Friday, July 19, 2013

Lawmakers should approve legislation to give disabled veterans property tax break

Some disabled veterans living in Michigan could get some relief next tax season under legislation being debated in the state Senate.
Two different bills passed by the Senate Finance Committee in July have one aim: to provide property tax exemptions for veterans who are disabled as the result of their military service.
Supporters say the legislation will ease the burden for those who volunteered to serve while ensuring disabled veterans, who are often living on a fixed income and unable to work, don't lose their homes.
But others worry more tax exemptions will put stress on already financially struggling towns and cities since property taxes, unforuntately, are a major source or revenue for municipalities.The fact that more than half of Detroiters never paid their property taxes undoubtedly contributed to the current sorry state where the city of 700,000 has filed for bankruptcy to try and evade pension and medical obligations for retired city workers and a total of $18 billion to $20 billion in debt to thousands of creditors.
"There are cases that we have heard about where veterans are on the edge or barely able to make it on their taxes and on the verge of losing their homes," said Sen. Glenn Anderson, a Westland Democrat who is sponsoring one of the bills.
"This is one of the important things we can do to make it possible for them to stay in their homes."
Anderson's bill would allow communities to provide a tax exemption on a veteran's principal home. To qualify, the veteran would have to be 100 percent disabled, a rating that is determined by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Among other requirements: The veteran must have suffered the disability in the line of duty, been honorably discharged and have a taxable income of less than $23,000 or twice the national poverty level.
Anderson said just about half the states already have such laws.
Doug Williams, the legislative chairman for the American Legion Department of Michigan, said most disabled veterans rely almost entirely on a fixed income provided by the VA.
If they've lost a limb, have brain damage or another disability, their job choices can be limited, said Les Schneider, senior vice commander and legislative chair for Michigan's chapter of Disabled American Veterans. As a result, a lot of young soldiers now returning from Afghanistan and Iraq are struggling to find jobs.
"They'll have a brand new wife and baby and come home ... and how are they going to make a living and feed their family if they don't have something to fall back on?"
Being independent and able to support themselves and family will go a long way to the path to being able to live with a disability and again feeling good about themselves, their sacrifice and their future.