FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- The New Year saw new privileges granted to some veterans who had previously been ineligible for access to commissaries, post exchanges and recreational facilities across the Department of Defense, but procedures for gaining access to Fort Rucker remain unchanged, according to post officials.

"A Veteran Health Identification Card is an acceptable form of identification once someone has undergone a background check at one of Fort Rucker's visitor control centers," says John Tkac, chief of physical security, Fort Rucker Directorate of Public Safety.

The Purple Heart and Disabled Veterans Equal Access Act of 2018 went into effect Jan. 1, 2020, and expands commissary, exchange and morale, welfare and recreation retail eligibility to Purple Heart recipients, former prisoners of war, all veterans with service-connected disabilities, and individuals approved and designated as primary family caregivers of eligible veterans under the Department of Veterans Affairs Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers, according to a VA press release.

While a Veteran Health Identification Card may qualify a veteran or caregiver for shopping at commissaries or exchanges, or authorization to use morale, welfare and recreation facilities, it does not authorize visitors to access post without first obtaining a visitor badge.

"The first time someone comes [to a gate] with a VHIC, they're required to go to a visitor control center and undergo a background check," said Tkac. "Upon successful completion of the background check, they'll be issued a visitor badge."

The visitor badge, along with valid government-issued picture identification, such as a driver's license, will allow people to access post.

"[A visitor badge] allows the guards to verify the person has been vetted, and a driver's license is what we scan through our system," said Tkac.

Unlike unsponsored visitor badges, which are issued for periods of up-to-six months, people with a VHIC can be issued a visitor badge that is valid for one year.

"[People] can request a long-term access badge, which is good for a year versus a six-month pass," said Tkac.

Visitor badges can be obtained from either of Fort Rucker's visitor control centers located at the Daleville or Ozark gates. The Daleville VCC is open 8 a.m. -- 4 p.m., Sunday through Saturday; the Ozark VCC is open 8 a.m. -- 4 p.m., Monday through Friday.

To obtain a visitor badge, people need a valid Government-issued picture identification, such as a driver's license, state-issued ID, or passport. To expedite the process, visitors can complete a Fort Rucker Form 2746-R-E from and bring it with them at the time of processing. The form is available online at https://home.army.mil/rucker/index.php/visit.