Saturday, April 9, 2016

CONGRESS: END THE WIDOWS TAX

MILITARY UPDATE: Decision time nears for easing the survivor benefit offset

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Proposed Active Duty Widow(er) Property Tax Exemption

Vietnam Wall - 600 Colorado Names

• We ask that the current limited property tax exemption for the surviving spouse of a disabled veteran be extended to a widows(er) of a soldier, sailor, airman or marine who dies on active service in the line of duty. The average benefit is $466.


• The proposal is identical to the present disabled veteran survivor's property tax exemption. Today, widows of disabled vets are covered while widows of Colorado's active duty service members are not.  Reason: Colorado only provides the exemption to a widow if the veteran was already receiving it. The death of our husbands in the line of duty during combat or combat support did not allow any opportunity to complete Colorado's application. 


Colorado is unique among the states in denying benefits for active duty deaths but providing those benefits to surviving disabled veterans. That distinction must go!

Details:

The surviving spouse of a veteran who died of service-connected causes while on active duty is entitled to an exemption of 50% of the first $200,000 of assessed value if::
  • The spouse is a resident of Colorado on July 1 of the year in which the exemption is sought, and
  • The spouse continues to reside on the property as his or her permanent residence, and holds legal or beneficial title, and
  • The spouse does not remarry
  • The spouse applies for the exemption, producing certification from the US Department of Veterans Affairs, or the Departments of Homeland Security, Army, Navy or Air Force that attests to the service-connected death while on active duty
This benefit is applicable in the same manner as the benefits for the surviving spouse of a veteran with a service-connected total and permanent disability, but an important difference is that the veteran who died on active duty does not need to have owned the homestead property at the time of his or her death, nor been a Colorado resident. This is to facilitate survivors moving to Colorado from their active duty postings following the service member's death.

Reference: Colorado Constitution Article X, Section 3.5


Tuesday, March 29, 2016

America's war dead total 1,300,000. Not a single one of their widows qualifies for Colorado's Disabled Veteran Survivor Property Tax Exemption.

It takes nearly 500 feet of polished blank marble to list all 58,307 names of the men and women killed in action in the Vietnam War or listed as missing in action. Today Americans are asked by VA Secretary Bob McDonald to remember their sacrifice, and also to "welcome home" veterans of that era.

We are proud to join in that solemn remembrance and grateful recognition, so long in coming and so richly deserved. We thank our fellow Americans for noting that we've lost our husbands in that conflict.
As Colorado's Gold Star Wives, we can read over 600 of our men's' names on that black wall. Gold Star Wives also lost husbands in Korea, Beirut, Somalia, the first Gulf War, and conflicts following 9/11. Thousands more of our husbands were lost in the hazards of peacetime operations or training.


Not a single one of their survivors qualifies for Colorado's Disabled Veteran Survivor Property Tax Exemption.  No widows of the 58,307 KIA and MIA on the black marble wall are permitted Colorado's exemption.

Combat deaths don't count in Colorado. Unique among the fifty states, Colorado requires that a veteran survive his wounds, qualify for VA's 100% disabled rating, and complete the application for the property tax exemption in order for his/her survivors to receive the exemption.

But not a single one of the 1,300,000 wartime deaths leaves a widow who qualifies in Colorado. Because these warriors died on the battlefield and never came home to complete Colorado's paperwork, their wives are barred from the property tax exemption.

The exemption is available only to veterans who survive and make it home.

Home, to fill out the Colorado Disabled Veteran Survivor Property Tax Exemption Application form. They couldn't. They died first.

Disabled veterans who made it home to fill out the application, and their survivors, are provided the property tax exemption by law, and we agree this is wholly right and proper. It was compassionate on the part of the voters who approved Referendum E in 2006 to create Article X, Section 3.5 of the Colorado constitution.

Those of us whose husbands didn't come home to complete Colorado's exemption application because they died in combat or combat support should also be considered for the exemption. 

The distinction between war widows and widows of disabled veterans is wrong.

Gold Star Wives of America are grateful and thankful for all the federal and state public laws that
have been passed in the years since 1946, providing needed benefits for surviving spouses and children of our military service members. The disabled veteran property tax exemption is based on Resolution E in the 2006 ballot. Voters approved this measure by a 78% margin, but the authors of the Resolution simply didn't think of war widows, leaving us overlooked both in the constitution and in HB07-1251.

We ask that the Legislature understand that survivors of a combat loss is equally as deserving a survivors of disabled veterans. Our husbands certainly became 100% disabled veterans upon their deaths!  The only difference is that our husbands didn't complete Colorado's application form...their sudden deaths prevented that.

Monday, March 28, 2016

A Message from Bob McDonald, Secretary of Veterans Affairs on the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War

Our nation is currently commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War, a long overdue opportunity to honor our 7.2 million living Vietnam Veterans and the 9 million families of those of us who served from November 1, 1955, to May 15, 1975. The Department of Veterans Affairs and more than 9,000 local, state and national organizations have joined the Department of Defense as Commemorative Partners in this important commemoration. 
For us, this partnership holds special significance in light of our mission to serve those who “shall have borne the battle,” their families and their survivors. Embracing our Vietnam Veterans and their families is in keeping with the intent and spirit of our MyVA transformation, focusing on our customers and improving their experience with the VA. 
Please take advantage of the opportunity this commemoration presents to express your gratitude for the service and sacrifice of this generation of American Servicemembers. Thank a Vietnam Veteran and welcome them home!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

War Widows – Denied Colorado's Surviving Spouse Disabled Veteran Property Tax Exemption

If a disabled vet isn't in receipt of the Colorado property tax exemption, the vet's survivor is forever denied this important benefit. The system is set up so that widows and widowers who've lost sons or daughters in active duty combat or combat support operations can never get the benefit. Why?

Because their warrior died on the battlefield instead of surviving to return home, get a VA disability rating, and complete the state's application for the exemption.

How does Colorado keep Gold Star families from receiving the Disabled Veteran Property Tax Exemption?

Colorado's "PROPERTY TAX EXEMPTION FOR THE SURVIVING SPOUSE OF A PREVIOUSLY QUALIFIED DISABLED VETERAN" form (a CDMVA rule) explains that only the widow or widower of a totally and permanently 100% service-connected veteran is protected, not widows of active duty combat or combat support KIA:
"The veteran to whom the applicant was married must have applied for and been granted the disabled veterans property tax exemption as provided by § 39-3-203(1.5)(a), C.R.S., prior to his or her death"(Colorado CDMVA Form 15-DPT-AR DV-002-07/14) 
CDMVA's form stops widows from applying unless the veteran was already receiving Colorado's disabled veteran property tax exemption. This is even though no prohibition can be found in the constitution or the state's laws as regards a veteran's receipt of the exemption before death.

For CDMVA, only troops who survive their injuries or illnesses to later complete Colorado's application are able to protect their survivors, not troops who die in combat.

Other confusing barriers pop up to frustrate Colorado's most disabled veterans and their survivors. Colorado's constitution spells out the exemption's qualification requirements, but as this blog has carefully detailed, legislation enacted in 2007 to accommodate Referendum E (which became Article X Section 3.5 of the constitution) didn't properly address three vital provisions in the constitution:
(1) HB07-1251 left out the constitution's provision for totally disabled military retirees and...
(2)  the Division of Military Affairs added somehow a barrier to VA's Permanent and Total Individual Unemployability [TDIU] and... 
(3) survivors of military personnel killed on active duty
Vets who've been around the block with the US Department of Veterans Affairs will tell anyone how slow the VA is in making its disability awards. Even the simplist 100% disability rating can take years following the initial injury while on duty. 

I am a disabled veteran but not a Gold Star family member. After being injured in the Gulf War, I was retired by the Air Force with a permanent and total 100% service connected disability military retirement effective in 1996. All good but the VA 100% service connected rating didn't get awarded until 2015!

Were I to have died from my Gulf War injuries or at any time from 1991 until my VA rating came through in 2015, my widow would be forever denied the exemption regardless of my clear eligibility.

Colorado has been doing this to all survivors of active duty troops since 2007 when HB07-1251 was signed by the governor. Colorado refuses the exemption to active duty personnel who die in service because, obviously, the warriors never were able to apply for the exemption and thus, their widows are refused.

Does the phrase "Catch-22" come to mind?

Does this make sense, after reading the Blue Book's comprehensive description of the goal for Referendum E, or does it make sense after reading Article X Section 3.5 of the constitution? The answer should be no. CDMVA's interpretation of the statute has drifted far from what the electorate approved by a 78% margin in the 2006 election.

Unless a more compassionate program is established, this year's' military widows will join the ranks of those between 2007 and 2016 in being refused this vital, well-earned benefit.

A little background: 89% of us are over 57. As war widows, unless remarried, we receive a VA pension of $1250 a month, unchanged for 23 years.

Military members, while they are in service to our nation, believe that if the worst that can possibly happen to them becomes a reality, that their families will be provided for after their death. This is a mistaken belief. Sadly, a military widow receives less than half what a totally disabled single veteran receives from the VA. State programs are so very important to survivors, and Colorado's disabled veteran property tax exemption should not be denied any war widow.