TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. --
Veterans previously unable to access Tinker Air Force Base and other U.S. military installations now have expanded access to the commissary, Military Service Exchange and other services under a new Department of Defense policy.
The new policy began Jan. 1 and applies to veterans with service-connected disabilities, veterans who received the Purple Heart or veterans who are former prisoners of war. The policy allows eligible veterans access as long as they have a Veterans Health Identification Card and extends access to primary family caregivers as long as they have an eligibility letter from the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Community Care.
“This is a different category of veterans who now will be granted expanded access who did not have it previously,” said Lt. Col. Tyrell Mayfield, commander of the 72nd Security Forces Squadron. “If you were retired, you’ve always had access to this installation. But this is for veterans who are not retired, but have a service-connected disability.”
Along with access to the Exchange and commissary, those eligible can also access the base’s available morale, welfare and recreation services such as golf courses, bowling centers, recreational lodging, RV campgrounds, movie theater and other recreational amenities.
Under the new rule, first approved by Congress in 2018, the Department of Defense has said that it expects 4.1 million new patrons to access installations across the nation.
"When this was enacted in law for [veterans] to be able to have these benefits, it was to provide not only an expansion of our patronage on these services that in some eras have struggled to make sure they have the revenue to maintain the facilities, but also offer those services to those who have made sacrifices to their country and to recognize those sacrifices," said Col. Linda Hoover, 72nd Mission Support Group commander.
Access requirements for each base will vary from installation to installation and first time visitors to Tinker must stop by the Tinker Pass and ID Office located outside the Tinker Gate off Air Depot Boulevard, according to Mayfield.
To receive a VHIC, veterans must be enrolled in the Veterans Affairs Health Care System. Enrollment can be completed via telephone at 877-222-8387 Monday-Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.; online at www.va.gov/healthbenefits/enroll; or in person at a local VA medical facility. Once enrollment is verified, veterans can have their picture taken at their local VA medical center and the VHIC will be mailed to the recipients.