U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer announced a two-pronged plan at the College of Staten Island to help ensure that veterans returning home to Staten Island 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 that more than one in three veterans on Staten Island 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 (VA) and localities that administer federal and state benefits are to blame.
The College of Staten Island currently serves approximately 260 student veterans and student dependents of veterans. This veteran population has almost doubled since 2007.
“The increase in the number of veterans returning to the Island and to the College requires that we – just like Senator Schumer – continually think about the best ways to serve our veterans and veteran students,” commented CSI’s Interim President Dr. William J. Fritz. “I am proud of the fact that the College’s Veteran Support Services have been recognized as second to none.”
CSI, which has been named a “Top Military Friendly School” by G.I. Jobs magazine for four years in row due to excellence in service to students with military experience, offers a wide array of services specifically designed for current, new, and future veteran students through its Veteran’s Center under the direction of Ann Treadway, the Coordinator for Veterans Support Services at the College of Staten Island.
“I am not currently a home owner, however, I was just recently married and am beginning to look,” commented Treadaway. Although I was born and raised in New York I had considered [purchasing a home in] New Jersey until I saw the difference between the veterans property tax benefits that exist in each state. This benefit will keep me here in New York.”
During his press conference, Schumer first called on the VA to do a better job to ensure that veterans and their returning localities are coordinated and therefore able to get vets the benefits they deserve. Specifically, Schumer said that 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 New York City’s Department of Finance and the NYC Mayor’s Office of Veterans Affairs 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 who returns home, it will help start to develop a more comprehensive and reliable list of veteran constituents. Second, Schumer asked the Internet Association (IA), a Washington-based lobbying group that represents Google, Amazon.com, eBay, Facebook, Expedia, LinkedIn, Monster Worldwide, Yahoo! Zynga, and other Internet companies, to work with local veterans groups to reach younger veterans and boost awareness of benefits in new ways, like advertising campaigns.
“More than one in three of our veterans on Staten Island 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 to those who are just now getting out of the service.”
“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 with the 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 veterans who served at the time of the Persian Gulf conflict (including Iraq and Afghanistan vets), the Vietnam War, the Korean War, or World War II can receive a 15-percent reduction in assessed value. Additionally, veterans who served in combat zones are entitled to an additional ten-percent reduction, and veterans with a service-connected disability can receive an additional reduction equal to one-half of their service-connected disability.
Schumer was joined by Treadaway and local veterans.
Schumer stated that in order to capture and reach additional veterans, he wants the IA, with the power of Facebook and Google, to assist. Schumer encouraged the IA and its member companies to collaborate with the State of New York’s governmental and non-profit 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.
Schumer appealed directly to the IA, with which he has a strong relationship, because it represents the interests of the nation’s leading Internet companies and their global community of users, and he believes that this is one of the best ways to reach young veterans, rather than older methods through VFW halls and other channels. 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 believes that the organization can remedy this information deficit.
Currently there are more than 21,000 veterans on Staten Island. Based on data from the City of New York, only about 13,000 veterans have applied to receive the exemption. The exemption provides significant savings to current veteran homeowners.
To be eligible, an applicant must be a qualified veteran or the spouse of a qualified veteran. To apply, veterans 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 that they were honorably discharged. If the veterans are 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.