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Secretary of Defense urged to eliminate profits at military commissaries

An agency that oversees the military grocery stores reported $108 million in profits in 2021.

NORFOLK, Va. — Inflation and supply chain problems are hitting everybody hard.

That includes members of the military, who are supposed to save money at the commissary; however, prices are going up there too.

That's bad news for the more than 83,000 active duty military members here in Hampton Roads who are eligible for tax-free grocery and household goods shopping at commissaries.   

It also impacts many of the region's more than 230,000 local veterans, specifically those with a service-connected disability, veterans who are Purple Heart recipients, veterans who are former prisoners of war, and individuals approved and designated as the primary family caregivers of eligible veterans.

"I can't overstate how important the commissaries are to our folks, because they put affordable food in front of them and give them the opportunity to purchase it," said Master Chief Petty Officer Russell Smith in testimony last week before the House Appropriations Committee.

Now, a group of lawmakers is urging Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin to take steps to curb rising prices in military commissaries.

In a letter, they ask Austin to remove the requirement for commissaries to make a profit.

With 236 stores in 13 countries, military commissaries generated a profit of $108 million in fiscal 2021, according to the Defense Commissary Agency's annual financial report.

Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Virginia, 3rd District) said it's a good idea to help the troops save a few bucks.

 "The whole point of the commissaries is to serve as a benefit to the families of service members," he said. "And that benefit would be eroded if they have to keep jacking up prices to keep up with inflation. During this emergency, during this temporary time. i think it makes excellent sense to keep the prices low so that the service members and their families can benefit from low prices."

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