With More Young Vets Returning Home From Iraq & Afghanistan, It’s Time for the Federal Government to Ensure That Vets Use Local Property Tax Benefits – Worth Hundreds of Dollars a Year – And Other Critical Benefits They’ve Earned
Schumer Calls on the VA to End Disconnect Between the Feds Discharging Vets & the Localities That Distribute Property Tax Credits to Them
Senator Also Urges Facebook, Google & Others to Join in Online Ad Campaign to Reach Younger Vets and Boost Awareness in New Ways
New York, NY – March 25, 2013 – (RealEstateRama) — Today, at the Veterans Outreach Center’s “Stars and Stripes” Retail Store in Rochester, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer launched a two-pronged plan to help ensure that veterans returning home to Monroe County from Iraq and Afghanistan are receiving critical benefits that will allow them to afford a home and live stable, civilian lives. Schumer highlighted data that shows about one in three veterans in the Rochester region have not applied for the property tax benefit for veterans that is available to them and worth hundreds of dollars a year, and a disconnect in communication between the Department of Veterans Affairs and localities that administer federal and state benefits are to blame.
Therefore, Schumer first called on the VA to do a better job ensuring that veterans and their returning localities are coordinated and therefore able to get vets the benefits they deserve. Specifically, Schumer said the VA Home Loan division should incorporate New York’s universal property tax exemption form in the materials provided to veterans as they are discharged, to raise awareness of this property tax benefit. Not every state provides property tax benefits to their veterans, but in those that do, Schumer said that the VA should make veterans aware. Schumer also called on the VA to compile and provide a bi-annual list of veterans to the Monroe County Executive’s office as they return home. This will allow localities that distribute vets benefits to form a more accurate list of veterans in their region, and to reach out directly when new benefits and services are available to them. Schumer noted that while this may not encompass every veteran that returns home, it will help start to develop a more comprehensive and reliable list of veteran constituents. Second, Schumer asked the Internet Association (IA), which represents Facebook, Google, and Yahoo among others, to work with local veterans groups to reach younger veterans and boost awareness of benefits in new ways, like advertising campaigns.
“Nearly one out of every three of our veterans in Monroe County return home from the battlefield unaware of life-changing benefits to help them buy homes and live stable civilian lives,” said Schumer. “I am launching a two-pronged plan to end the disconnect between the federal government that discharges veterans and the localities that distribute property tax credits to them, along with other deserved benefits. First, I am urging the VA to include the universal application for New York’s property tax exemption to all veterans who are discharged and considering homeownership. Second, I am asking the powerful Internet company trade association, with members like Facebook, Google and others, to find new ways to reach our younger veterans and spread awareness of federal and state veterans’ benefits who are just now getting out of the service. The spring real estate season is starting early this year and is in full swing in Rochester now.”
“Whether it is an existing homeowner that has missed out on hundreds of dollars in veterans’ benefits for years, or a younger veteran that wouldn’t otherwise consider purchasing a home, I want them to know about this benefit so that they’ll jump into the market, put down roots, and give the local economy a boost,” Schumer continued.
Schumer explained the existing property tax exemption in New York. Municipalities are able to provide veterans eligibility to receive this exemption from the required property tax rate and the amount of the exemption varies based on whether the veteran served in peace time or in combat and whether the veteran has a service-connected disability. Schumer emphasized that Cold War era veterans are eligible for a 10 percent or 15 percent reduction in the assessed value of their home while veterans who served in a time of war can receive a 15 percent reduction in assessed value. Additionally, Veterans who served in combat zones (including recipients of expeditionary medals) are entitled to an additional 10 percent reduction and veterans with a service-connected disability can receive an additional reduction equal to one-half of their service-connected disability. For example, a returning veteran who served in combat in Afghanistan with a 20 percent service connected disability is entitled to a total of a 35 percent property assessment reduction, which would save nearly $600 a year on a home valued at $150,000 in the Town of Penfield in Monroe County.
Schumer was joined by County Executive Maggie Brooks; Bob Mitchell, Education Resource Specialist at the Veterans Outreach Center; Laura Stradley, Director of Monroe County Veterans Service Agency; Jim Yockel, CEO of Greater Rochester Association of Realtors (GRAR); Stephen Babbitt, Board President of GRAR; and Andy Burke, President-Elect of GRAR; and local veterans who were unaware they were eligible for this credit.
Schumer stated that in order to capture and reach additional veterans he wants the Internet Association with the power of Facebook and Google to assist. Schumer encouraged the Internet Association and its member companies to collaborate with the State of New York’s governmental and non-profit and veterans’ groups to help spread awareness of the federal and state veterans’ benefits available to our young soldiers returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan that will allow them to afford a home.
IA is a Washington-based lobbying group that represents Google, Amazon.com, eBay, Facebook, Expedia, LinkedIn, Monster Worldwide, Yahoo! and Zynga and other Internet companies, with whom Schumer has a strong relationship. Schumer appealed directly to the IA today because it represents the interests of America’s leading Internet companies and their global community of users, and he believes that this is one of the best way to reach young veterans, rather than older methods through VFW halls and other methods. Schumer believes that wider circulation of veterans’ benefits should be a top priority for large Internet companies in order to help welcome our youngest veterans’ home and make them aware of their ability to save on housing purposes. Schumer noted his concern that veterans in New York are unaware of these special opportunities and believe your organization can remedy this information deficit.
Schumer was joined by a young former Marine, Paul, who currently rents in Monroe County but was not aware of the exemption until informed by Schumer’s office. He could receive up to a 30 percent property assessment reduction since he was a combat veteran who also has a 10 percent service connected disability. If he bought a home worth $150,000 he could receive about $550 each year off his property taxes.
Schumer was also joined by an Army veteran, Sarah, who along with her husband, a Navy veteran, purchased a home in Greece in 2006 for their young family. As recent combat veterans they have been eligible for a 25 percent reduction on top of additional deductions since both have service-connected disabilities. They estimate they could have saved between $600 to $800 a year on their taxes, meaning they missed out on over $4000 since purchasing their home six years ago. Likewise, Schumer was joined by Reynold McGill, a Vietnam era Army veteran, who has previously owned homes in the area. Though he currently is not a homeowner, he was not aware of the tax exemption and wonders if he missed significant savings that he should have earned during his years of homeownership. Knowing about the exemption now is helping to influence his decision to again consider home ownership.
Currently there are an estimated 50,000 veterans in Monroe County. Based on data from Monroe County Department of Real Property Services and Real Estate, only approximately 33,000 veterans have applied to receive the exemption. The exemption provides significant savings to current veteran homeowners for example:
· A resident on Golden Road in Chili whose home is assessed at $150,000 applied for and received a veteran exemption reducing their home’s assessed value by $22,500. This translates into a savings of $189.92 off county & county services taxes and $86.43 off town taxes per year.
· A resident on Fenton Road in Chili, whose home is assessed at $150,000 applied for and received a combat veteran exemption that reduced their home’s assessed value by $37,500. This translates into a savings of $316.54 off county & county services taxes and $144.05 off town taxes per year.
· A resident on Shirewood Drive in Penfield, whose home is assessed at $150,000 applied for and received a combat veteran exemption reducing their home’s assessed value by $37,500. This translates into a savings of $314.78 off county and county services taxes and $99.22 off town taxes per year.
To be eligible, an applicant must be a qualified veteran or the spouse of a qualified veteran. To apply, a veteran needs to complete a simple two-page application and submit it to their local municipality’s Assessor office, along with a copy of their DD-214 to affirm they were honorably discharged. If the Veteran is also applying for the extra disability benefit portion of the exemption, they must also submit copies of U.S. Veterans Administration documents to affirm their service-connected disability rating. Veterans only have to apply once and will continue to receive the exemption in subsequent years. Veterans are only required to re-file if they move or their service-connected disability rating changes. An Application for Veterans Exemption from Real Property Taxation must be filed with the local assessor. Veterans should check with local with their local assessor when applications must be submitted in order to meet local deadlines.
A copy of Sen. Schumer’s letters to the VA and the Internet Association appear below:
Dear Secretary Shinseki:
I write you on behalf of our veterans who would like to become or are in the process of becoming homeowners. It is absolutely critical that our veterans and their families are treated properly and have the opportunity to become a homeowner should they meet specific financial eligibility requirements. Moreover, we must work together to ensure that New York veterans are adequately informed of the benefits that are available to them should they choose to become homeowners, including an important property tax exemption. It is my opinion the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)’s should more actively feature this benefit in their informational materials and publications.
I understand that eligible veterans have a variety of tools and resources available to them through the Veterans Affairs Benefits Administration’s Home Loan Division. I applaud the VA’s efforts to ensure that eligible veterans have the opportunity to become a homeowner, and I would like to highlight a program in the State of New York to make homeownership one step closer for many veterans. Specifically New York State veteran homeowners are eligible to receive a significant reduction in the assessed value of their primary residence that can save these veterans several hundreds of dollars a year in property taxes. This tax credit could serve as a powerful inducement to encourage younger veterans to consider becoming a first time homeowner, however many veterans, particularly younger returning veterans are unaware of this benefit. In the two largest counties in Upstate New York, Erie and Monroe counties, approximately one in three veterans have not applied for this exemption.
Cold War era veterans are eligible for a 10 percent or 15 percent reduction in assessed value while veterans who served in a time of war can receive a 15 percent reduction in assessed value. Plus veterans who served in combat zones (including recipients of expeditionary medals) are entitled to an additional 10 percent reduction and veterans with a service-connected disability can receive an additional reduction equal to one-half of their service-connected disability. For example, a returning veteran who served in combat in Afghanistan with a 20 percent service connected disability is entitled to a total of 35 percent assessment reduction, would save nearly $600 a year on a home valued at $150,000 in the Town of Penfield in Monroe County.
I am concerned that veterans in New York are unaware of these special opportunities and therefore are not taking advantage of this exemption even if they are eligible to receive the benefits. As a result, I urge you to consider including the NYS veterans property tax exemption form in their information packet that is provided to veterans when they apply for their home loan certificate through the Veteran Affairs Benefit Administration’s Home Loan Division and to inform veterans about this benefit as they are discharged. In addition, I urge the VA to compile and provide a bi-annual list of veterans to localities and county executive departments as they return home. This will allow localities that distribute veterans benefits to reach out directly when new benefits and services are available to them. I believe strongly that the federal government should do all that it can to ensure that our veterans are helped and this is a simple way to ensure that veterans are aware of this benefit when purchasing a home.
Dear Mr. Beckerman,
I write today to call your attention to an issue that I know is of great interest to your organization: helping our nation’s veterans. Specifically, I want to encourage you and your member companies to collaborate with the State of New York’s governmental and non-profit and veterans’ groups to help spread awareness of New York’s outstanding veterans’ benefits available to our young soldiers returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan that will allow them to afford a home.
As a powerful trade group that represents Facebook, Google, Yahoo and others, as well as their global community of users, the Internet Association has powerful tools to get information directly to our nation’s heroes. Given that platform, I would like to call your attention to New York State’s property tax exemption for veterans. Some of your member companies have already engaged in some innovative efforts to help veterans, and I believe that improving awareness of housing benefits would be right up their alley.
The New York State Veteran’ Property Tax Exemption enables municipalities to provides a partial exemption on real property taxes to veterans’ of defined periods of war, veterans who received expeditionary medals, and certain family members. This benefit, available at different levels depending on whether the veteran served in combat and/or was disabled, can provide significant cost savings when purchasing a home. For example, a returning veteran who served in combat in Afghanistan with a 20 percent service connected disability is entitled to a 35 percent property assessment reduction, which would save an estimated nearly $600 a year on a home valued at $150,000 in the Town of Penfield in Monroe County.
Though this benefit can save veterans in New York hundreds of dollars in property taxes a year, data that shows about one in three veterans in the Rochester region have not applied to utilize these local property tax exemption benefits that are available to them. As a result, I believe that your organization should make working with local and national veterans groups to reach younger veterans and boost awareness of benefits in new ways a top priority.
Some of your member companies have already engaged in similar, outstanding work that serve as examples of internet outreach and collaboration with veterans. For example, Monster teamed up with Military.com to create the Veteran Employment Center to provide online resources for Veterans to find jobs and partnered with the VA to provide discounts to veteran own businesses to post job openings for veterans. Google created http://www.googleforveterans.com, which includes free Google products to help veterans and their families.
A similar online promotional campaign aimed at helping veterans in New York know what benefits are available to them when buying a home would be a good way to leverage the technological sophistication and reach of your organization in a way that would help returning service members achieve the dream of homeownership and save money to provide for their families. I am concerned that veterans in New York are unaware of these special opportunities and believe your organization can remedy this information deficit.
Thank you for attention to this matter. If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact me or my staff.