Samuel F. Wright

Captain, JAGC, USN (Ret.)
Director, Service Members Law Center
(800) 809-9448, ext. 730
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Federal and State laws may define ‘Veteran Status’ differently 

By Captain Samuel F. Wright, JAGC, USN (Ret.) 

6.0—Military Service and Tax Laws 

Q:  I stayed in the Army Reserve for 28 years and retired as a Lieutenant Colonel in 2000.  I performed inactive duty training (drills) every month and annual training every year, and I was available for mobilization, although I was never mobilized.  I just turned 60 last year and started drawing my Army Reserve retired pay.

My state has a tax break on property tax for veterans who are 60 or older.  When I turned 60 last year, I applied for the break.  The state told me that I am not a “veteran” and that I am not entitled to this tax break.  The tax break would save me about $500.  I am annoyed by my state telling me that my military service does not count and that I am not a veteran.

I understand that ROA has been pushing for federal legislation that would give “veterans’ status” to folks like me.  What is the status of that effort?  How would that legislation apply to me with respect to this state tax break?

A:  ROA has been pushing federal legislation to give “veteran status” under federal law to folks like you.  We were disappointed that the bill got sidetracked at the end of the 111th Congress (2009-10).  We are optimistic that the legislation will be reintroduced and will pass during the 112th Congress (2011-12).  We will keep the readers informed of progress on this issue.

The legislation being considered by Congress would not make you a “veteran” for purposes of this state property tax break.  That question is governed by state law, not federal law.  I suggest that you bring this issue to the attention of your ROA department president and department judge advocate.  Perhaps your ROA department could work with other military and veterans organizations in your state to get your state legislature to amend the state law definition of “veteran” for purposes of this tax break. 

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