and even some Coast Guard facilities you may be granted access to under the Purple Heart and Disabled Veterans Equal Access Act of 2018 and/or Section 1065–some of these were covered at the beginning of this article, but there is much more potentially open to many including:

    • Clubs
    • Equipment rental
    • AAFES movie theaters
    • Vehicle storage
    • Kennels
    • com
    • Commissaries
    • Military Exchanges (BX/PX)
    • Golf courses
    • Bowling centers
    • Recreational lodging
    • RV campgrounds
    • Movie theaters

    It’s important to note what the above list does NOT include–there is no additional access to military healthcare offered, and use of on-base Child Development Centers is also not authorized. Some bases may prioritize certain events, activities, equipment, or access in favor of currently serving military and families first–be sure to ask if any such prioritizing applies to your rental, reservation, or check-out request where appropriate.


    About The AuthorJoe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter for Air Force Television News


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