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Defenders offer info on escort privileges for veterans, caregivers

The Department of Defense, including Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass., is expanding access to military commissaries, Exchanges and recreation facilities to veterans and caregivers effective Jan. 1, 2020. The Purple Heart and Disabled Veterans Equal Access Act of 2018 includes Purple Heart recipients, former prisoners of war, all veterans with service-connected disabilities rated from 0 to 90%, and individuals approved and designated as primary family caregivers of eligible veterans. (U.S. Air Force photo by Jerry Saslav)

The Department of Defense, including Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass., is expanding access to military commissaries, Exchanges and recreation facilities to veterans and caregivers effective Jan. 1, 2020. The Purple Heart and Disabled Veterans Equal Access Act of 2018 includes Purple Heart recipients, former prisoners of war, all veterans with service-connected disabilities rated from 0 to 90%, and individuals approved and designated as primary family caregivers of eligible veterans. (U.S. Air Force photo by Jerry Saslav)

HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. – Disabled veterans and eligible caregivers now have access to military commissaries, military exchanges and recreation facilities here under the Purple Heart and Disabled Veterans Equal Access Act of 2018.

The act, effective January of this year, requires eligible veterans and caregivers to obtain a Veteran Health Identification Card before gaining installation access and sponsorship privileges.

“The veterans and caregivers are able to sponsor and escort guests on base,” said Master Sgt. Brandon Johnson, 66th Security Forces Squadron lead investigator.

After acquiring a VHIC, holders must stop at the visitor center adjacent to the Sartain Gate for a one-time registration of their ID. Once registered, VHIC holders will be able to sponsor up to five guests at a time for a one-day pass. All passes are coordinated and obtained through the visitor center.

All guests must pass a basic on-the-spot background check prior to entering the installation. Personnel with felony convictions, felony arrest warrants, or other types of derogatory information related to crime or terrorism will be denied access.

“Once they’re on the installation, guests must remain with their sponsoring veteran or caregiver at all times,” said Johnson.

Guests do not have the same VHIC holder benefit for making purchases on base.

In the event of heightened security measures, the installation commander always holds the right to limit or deny access to personnel, said Johnson.

“The force protection level could change at any time for a number of reasons, which could limit who would have access to the installation,” he said.

Johnson says the Hanscom security forces team appreciates the community’s patience as they work to adapt to the new guidance and increase of patrons.

Information on how to obtain a VHIC and more can be found in a VA publication on af.mil.

For further information, contact the Hanscom Visitor’s Center at 781-225-6642.