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Hey Governors, Want to Make Your State More Military-Friendly?

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Robert Brescia
October 7, 2019

I have previously written here about veterans’ healthcare issues, urging the Veterans Administration to undertake a massive culture change that would lessen the administrative burden on veterans who are claiming benefits. This month, I am proposing a way that states can materially help veterans; significant relief from property taxes. I’ll use my own state of Texas as an example, but this proposal can easily apply to any state in the nation. As a reminder, property taxes pay for a community’s schools, counties and cities. For example, in our hometown of Odessa, Texas, the, “Taxing entities,” are:

1) City of Odessa

2) Ector County

3) Ector County ISD

4) Ector County Hospital District

5) Odessa College.

Our taxes therefore pay for city and country salaries and structure, K-12 and the community college system.

Many states understand the plight of veterans returning to civilian life and have created some great programs to help them. Under current Texas law, for example, if a veteran is receiving a disability rating from the VA (10% to 90%), that veteran may receive an offset on their real property valuation up to $12,000. If the veteran’s house is appraised at $362,000, then it will only be taxed on a value of $350,000. Texas Tax Code Section 11.131 entitles a disabled veteran who receives 100% compensation due to a service-connected disability and a rating of 100% disabled or of individual unemployability to a total property tax exemption on the veteran’s residence homestead. My proposal would establish a staggered percentage table to be used to offset property valuations based on length and type of military service. This is the essence of the proposal; adding length of honorable military service as a criterion for property tax relief.

Today’s veterans belong mostly to two groups: Gulf War Era I (1990 to 2001) and Gulf War Era II (2001 to present). Gulf War Era II vets, whose median age is 36, are seeing more combat and experiencing more injuries over a much longer period. Era II vets seem to resemble Vietnam Era vets more and more every day. Battle stress and fatigue, family separation issues and post-traumatic stress disorder are taking their toll on these heroes.

My proposal for Texas is described in the following table. It is a starting point for further conversation, analysis and refinement. States may want to adopt the general idea but use differing percentages:

VETERAN TYPE

VETS WITH HONORABLE MILITARY SERVICE

(% OFFSET FROM PROPERTY VALUATION)

VETS WITH SERVICE-CONNECTED DISABILITIES (VA RATING)

World War I, World War II, Korean War, or Vietnam Era veteran

10% to 50%

60% to 90%

100%

Length of Service: 2 Years minimum

100%

Gulf War Era I Veteran (1990-2001)

10% to 50%

60% to 90%

100%

Length of Service:

 

3 – 5 Years

10%

40%

50%

100%

5 – 10 Years

15%

50%

65%

100%

10 – 20 Years

35%

60%

75%

100%

20 – 30 Years

50%

75%

90%

100%

 

 

 

 

Gulf War Era II Veteran (2001-present)

10% to 50%

60% to 90%

100%

Length of Service:

 

3 – 5 Years

20%

40%

50%

100%

5 – 10 Years

30%

50%

65%

100%

10 – 20 Years

50%

60%

75%

100%

 

Following the table, a Gulf War Era I veteran with no disabilities and 25 years of service would receive a 50% offset from his primary residence valuation. That veteran’s $250,000 home would be taxed at a valuation of $125,000. A Vietnam Era veteran (served between 1961 to 1975 if in-country, or 1964-1975 if not in-country) would receive 100% with 2 years of honorable service.

This proposal accomplishes several things. First, it helps to alleviate the financial burden on those who spent a great deal of their time defending the nation and not building equity in a home. They were not here to make improvements, investments or any other type of wealth-building. Second, it will attract veterans to states that provide such relief. Third, it will attract many more enlistees into the military services, knowing that if they stay and render service, there will be a property tax benefit when they return to civilian life.

Paying for this additional measure of property relief is beyond the scope of this article because every state is unique in that regard. In Texas, for example, legislators may want to eliminate the current ability to apply property tax relief to disabled veterans’ second or third homes—only apply such relief to the veteran’s primary homestead.

The need for this relief is real: a sizable percentage of returning Texas veterans wind up homeless, and about a fifth of those are women. Many active duty service members and veterans are on food stamps. The obstacles to a veteran’s access to and achievement of the American Dream are many. As military service members, these veterans postponed their civilian careers and education for the high calling of defending our way of life. For our part, let us not postpone our help to them as they return to their communities, resume their lives and rejoin the families they thought about every day during their service to country.


Author: Dr. Robert Brescia serves on several nonprofit boards in West Texas. His latest book is Destination Greatness – Creating a New Americanism. Bob has a doctoral degree with distinction in Executive Leadership from The George Washington University. He has also served the nation for 27 years as an Army soldier, NCO, and commissioned officer. Please contact him at [email protected].

 

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2 Responses to Hey Governors, Want to Make Your State More Military-Friendly?

  1. Richard Battle Reply

    October 7, 2019 at 9:37 am

    If anyone deserves a break in their tax responsibilities, it is our veterans.

    This is a wonderful idea that deserves prioritized consideration from our elected representatives.

  2. Christopher J Stanley Reply

    October 7, 2019 at 8:51 am

    Thanks for the great thoughts!
    Dr. Brescia, you are one of my favorites!

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