It’s been more than 65 years since Arnold Reichenthal, a 92-year-old disabled Veteran who served in World War II and the Korean War, has shopped with his military exchanges. This all changes Jan. 1, when he and 4.1 million Americans are welcomed home with in-store shopping privileges.
The new privilege for Reichenthal and his fellow service-connected disabled Veterans was specified in the Purple Heart and Disabled Veterans Equal Access Act of 2018, included in the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2019.
“I earned this,” Reichenthal said. “And, we have the PX close by. I’m going to use it.”
Reichenthal served in the Navy during World War II. He discharged in 1946, and joined the Reserves during the Korean War. His military career totaled 3 ½ years, ending in 1952—the last time he was able to shop at a military exchange. Reichenthal, who lives with his wife, Isla, in Columbia, S.C., is looking forward to shopping tax-free at the Fort Jackson Exchange.
On Jan. 1, Exchange privileges expand to:
• All Veterans with service-connected disabilities.
• Veterans who are Purple Heart recipients.
• Veterans who are former prisoners of war.
• Primary family caregivers for Veterans who are enrolled in the Department of Veterans Affairs Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers.
The new patron group will also have access to commissaries and morale, welfare and recreation (MWR) retail facilities located on U.S. military installations.
“It is an honor to welcome Seaman Reichenthal and our Nation’s heroes back to their Exchange,” said Exchange Director/CEO Tom Shull, a Vietnam-era Army Veteran. “They have truly earned this privilege.”
Before the expansion, only Veterans with 100% service-connected disabilities could shop in person. (Active-duty service members, their dependents and military retirees also have in-store and online privileges.)
All honorably discharged Veterans can shop the military exchanges online, through a benefit that was secured in 2017. Since then, Veterans have saved more than $8 million in sales tax. Veterans can determine their eligibility to shop online at ShopMyExchange.com/vets.
The Exchange is prepared to welcome this expanded shopping base. Exchanges that have a high population density of disabled Veterans have increased inventory, and the Department of Defense retailer will monitor customer demand to quickly adjust product quantities as needed.
Reichenthal, a member of the Disabled American Veterans, plans to shop the Fort Jackson Exchange for a frame to properly display the flag that draped the casket of his father-in-law, an Army Veteran.
“This whole town is active duty or retired military or Veterans,” Reichenthal said. “I gravitate toward the guys on base. It’s a magnetic attraction—it’s the greatest thing in the world.”
Veterans who need additional information about the in-store patronage expansion can visit the Veterans section on the Exchange’s Community Hub.