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‘Welcome Home’ veterans save money with online purchases

By Kalene Lozick | 1ST INF. DIV. POST | November 03, 2017

     “After years of work with the (Post) Exchange and Congress, it was finally approved through Congress and the Department of Defense that authorized veterans can shop online,” said Robin M. Ayling, general manager for the Army and Air Force Exchange Service at Fort Riley and McConnell Air Force Base in Wichita, Kansas.

     The policy change, which begins Nov. 11, is called “Welcome Home.” The change invites the 20,000 plus honorably discharged veterans living in the immediate area around Fort Riley, and the thousands more surrounding other installations, to purchase items on the Post Exchange website, shopmyexchange.com, Ayling said.

      In a press release, AAFES said this policy extends online shopping privileges to all honorably discharged veterans.

     That way dollars spent with AAFES benefits the lives of Soldiers, Airmen and their families by improving the quality of life for families through the company’s dividend policy, the press release said.

     “The base within (a) 75-mile radius of the zip code that shops online gets credit for those sales and that increases dividends,” Ayling said. “Dividends are how much money the exchange gives back to each base that they’re at, based on sales.”

       In 2016, AAFES stores at Fort Riley gave back approximately $1.2 million, Ayling said.

       Ayling said she expects the numbers to change a little during 2017 with the newly added customer base.

     “My goal is to give back about $200,000 to $250,000 (more) back to the base,” she said. “I’m basing that on the Veterans going online shopping because with our deployments that we have at (Fort) Riley, our brick and mortar sales have dropped a lot.”

       Brick and mortar are sales in stores, Ayling said. As of right now, she said she sees more traffic in stores than online.

       With the new customer base, she said she hopes to see more traffic online as veterans take advantage of the savings.

      “If they do take advantage of this, not only is this a plus for the veteran with savings they’ll receive,” Ayling said. “But it is also a plus for the base because the dividends will increase and going back to the base and that’ll allow the base to do more things for the quality of life.”

     The dividends program has always been a thing for AAFES to improve the quality of life for active service members, but reaching out to veterans to support this cause is new.

     The press release by AAFES said, “Consistent with each exchange’s dividend policy, increased earnings as a result of VOSB (Veteran-owned Small Business) is expected to generate tens of millions of dollars in increased annual dividends to Quality-of-Life programs for the military community including contingency operations, Army Child Development Centers, youth services and fitness centers, Outdoor Recreation, combat uniforms, overseas school lunches and more.”

       What spurred the Welcome Home event was by the CEO and director of AAFES Tom Shull.

      “Tom Shull is the CEO of the Exchange,” Ayling said. “He is a Veteran. He always thought that if you served honorably, then you should be recognized for it.”

       Quoted from the press release, Shull recognizes veterans for the sacrifices made.

      “There are many generations of service members who have not been properly recognized for their sacrifices,” Shull said.      “The veteran’s online shopping benefit acknowledges their service and welcomes them home.”

For veteran’s to verify the eligibility to shop AAFES online, visit vetverify.org. The website will need the last four digits of the veteran’s social security number, date of birth and last name to compare against the records available by the Defense Manpower Data and other government organizations to confirm honorably discharged status.

 

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